Honduras gives $1 million to expand youth centers
By Creative Associates International
March 24, 2014
Tegucigalpa, Honduras—The Honduran government has contributed part of its $1 million commitment in support of community focused Youth Outreach Centers, an initiative designed to prevent violence by providing a positive place for young people to gather, learn and grow.
Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández delivered a $400,000 check at a Youth Outreach Center in a Tegucigalpa neighborhood called La Colonia Los Estados Unidos.
“We have taken another step in the construction of a different Honduras, a peaceful and tranquil Honduras,” President Hernandez said at the Feb. 14 ceremony. “I know it is not easy to think of this immediately, but God willing together we can do it.”
The Youth Outreach Centers were developed by Creative Associates International’s Alianza Joven Honduras program, which is supported by the U.S. Agency for International Development. The Honduran government’s contribution will support the current 44 Youth Outreach Centers in five cities—San Pedro Sula, Choloma, La Ceiba, Puerto Lempira and Tegucigalpa—and help to create another 10.
The Alianza Joven Honduras’s Youth Outreach Centers are playing a critical role in the country’s efforts to prevent an increase of violence and crime.
Honduras has earned the unenviable ranking as the most violent country not at war, with an average national homicide rate of 85 per 100,000 residents. In the areas where Creative’s Alianza Joven Honduras is working, the rate spikes to 1,000 to 1,500 per 100,000 residents.
Salvador Stadthagen, who leads Creative’s efforts on Alianza Joven Honduras, describes the Youth Outreach Centers as a unique initiative in Central America, due in part to its strategy of engaging host governments, private sector and multilateral donors like USAID to provide support and solutions.
“We have to work multi-level for these models to be sustainable over time,” Stadthagen said in an interview before the ceremony. “You really have to engage all those levels. And we do.”
Engaging the Private Sector
The Honduran government’s contribution is second only to USAID’s support for the Youth Outreach Centers. Just as important, Stadthagen notes, is the rising involvement of the private sector.
The Chambers of Commerce in Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula have been active supporters of the Youth Outreach Centers, including a mentoring program with former gang members, which has helped to build bridges with the private sector.
In addition, the U.S. Ambassador to Honduras, Lisa Kubiske, has spoken at Chamber of Commerce events in support of the Youth Outreach Centers and their role in preventing violence—and the need for business support.
“You know the positive role that the private sector can play” in curbing violence, Ambassador Kubiske told the San Pedro Sula Chamber in August 2013.
During Ambassador Kubiske’s August visit with the San Pedro Sula Chamber, she highlighted the positive benefits of the Alianza Joven Honduras’s Youth Outreach Centers.
“These centers are sanctuaries for children where they can play and learn in safety,” Ambassador Kubiske said. “More than  community volunteers in these centers around Honduras are providing more than [18,000] children and youth mentoring, academic tutoring and life-skills classes. There are also classes in computing, barbering and electricity.”
Honduran companies, such as Lady Lee Corp. (the largest operator of malls in the country), and multinational firms, such as Seaboard Marine, are supporting the activities.
“We have been successful in engaging the private sector and making them look at the situation of violence in these communities,” Stadthagen says. “When violence becomes the first problem in the country, they have to deal with it. Because they’re victims of crime, and at the same time, their business is affected. The future generations of business is affected.”
The Youth Outreach Centers—developed jointly by Creative and USAID in Guatemala and then expanded to El Salvador, Panama and Honduras—provide classes, recreation and a social gathering point with the intent of offering an alternative to violent gangs.
“One of the risk factors of youth getting involved in gangs is that they long to belong to something,” Stadthagen says. “Sometimes, the only groups they can associate with are gangs.”
The Youth Outreach Centers are providing that alternative.