Army veteran writes book for unaccompanied minors

Children’s book intended for shelters of unaccompanied minors

SAN ANTONIO – A local Army veteran hopes his new book will make it to the book shelves at shelters for unaccompanied minors.

The author of the Spanish-language children’s book “Viaje” Juan Vega, said it has nothing to do with politics and is all about kids and the American dream.

The title of the book, viaje translates to “journey” and it focuses on the journey of children crossing through the Texas-Mexico border.

“Most of the pictures (in the book) describe the process from the minute they leave (from) Central American countries (to) Mexico, up until the border they turn themselves in to the Border Patrol,” Vega said.

Vega is a former employee of a massive shelter for unaccompanied minors, including at the Freeman Coliseum and Lackland Air Force Base.

“I was a case manager with BCFS for six years,” Vega said.

BCFS Health and Human Services specializes in emergency shelter, foster care, and adoption for children.

“My job was to facilitate the reunification with unaccompanied minors (and) refugees coming over from Central America. We would facilitate the process by beginning the application process, vetting the sponsors to make sure that they were going to be able to take care of the child.”

The idea for the book came after Vega realized that not all books made available to children were age-appropriate.

“This book (I saw) was terrible,” Vega said. “It had drawings of gang members with guns. They had drawings and pictures of women getting kidnaped, men getting beaten by gangs. And I thought, this is not a good book. This is not a good book for a child to read.”

Instead, Vega thought it would be good for children to have a book that could address the hardships they have endured.

“Sometimes they were sad. Sometimes they would cry, sometimes they would sing. A lot of times they didn’t know what they were going to eat. They travel with the same clothes and maybe one bag of clothing,” Vega said.

The book has yet to reach the shelves of shelters, but Vega is in-talks with the shelters and nonprofit organizations that could provide the book as part of a welcome or departure packet.

Vega added that the children’s book isn’t about the politics of the situation and, instead, is all about helping children heal and have a positive outlook on their future.

“My thing is these children are here already. The best we can do is offer them help, offer them the American dream and that’s what the book entails,” Vega said.

To learn more about the book, click here.

About the Authors:

Alicia Barrera is a KSAT 12 News reporter and anchor. She is also a co-host of the streaming show KSAT News Now. Alicia is a first-generation Mexican-American, fluent in both Spanish and English with a bachelor's degree from Our Lady of the Lake University. She enjoys reading books, traveling solo across Mexico and spending time with family.

Sal Salazar is a photojournalist at KSAT 12. Before coming to KSAT in 1998, he worked at the Fox affiliate in San Antonio. Sal started off his career back in 1995 for the ABC Affiliate in Lubbock and has covered many high-profile news events since. In his free time, he enjoys spending time at home, gaming and loves traveling with his wife.