The Forum on Migration
Bring the world into your classroom.
Where There Be Dragons is excited to invite you to the Forum on Migration, an interactive and customized Migration Studies program delivered in English or Spanish. The Forum gives students unparalleled insight into on-the-ground events and access to the people and organizations at the center of today’s migration headlines.
The Forum is facilitated by Rich Brown and Este Migoya, both Dragons instructors. Rich is a journalist based in Guatemala who covers migration, land and water conflict, and U.S. policy. He is the 2020-2021 Gordon Gray Fellow for International Reporting at the Columbia Journalism School. Este is a Guatemalan human rights worker and former political refugee who coordinates an international human rights network in Guatemala. Este has worked with solidarity and international cooperation organizations across North and South America and now focuses on supporting human rights and the defense of territory.
Through the Forum, Rich and Este deliver custom curriculums to connect students to people, organizations, and events in Guatemala, Mexico, and the U.S. for students to learn about the key drivers of migration to the U.S. and how they can engage with these issues in their home communities.
Key themes addressed last year include:
- Migration ‘push factors’ like poverty, water conflict, malnutrition, and gang violence, their historical roots, and potential solutions
- The spread of COVID-19 in Guatemala and government and community responses
- Indigenous perspectives on social and political issues in the Indigenous-majority nation of Guatemala
The Forum’s six central components—Interview Library, Live Exchanges, Personal Exchanges with issue experts, Student Community Contacts, Recommended Resources, and Experiential Learning Seminars—are tailored to the interests of each classroom.
- Interview Library: Rich and Este will draw from the Interview Library to engage with topics of interest and student questions. The library contains video interviews with Forum contributors: migrating families, community leaders, journalists, politicians, lawyers, and others. Recent contributors include Guatemalan Congressman Leocadio Juracán and ACLU lawyer Edgar Saldoval.
- Live Exchanges: Este and Rich will interact with students through online Live Exchanges guided by student questions and topics of interest. Este and Rich will also bring in guest speakers with special expertise or personal experience with students’ topics of interest to participate in the Live Exchanges. After each Live Exchange, students will be able to ask Rich, Este, or guest speakers follow-up questions by email.
- Personal Exchanges with issue experts: Each student cohort will be put into contact with issue experts on the ground in Central America, Mexico, or the U.S. to complete a group journalism project. If the project meets editorial standards, it will be published in EntreMundos, a Guatemalan human rights magazine, earning students a byline. Rich and Este will support students through the editorial process.
- Student Community Contacts: Rich and Este will connect students to volunteer opportunities in their home communities to work on themes addressed through the Forum.
- Recommended Resources: Rich and Este will curate customized Recommended Resources libraries based on students’ questions and topics of interest, drawing on academic literature, international news media, and cultural texts from graffiti to film.
- Experiential Learning Seminars: Rich and Este can facilitate customized, extended Experiential Learning Seminars that allow students to take advantage of their deep networks of contacts and subject matter expertise.
Examples of past Forum Experiential Learning Seminars:
- A weeks-long Model U.N.-style exercises that put students in the roles of real-life key players in Guatemalan politics to debate issues like malnutrition. Students received biographies, texts, and position summaries for each real-life character.
- A Spanish-language independent studies class interacted with Guatemalan visual and theater artists to create an art installation for their school.
- A Spanish-language independent studies class debated reforms to address public health shortfalls in Guatemala. Students drafted reform proposals and presented them to Guatemalan experts. They used the feedback to publish an op-ed in EntreMundos, a Guatemalan human rights magazine, and to create a website to inform U.S. students on public health issues in Guatemala.
Rich and Este will be available to faculty before and throughout the academic year to customize your subscription to each classroom’s curriculum.
A partial Forum subscription ($1,500) offers a cohort of up to 25 students curated access to the Interview Library, a customized library of Recommended Resources, Student Community Contacts, and up to five Live Exchanges with Rich or Este. After each Live Exchange, students will be able to ask Rich or Este follow-up questions by email. Rich and Este will also connect students with issue experts through online Personal Exchanges to create a group journalism project for publish in EntreMundos, a Guatemalan human rights magazine.
A full Forum subscription ($3,500) gives a cohort of up to 25 students access to all six Forum components—Experiential Learning Seminars, the Interview Library, Live Exchanges, Personal Exchanges with issue experts, Student Community Contacts, and Recommended Resources. Rich or Este will join students for up to ten Live Exchanges, and at least three Live Exchanges will feature guest speakers. Rich and Este will also offer customized Experiential Learning Seminars, and they will connect students with issue experts through online Personal Exchanges to create a group journalism project for publication in EntreMundos, a Guatemalan human rights magazine.
The Forum on Migration allows students to explore the reasons that people leave their homes for the U.S. Rich produces video reports to respond to student questions and topics of interest, which have included land and water conflict, public health systems, and freedom of expression. He also poses student questions to local politicians, community leaders, and others.
Mayan musician and political activist Losh Laínez explains annual Maya Mam Water Day ceremonies and their political significance.
Congressman Leocadio Juracán also explains why Guatemala has not addressed widespread rural poverty through land reform since a 1954 coup d’état.
This video (Part 1 of a series) documents a nutrition program visit for young children in the Maya Mam community of San Juan Ostuncalco, Guatemala.
The Forum on Migration allows students to interact with migrating families like those profiled in Exodus, the interview series that Rich Brown produced for EntreMundos when he was embedded with the 2018 Honduras caravan. These are examples of the voices that Rich brings into classrooms through the Forum and the Dragons Global Speaker Series:
Yani is an elementary school teacher from Colón, Honduras. She is traveling with her husband and children. She said, “We left our country not because we want to but because the circumstances force us to leave because of the policies of the president of Honduras [Juan Orlando Hernández]. We can’t even afford to eat. Education isn’t free anymore. There’s no medicine in the health centers.”
Keila, 23, is from San Pedro Sula, Honduras. She never got to go to high school. Kayla said that she joined the caravan because her husband was beating her and she reported him. Police came to her home, and local gang members told her that if she didn’t leave, they’d kill her for bringing police into their area. She said, “The gangs threatened to kill me. One of them talked to me. He said, ‘You better get lost before we kill you.’ …That’s why I came.”
YOSELYN & MARVIN
Yoselyn and Marvin, from Tegucigalpa, Honduras are traveling with their two young children. Marvin said, “I made shoes. But it doesn’t amount to anything. You can work your whole life as a poor person, and nothing…” Yocelyn said, “The rich get richer, and the poor… There’s no support. If you don’t have money to cover all the expenses of school, you don’t study. And if you go to the doctor, to the hospital or a health center, there’s never medicines.”
Nolveya Romero, from Olancho, Honduras, described a personal experience with land conflict. Such conflict is widespread in eastern Honduras where many families lack formal land titles and large landowners are increasingly using violence to grab land. Nolveya said, “They threatened me… they killed two of my nephews. You work but there are people who want to take your land from you. They wanted our land for logging. The threats arrive anonymously. They just leave envelopes. The envelopes come below the door. I brought one, but I left it in Guatemala, a lawyer there has it.”
Juan Carlos, from the small city of Comayagua, Honduras is traveling with his wife and three children. He explained that he can’t make ends meet in his job as a truck driver. “Where I’m from, if you pay the electricity bill, you don’t eat.” He previously worked in the US as a roofer and saved enough to build a house in Honduras. But a year and a half ago, his two brothers were murdered by extortionists. “We were trying to get by and now I’m the only one left. My mother’s only son. We hope, we ask our Father to let the president of the United States open the door to us, to give us an opportunity.”