Idelcin Palma is the youngest of 11 siblings and the only one still living in his hometown of Las Lajas, Honduras. As agricultural jobs have dried up due to historic droughts, his siblings have moved to larger cities to seek work. His parents, who have only a few years of formal education between them, have sacrificed to support his goal of completing school.
Through an IAF-facilitated initiative with three youth-focused organizations, Palma is pursuing secondary education and—hopefully—a more stable career. He says about his future, “Everything good takes work. You can’t have everything in life, but I’m working to fulfill my dreams and be better to give my parents what they deserve, since they give everything for me.”
In a context like Honduras in which violence and poverty abound but jobs do not, how do young people find hope? Many IAF grantees have been working to provide it.
Nearly one in three young people in Honduras neither work nor study, and fewer than one in four complete high school. With little reason to believe large-scale economic, political, or security conditions will improve any time soon, many youth have migrated to the cities or internationally since 2014. A third of our Honduran grantees work with youth through programs that:
- keep kids in school
- offer vocational and microenterprise development training
- develop leadership skills
- build networks of youth organizations
- facilitate engagement between youth and their governments
Collaborating to Provide Services Youth Need
In 2016, we convened youth and youth-focused grantees from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador to address the conditions causing so many youth to lose hope of having a future in their country and feeling pressured to migrate north. As a result, three Honduran organizations came together to design a partnership that would leverage the strengths of each: Asociación de Desarrollo Pespirense (ADEPES), Asociación de Desarrollo Triunfeña (ADETRIUNF), and Organization for Youth Empowerment (OYE).
The partner organizations:
- Both ADEPES and ADETRIUNF developed from farmers’ associations. In 2011, they recognized that the increasing frequency of droughts would drive young people to seek work in (increasingly violent) urban centers. They set out to find new ways for young people to earn a living and reinvest in civic life in their home communities. ADETRIUNF has helped rural youth start over 70 microenterprises, generating close to 135 jobs (90 permanent and 45 temporary) for youth entrepreneurs and other community members. Organizations throughout Honduras are studying its successful model.
- The Organization for Youth Empowerment (OYE) was founded over 14 years ago to create educational and economic opportunities for at-risk youth in the city of El Progreso. OYE’s small scholarships allow urban youth to complete secondary school or begin technical training or higher education. It also promotes leadership development, skill-building, and civic engagement opportunities. OYE has given 389 youth scholarships; 98 percent of the scholarship recipients have completed secondary school, and 80 percent of those who finished secondary school have enrolled in college. Strikingly, in an urban area where high youth migration is the norm, only around 2 percent of the scholarship recipients have emigrated. ADEPES, ADETRIUNF, and OYE analyzed the gaps in their efforts to help youth create viable futures for themselves and identified an opportunity to collaborate. Learning from OYE’s success, ADEPES and ADETRIUNF incorporated micro-scholarships into their programs and expanded relationships with the private sector for greater sustainability. Meanwhile, OYE learned how to train young entrepreneurs and support their microenterprises.
Together, the organizations have begun a comprehensive pilot program for youth 14–30 years old in three municipalities that provides vocational education, micro-scholarships, leadership training, and seed capital and technical assistance to launch small businesses. Scholarship recipients also commit to volunteering, primarily in areas associated with their studies, which provides them both hands-on learning and a way to give back to their home communities.
Of the 102 secondary, technical institute, and university students who received scholarships through this initiative, 38 have already graduated and the rest are on target to do so in the next few years. The joint project has trained over 1,664 youth in life skills and resilience, self-esteem, and leadership development.
The pilot has already proved successful in generating hope and concrete opportunities for vulnerable youth. Thanks to his scholarship from ADETRIUNF, Santos Muñoz, who has a physical disability, was able to pursue a college degree: “My desire to live has come back and my self-esteem has grown, now that I’ve entered the university.” Muñoz feels responsible to motivate other young people and give back to his community by teaching 17 other young people what he has learned.
Kelvin Castillo almost gave up hope on continuing his studies before receiving a scholarship from ADEPES. He planned to move to a major city like Tegucigalpa and look for work; now he is pursuing a degree in business administration.
Leveraging their technical assistance and funding from the IAF grant, ADETRIUNF, ADEPES, and OYE have enlisted 36 public, private, and academic organizations to match funding for new scholarships and provide training and employment opportunities. Young ADETRIUNF participants also successfully advocated with local government and secured its commitment to fund 25 additional scholarships and seed capital for youth enterprises. This joint initiative has been gaining momentum, drawing the attention of international funders like Pan Para el Mundo, which will fund additional four-year university scholarships through ADEPES.