For children of migrant families, sometimes fitting in at their new school and community can be extremely difficult.
What You Need To Know
- Good Afternoon Friends and Amigos program helps children fit in
- The free program is offered through Gulf Coast Jewish Family and Community Services
- Many of the families come directly from Mexico, Honduras, and Guatemala
- More Hillsborough County headlines
Most of the time, it’s more than a language barrier that’s holding them back.
For nearly 30 years, Mary Torres has been a social worker, educator and yoga instructor.
“Yoga ties in the body parts. It’s about your brain, your breath, and your body,” Torres said.
Since 2017, she’s been able to share her passion with a very special group of children after school.
“Our children come from families who are actually working in the fields. So moms and dads are picking your strawberries, mostly your strawberries. They’re working really hard all day and they’re living in conditions that don’t allow them a lot of luxury,” she said.
When kids join the Good Afternoon Friends and Amigos program, they can put the struggles from home to the side for a few hours.
“Multiple families are living in one particular home, multiple people are sleeping in one particular bed,” Torres said.
Tutoring, homework help, and yoga are all things the students can look forward to.
The free program is offered through Gulf Coast Jewish Family and Community Services and funded through the children’s board of Hillsborough County.
“We have two sites, one in Plant City and one in Wimauma,” Torres said.
Since many of the families come directly from Mexico, Honduras, and Guatemala, most learning and communication is in Spanish.
“Research has really come forward to show how yoga and mindfulness can help children self-regulate,” said Torres.
Along with teaching the children yoga and mindfulness five days a week, the program also helps the families as a whole inside their homes.
“So we also help the children and families through the children’s board, to get beds when they need them, help them with food, help them with clothing, and help nurture the family and help them feel comfortable here,” said Torres.
And at the end of the day, they go home with a new skill to share.
“We have actually had some kids go home and teach their moms and dads yoga,” she said.