LAS VEGAS (KSNV & MyNews3) -- Tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors from Central America have been pouring into the United States in recent months, causing a huge backlog in deportation proceedings. These children are coming here for a variety of reasons. Two local volunteers who recently returned from Central America are sharing their perspectives on the immigration crisis.
In a small town outside Managua, Nicaragua, children sing songs of praise. They are fed and offered life essentials like love and hope, but they are the lucky ones.
"Poverty there are kids that are underweight, and haven’t had dental work or can’t even brush their teeth or brush their hair for heaven’s sake," said volunteer Morgan McGowan. "They don’t even have shoes on their feet and they’re walking around on glass and gravel.”
McGowan and Nann Raue are volunteers with the Orphan Network and recently returned from the region. Working through Canyon Ridge Christian Church in Las Vegas, they travelled to remote areas offering food and supplies to children in despair.
They say it was an amazing experience. They were moved by the widespread poverty and they came back with a better understanding of why we are seeing so many children arriving in the U.S, looking for a better life.
“Most of the kids do not get more than one meal a day, and some don’t even get that," Raue said.
It’s a glimpse into what has now evolved into a national crisis at the U.S. border. The latest figures estimate some 50,000 children from Central American countries have fled their homelands in search of a better life in America.
In some cases, the children are fleeing from dangerous living conditions or gang life, but most of all they’re hoping to escape poverty.
In Nicaragua, Raue and McGowan say many families live in deplorable conditions with no running water or electricity.
Near the orphanage where they volunteer is a dump site, a place where kids sift though refuse looking for anything of value.
“There’s a small dump that’s just outside of where the home is down the street and there are people just going through and trying to find recycling, just to make a couple dollars a day to survive on," Raue said.
As the situation in surrounding countries escalates, many children are also fleeing to Nicaragua.
“We do know that there are kids coming from other countries down into Nicaragua. We had heard of a few while we were out there that had come,” Raue said.
Word of the orphanages and missionaries from America providing food and shelter is spreading and so is the need.
For Raue and McGowan, the giving of time and resources is all part of their ministry, and what they get in return, they say, is an even greater gift. They say it's very common to see children walking around with machetes. They use these for protection against people who would rob them of their food or belongings.
The situation in Nicaragua not as bad as it is in Honduras or El Salvador, but it is easy to get a sense of the survival mode these kids are in.