Campaign urges Honduran youth to choose a future at home over migration

By Jillian Slutzker

February 15, 2017

A campaign spanning six Honduran cities is providing youth with a reason to plan a future in their home country, rather than risking a dangerous and uncertain future through migration to other countries.

Called “Campeón en Mi Nación” (Champion in My Nation), the nearly month-long campaign aims to reach people ages 10 to 21 with information about educational and employment opportunities in Honduras and positive messages that build pride in the country.

“In a country facing extremely high levels of crime, violence, poverty and out migration, this campaign seeks to offer an alternative path for Honduran youth.”

Salvador Stadthagen, Director of Alianza Joven Honduras-USAID

“In a country facing extremely high levels of crime, violence, poverty and out migration, this campaign seeks to offer an alternative path for Honduran youth. We want them to know they don’t have to leave [Honduras] to find a brighter future” says Salvador Stadthagen, who is the Director of the Alianza Joven Honduras-USAID project, which is spearheading the campaign implementation.

Alianza Joven Honduras-USAID is a youth violence prevention program working in 64 of the country’s most at-risk communities. It is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development and implemented by Creative Associates International.

In partnership with the Government of Honduras, the project has helped to launch and support 61 neighborhood Outreach Centers in vulnerable communities. The Outreach Centers provide youth with access to safe spaces for recreation, tutoring, music lessons, life skills, vocational training, mentoring and more. The Outreach Centers’ coordinators and volunteers will be critical dispatchers of the campaign’s message and activities to young people and their families.

“Campeón en Mi Nación”is jointly implemented by Alianza Joven Honduras-USAID and the National Foundation for the Development of Honduras (FUNADEH in Spanish), with support from the Office of the President, the Undersecretary of Security and Prevention and the private sector.  The Government of Honduras is covering most of the costs of the campaign.

Opportunities fair offers roadmap for youth

On Feb. 18, the campaign will sponsor a “Feria Catracha” (also known as the Honduran Fair) in San Pedro Sula open to young people and families. Youth will be able to browse a range of information booths and talk to representatives to learn about vocational, education and recreational opportunities available through the government, private sector and nongovernmental programs.

The fair will feature local foods and presentations by national artists and Outreach Center Youth Clubs, including dance troops and other performances.

It will culminate in a Youth Forum, which will highlight “success stories of people who have made it in Honduras without having to look for a perilous dream far away,” explains Stadthagen.

Soccer as a mobilizer

A nationwide soccer tournament has mobilized youth and community members and helped to spread the campaign’s message. Photo by Jorge Escoto.

To galvanize whole communities around the campaign, “Campeón en Mi Nación” is sponsoring a nationwide soccer tournament throughout the month of February.

A total of 47 youth teams in six cities will participate in tournaments hosted at local Outreach Centers. These games will feed into regional play-offs and a national championship in San Pedro Sula on Feb. 19.

Orlando Linarez, head of the La Pradera Futbol League in San Pedro Sula and supporter of the affiliated La Pradera Outreach Center next to the stadium, says that soccer is an entry point to reach youth and connect them to violence prevention programming.

“We continue betting on futbol,” he says, explaining that while the soccer gets youth through the gate, the Outreach Center keeps them there with worthwhile opportunities.

“A child who has nothing at home comes to the Outreach Center to learn computer or learn English or music and singing. And after that two hours, he plays soccer and then he takes all of that home,” he says.

These are small but important steps to turning around high-violence communities and helping at-risk youth chart a positive future, he says.

Communities motivated to stem migration

Nationwide, 11.3 percent of Honduran households have family members abroad and the majority are ages 15 to 34 years old, according to the Honduran National Institute of Statistics.  In recent years as violence peaked in the region, a surge of even younger Honduran and Central American migrants made headlines in the United States.

The push factor of violence and the allure of migration touches families and even entire communities, explains Teresa de Jesus Benjarano, head of the Community Board of the 15th of September community in Tela, Honduras.

“The slogan was, ‘Come in if you want and leave if you can,’” says Bejarano, who once considered fleeing with her daughter due to the high levels of violence in her community. “Truly whole families migrated because of the situation in our communities.”

In fact, the violence was what prompted Bejarano and several others in her community to get involved in their Outreach Center to stem violence and build opportunities for youth, alongside the municipality of Tela and Alianza Joven Honduras-USAID. The Outreach Center will be actively involved in the campaign.

“We are strong and brave people who wanted change,” she says. “Thanks to all the projects that have come to this community, we are committed to doing the job.”

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