WASHINGTON – Efforts to help young Hondurans build the skills they need to get good jobs are thriving through a U.S. initiative aimed at preventing crime and building community cohesion in Central America.
In 2010, U.S. President Barack Obama launched the Central American Regional Security Initiative (CARSI) to support community-based approaches to reach youth from troubled backgrounds and help make streets safe for the citizens. The initiative is implemented by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
CARSI partners with regional governments, nonprofit groups and the private sector to provide youth with educational opportunities, job training and apprenticeships. These opportunities encourage youth to make healthy decisions and not join gangs.
One program is an English-language teaching program at an outreach center in the Nueva Suyapa neighborhood of Honduras’ capital, Tegucigalpa. The program brings teachers from the English Language Department at Honduras’ Pedagogical University to teach English to vulnerable youth.
“Growth and security cannot occur until young people see the very real possibility of good-paying jobs in their future,” said U.S. Ambassador to Honduras Lisa Kubiske during a visit to the center. “If you, the youth of Honduras, can’t change the world, we are all lost.”
In San José, a youth outreach center provides space for young people to meet, learn English, train, dance, play music and build their skills for better job prospects. Run by the local Community Board (Patronato) and Evangelical Church Joshua 1:9, the center demonstrates that joint efforts by municipalities, local communities, international donors and faith-based organizations can draw young people to opportunities that keep them away from crime.
At the Garifuna nongovernmental organization Ecosalud, U.S. officials spoke with a women’s group that shared tips on preventing sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. The group’s youth theater group, Iseri Emenigue, or "New Hope," performed a play portraying the health risks of violence.
USAID has established 65 outreach centers in Central America to serve at-risk youth, provide vocational training opportunities, and push for juvenile justice reform and prevention policies.
As Gabriela Benitez, a youth in Honduras, said, “The outreach center is our refuge.”