Local ownership creates lasting legacy in Honduras

By Evelyn Rupert

April 29, 2020

It’s early on a Saturday, but a few kids and volunteers are already at the Outreach Center, sweeping the floor, rearranging chairs and getting started on a game of foosball. They greet Arnold Linares as he unlocks the gym, classroom and computer lab spaces for the day.  

Linares, a pastor, and his family oversee this busy center in the Rivera Hernandez district, a sector that has made slow but steady progress to reduce the high levels of gang violence that make it notorious.

The Outreach Center has been a key part of that progress for more than a decade. There, children and youth find a safe space to build skills like leadership and goal setting, learn a trade, take computer classes, play music, make art or participate in sports.

Two boys play foosball on a table in the Rivera Hernandez Outreach Center. Photos by Janey Fugate.

“It’s a great privilege that here, in this sector that used to be very violent, they created what was the first Outreach Center,” says Linares, who has lived and worked in Rivera Hernandez for some 40 years. “Now we have more than 60 Outreach Centers across Honduras.”

The Rivera Hernandez Outreach Center was the first such center established in Honduras through a USAID program implemented by Creative called Alianza Joven Honduras (Honduras Youth Alliance). Today, there are 68 centers dotted across Honduras’ most vulnerable neighborhoods.

And while Alianza Joven helped get many of the Outreach Centers off the ground, they have continued to operate and grow in number since the program’s scheduled close in 2017. Today, the Outreach Center network is managed by the National Foundation for the Development of Honduras, known in Spanish as FUNADEH.

“As early as 2012, we recognized FUNADEH’s potential to be a strong legacy partner with the expertise and passion to take over the Outreach Centers,” says Salvador Stadthagen, Director of Creative’s Latin America and Caribbean Strategy and former Chief of Party of Alianza Joven. “We have since seen how they have not just maintained the centers, but continued to evolve, expand and meet the needs of these communities.”

FUNADEH, established in Honduras in 1983, had a long history of social and economic development in vulnerable communities. Alianza Joven partnered with the organization to develop an Outreach Center in Chamelecón, another high-violence area outside of San Pedro Sula. By 2013, FUNADEH began overseeing seven centers in the San Pedro Sula area.

Arnold and Julia Linares have passed their commitment to the Outreach Center onto their daughter Sara (right), who serves as its coordinator.

From there, the partnership grew. With encouragement from Alianza Joven, FUNADEH presented a concept to USAID and signed a cooperative agreement. Creative transferred knowledge and methodologies, provided mentorship, helped FUNADEH build its networks, and merged some staff members. With this support during the initial handover phase, FUNADEH was able to assume full responsibility of the Outreach Centers.

Marco Matute of FUNADEH says this partnership has helped the organization better serve the communities and built ownership among local governments and the private sector.

“FUNADEH was strengthened with the opportunity of working with Creative as a partner, adopting positive and effective practices in social development and violence prevention with a unique approach to engaging communities,” says Matute, the Deputy Chief of Party of FUNADEH’s Genesis project, which oversees the Outreach Centers.

Since Alianza Joven ended, FUNADEH has expanded the centers’ offerings to include additional leadership trainings, workforce development, outdoor activities and art.

“FUNADEH was strengthened with the opportunity of working with Creative as a partner”

Marco Matute

It has also developed significant support for the Outreach Centers from local governments and businesses, greatly reducing contributions by USAID. FUNADEH has leveraged $2.7 million in investments from more than 50 private sector companies. An additional $6.6 million in resources have been mobilized from local and national government agencies, universities, and nongovernmental organizations.

“The Outreach Center model has remained attractive to many companies that have found its infrastructure friendly to their social responsibility efforts, while also matching needs for Outreach Center sustainability,” Matute says. “In the past, USAID would cover most of the cost of opening an Outreach Center. Now FUNADEH´s fundraising allows USAID to provide modest support for start-up operations.”

Looking ahead, FUNADEH is working on creating a National Outreach Center Association with national and local boards to further cement the centers’ sustainability and local ownership so that Outreach Centers like the one in Rivera Hernandez can continue to serve vulnerable populations.

“Outreach Centers have provided unmeasurable benefits to the lives of children and youths living in communities,” Matute says. “And they are stronger than ever.”

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