Leo entered the United States as an unaccompanied minor, seeking asylum from an unstable political situation in Guatemala and distressing long-term child labor exploitation. He arrived after an arduous and dangerous journey from his home country to be reunited with his father. It had been 14 very long years since Leo had seen and embraced him.
Like many children who flee peril in their own countries, Leo
came to the U.S. seeking safety, refuge, and a better life. But finding the necessary help to navigate a new community, school system, and culture was challenging. Thankfully, the Catholic Charities team leading the Catholic Accompaniment Reflective Experience (CARE) stepped in, helping Leo get the support he needs to thrive.
Through CARE, he receives mentorship from a student at the University of California, Davis for help with schoolwork and social integration. He is making strides learning English and gaining confidence every day.
Carlos Garcia, Catholic Charities Program Director of the CARE program, says, “Leo is one of the most determined, responsible, and focused people I’ve worked within the CARE program.” While attending online school, Leo also managed to secure a job, helping his family financially. “He is very motivated by school, aspires to go to college, and wants to contribute to his and his father’s situation and his new country” explains Carlos.
Since its inception, the Catholic Charities CARE program has served roughly 140 unaccompanied children and their families.
At just 15 years old, Rosa made the courageous decision to walk more than 1,600 perilous miles from Honduras to the United States – alone. Facing life-threatening abuse and persecution in her home country, she left everything behind seeking a chance at a safe life. Walking for weeks to cross the borders of Honduras, Guatemala, and Mexico, she finally made it to the United States. After settling in and breathing in the new air of safe harbor, Rosa reached out to Catholic Charities for immigration support. Salomé Ragot, Legal Assistant at Catholic Charities Center for Immigration Legal & Support Services (CILSS), began working with Rosa to secure her right to asylum and Special Immigrant Juvenile Status in the U.S.While Rosa and Salomé wait for the Department of Justice to review her application, they have applied for and received a work permit and social security number for Rosa. This has allowed Rosa to support herself financially. Now a senior in high school in San Francisco, she is thriving and living in safety and with support. She has excellent grades and her teacher is encouraging her to apply for scholarships to college. “I want to become a doctor,” she says.
After losing his job during the pandemic, Adalberto, an immigrant and San Francisco resident of 12 years, suffered a second debilitating blow – he was hospitalized with COVID. As he lay in his hospital bed, staring at the fluorescent lights above him, he focused on his wife Anna and their two small children. He was the sole breadwinner for his family and fighting for his life. With each painful breath, his anxiety grew and blood pressure rose dangerously high. “How would we pay rent? What would I feed my children?” he worried. Would his family be able to remain together without his income, laden with months of unpaid rent? Resilient and determined to the core, Adalberto rallied back and reached out to Catholic Charities.
Bolstered by compassion, determination, and expertise, Catholic Charities stepped in. They connected Adalberto to funding sources to cover both back and forward rent. This assistance meant everything. Adalberto and Anna could remain housed and he could finally focus on regaining strength while searching for new employment. With stronger breaths each day, he and Anna continued raising their two US-born children in safety and with love. Anna says, “We were so scared. Thank you, Catholic Charities. You did not judge me; you encouraged us and gave me hope. Thank you for keeping my family housed.”