Every year, nearly five million people leave their native countries in hopes of finding better job opportunities to lift themselves and their families out of poverty.
And although the migrant’s journey can be perceived as an adventure or a privilege, the reality is quite different. An immigrant must overcome loneliness, nostalgia and fear, all while surmounting countless challenges. However, one guiding light is strong enough to see them through: hometown associations (HTA).
Below, we’ll explore how hometown associations came about, their ecosystem and how they benefit both immigrants and their families back home.
Micro corridors and HTAs
Oftentimes, migrants from the same village wind up settling in the same neighborhood abroad. This phenomenon stems from the fact that, once a member of a community succeeds in migrating abroad, friends and neighbors tend to follow suit to increase their chances of making it as well.
Once a migrant secures a job, the first rule of order tends to be finding a means to send money home. Given that migrants are more likely to trust Once the community is established, community leaders tend to open up a shop or business that then serves as a money transfer hub. In this way, money is sent from one neighborhood to another, resulting in a micro corridor.
Diaspora Alliance defines HTAs as “organizations created by migrants to connect their community of residence with their community in their country of heritage, providing a forum for migrants from the same area to gather, exchange experiences, and work together on issues of common interest.”
In other words, hometown associations are a way for migrants from the same town or village to support their community back home. At the same time, HTAs provide a space for migrants to revendicate their roots, celebrate their culture and mingle with like-minded compatriots.
The inner workings of HTAs
Hometown associations are usually composed of 10 to 20 volunteers and run by an elected board of directors. Depending on the case, HTAs may partner with local and host governments who, for example, can sometimes match the funds raised through raffles, sporting events, concerts, etc.
The impact hometown associations can have on the communities and countries they serve is truly remarkable, parting from the sheer amount of HTAs currently operating. For instance, there are more than 400 established Guyanese HTAs in North America.
Manuel Orozco, a Nicaraguan political scientist and director of The Dialogue program, found that towns in Mexico with less than 3,000 people receive more than half the amount of the municipal public works budget through HTA donations. In the case of towns with populations below a thousand, HTA donations are up to seven times great than the public works budget.
How technology has propelled HTAs
In the past, moving abroad meant giving up most communication with those left behind, but thanks to WhatsApp, Skype and other forms of instant messaging, communities are rejoining in a virtual space.
For hometown associations, this means receiving real-time feedback from their communities overseas. Members can oversee the completion of initiatives, be it infrastructure development or investment in education or health, while locals can voice their grievances and suggest projects based on their more immediate needs.
HTAs, along with migrant-to-family remittances, contribute to shortening the distance between migrant workers and their loved ones. They help sustain communities, create infrastructure and foster a more inclusive and sustainable world.