In Honduras, youth are at risk of becoming gang members, but programs like this year-long woodworking course supported by ChildFund give them more opportunities.
For many Hondurans, life is hard. With around 65 percent of the country's population living below the poverty line, conditions in Honduras are challenging. Unemployment is high in many areas, and crime is a serious and persistent problem. Gang violence, organized crime and the highest rate of homicide in the world — 82 killings per 100,000 people, according to the United Nations — make Honduras a dangerous place to live. and Unless action is taken, the nation's children face an uncertain future.
According to UNICEF,
more than 4,700 children and youth belong to gangs in Honduras. Often, young people feel compelled to join these groups for protection or companionship, or out of fear. Some children as young as 11 are recruited into gangs and are forced to perform criminal activities for older members. Social exclusion and a lack of opportunities contribute to the feelings of hopelessness that many children and youths experience, so intervention is crucial if the generational cycle of poverty and gang crime is to be broken.
Criminal gangs cause a variety of complex problems. UNICEF reports in a recent study that 91 percent of teachers in five secondary schools in the Central District say that gangs have created problems in their schools. Bullying and other kinds of threatening behavior create a culture of fear among students, sometimes causing students to drop out. Leaving school early has a negative impact on these students' future opportunities and on the Honduran population at large.
Giving Young People a Voice
ChildFund has worked in Honduras since 1982, and one of our primary goals is to promote self-esteem and leadership among children and youth through community engagement and advocacy training. Young people whose voices are heard feel more connected to their communities and work with adult leaders to create lasting change in their communities.
A key strategy of reducing poverty in Honduras is ensuring that youths have access to vocational training and educational opportunities. To date, ChildFund has enrolled 4,843 Honduran youths in training and professional development programs. In addition, 803 youths have received training in areas such as auto repair, electrical engineering, clothing alteration and carpentry, providing them with the skills they need to find work and support themselves as independent adults.
Along with these programs, we have also helped work with more than 900 youths in community engagement. These young people will champion children's rights and identify areas where change can be made, bringing hope to their communities and offering them the chance to make a lasting difference.
Hope for the Future
Although there is much work to be done, progress is being made. As we work to give Honduran youths a way to improve the quality of life in their communities, elsewhere in the country, a glimmer of promise has emerged as two of the largest criminal gangs in Honduras (and elsewhere)
have recently signed a truce as part of the "Zero Crimes, Zero Violence" agreement at a ceremony in San Pedro Sula.
"They want to reconcile with Honduran society and ask for forgiveness from the Honduran people, and I think it is a step forward," said Romulo Emiliani, assistant bishop of the city's archdiocese, who brokered the deal between the two gangs with Adam Blackwell, secretary for multidimensional security at the Organization of American States.
You can help a child or teen in Honduras by providing hope through sponsorship. By sponsoring a child, you can ensure that a child's basic needs are met and that they have the chance to have a happy, fulfilled childhood and adulthood.