• Voices of NY

Building Community Around ‘Barrel Children’


What does it mean to build community around an issue? This is the question I asked myself over and over as I explored the long-term psychological impact of parental separation due to migration on “barrel children” and their families, both in the Caribbean region and in the United States.

When I started reporting on this issue in 2016, I hoped that the stories I wrote might actively engage people affected, and serve as a catalyst for further change in a community where discussion of mental health is often taboo.

Barrel children are the children left behind in the care of relatives or friends when parents migrate to other countries for work opportunities. They receive material goods via shipping barrels, as well as money, but they often lack emotional nurturance from their parents.

To me, as a Caribbean-American, the brown cardboard or blue plastic barrels have been a familiar sight. They’ve been a cost-effective way for so many families (including my own) to send things like food, clothing and other items to loved ones in the region to support the household. Once a barrel reaches its destination and the contents taken out, it is often repurposed as a storage unit, used to catch rainwater or halved and filled with soil and plantings for kitchen gardens. I always thought of the positive things that these barrels represented – love, care, support.

Read the full story HERE.


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