New Honduran outreach center rallies a neighborhood

By Jillian Slutzker

March 17, 2015

In an historic presidential visit to the city of La Lima—the first in nearly two decades—Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández joined community members to inaugurate a new youth outreach center.

Taking the podium to congratulate the community on the new outreach center, President Hernández emphasized his administration’s support for investments in violence and crime prevention, particularly at the local level.

President Juan Orlando Hernández said that community investment in violence prevention is key.

“We are betting on prevention to reduce violence. To restore peace and tranquility there are two sides: that of justice and prevention. To the first side, we are assuming our commitment; but on the other one, we need to work together with the community,” President Hernández said at the March 12 inauguration.

The newly constructed youth outreach center in the neighborhood called the 23rd of September will provide a safe space for young people in the crime-ridden area and offer programs including tutoring, sports clubs, life skills and job training. It is the 42nd such center in Honduras.

Making community-based crime and violence prevention a national priority, the Honduran government has stepped up its funding for youth-focused initiatives, pledging $1 million to the construction and support of youth outreach centers through the national security-trust tax fund. The initiate is in partnership with Alianza Joven Honduras—a youth crime and violence prevention program funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development and implemented by Creative Associates International.

Across Central America, 217 youth outreach centers are keeping young people off the streets—where they become victims and perpetrators of crime—and bringing them opportunity and hope.

In Honduras, 42 outreach centers supported through Alianza Joven Honduras have been inaugurated. An additional four centers, will officially open their doors in San Pedro Sula, Tegucigalpa and Choloma communities over the next few months, although some activities have already been underway in the centers.

For more stories and videos, check out our Special Report Honduras: Young Lives in the Balance

Local investment for long-term results

Youth and community volunteers from the 23rd of September neighborhood celebrate the outreach center’s opening.

With an eye towards sustainability, the 23rd of September center is largely funded and supported by the national government and municipality of La Lima. The new center received $25,000 in support from the government security-trust tax fund and an additional $2,000 from USAID. The government’s Director of Youth will sponsor the new center’s gym, along with the gym of eight other outreach centers around the country.

The municipality of La Lima has to date contributed more than $30,000 to the center’s construction, along with contributions from the private sector. Local internet company, TIGO, will be providing the center with free service.

Members of the neighborhood pitched in with their time and labor to help construct the center, recognizing the need for a safe space for the community’s kids. The community’s backing is a key ingredient for the center’s success, says Salvador Stadthagen, director of Alianza Joven Honduras.

“An outreach center is only possible if a city, a community partner, is determined to fight for a better future for the lives of children and youth,” Stadthagen said at the center’s inauguration ceremony.

“In this center, wills converged—a mayor who believes in prevention and has even traveled abroad to see models that work; a president who is making history and who believes in prevention and shows it; and a community that wants change and has the volunteers willing to make a difference and make something special,” he said.

Volunteerism and community-leadership is at the core of the outreach center methodology.

The new center, which will be operated by the COMVIDA Municipal Program (Programa Municipal de Infancia y Juventud-Municipal Program for Childhood and Youth) will receive support from the Community Board for the Improvement of the 23rd of September Neighborhood and local faith-based organizations.

The center’s coordinator, Susana Rivera, will ensure that the operations and activities of the center are in full swing, with the help of the first eight active volunteers from the community who have already received training.

Supporting dreams

President Juan Orlando Hernández commended community members for their role in violence prevention at the 23rd of September outreach center opening.

The 23rd of September outreach center will be more than just a safe space for youth in this poverty-stricken community, it will empower them with the skills and tools needed to chart a life plan and achieve their goals.

“There will be a large menu of opportunities for young people, “said Kurt Pope, deputy director of USAID in Honduras, speaking at the center’s inauguration.

The center will also launch an intensive mentorship program called the “Dreaming My Life Challenge,” which will involve at least 200 youth in the neighborhood. With young adults serving as mentors to vulnerable youth, program participants will chart out Life Plans that map out their goals and pathways to realize them.

The Challenge of Dreaming My Life initiative builds on previous violence prevention activities in the neighborhood supported by the Vice-Minister of Security for Prevention, including a Virtues in My Home workshop implemented by community volunteers.

COMVIDA-La Lima will also equip young people with the tools and knowledge they need for success through sexual and reproductive health training support, communications workshops, entrepreneurship training and art lessons.

The center will welcome even those youth who had been caught up in the drugs and crime wave that has swept their neighborhood but who had the courage of leaving that path. The center offers a second chance at a better life, says Stadthagen.

“The outreach centers are not against anyone,” he said. “They are only meant to bring more opportunities to children and youth in these communities.”

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