A woman's story of finding a new home, and safety, in Belize
20 April 2022
Mercy* is pouring fruit juice into plastic containers and loading them into her ice-filled bucket. Every day, she visits different neighborhoods in Belmopan, Belize, selling her freshly made orange, lime, cantaloupe, and watermelon juice to the public. When there is no school, she takes her children along with her.
“At nine am, we are already on the street selling. We either ride a bike or walk, as we offer juice to passers-by.”
Mercy is a single parent of two children. When she was 21-years-old, she was raped by members of a criminal gang in her home country, El Salvador.
“One of them raped me. Then another. They did what they wanted with me,” she said.
Her daughter, who was four back then, was being held outside – at gunpoint – by another gang member.
“I told them, I will do whatever you guys ask me, but please let me live. I have my daughter,” Mercy said.
The gang members threatened to kill her in front of her child. They also demanded to be paid $500 the next day to spare their lives.
Mercy and her family lived in a humble village with no electricity. She had never had that amount of money on hand. But it was a matter of life and death—and she was able to borrow the money. After doing so, she ran for her and her daughter’s life.
Protection and peace for those fleeing danger
Since her arrival to Belize, Mercy is most grateful for the safety she can provide her children.
“I love the peaceful nature here and enjoy walking to the park in the evenings with my children.”
When she thinks about her life and her loved ones back in her home country in Central America, Mercy is heartbroken that she had to leave them behind so suddenly.
Belize is home to over 4,000 asylum seekers and refugees. Last June, UNHCR, UNICEF and IOM signed the first joint work plan to support national efforts in Belize to strengthen protection for migrants and refugees.
“I feel more comfortable in Belize, at peace. I feel good because I’m far away from danger. My daughter can go to school. My children are free.”
*Name changed for protection reasons.
Original story written by Aida Escobar, UNHCR Senior Public Information Assistant, and published in UN Belize. This adapted version was produced with the editorial support of the Development Coordination Office (DCO).
For more information on the United Nations’ work in Belize, please visit: Belize.UN.org.