Thursday, November 28, 2013

Reflecting on House Visits: By María de los Ángeles Mejía

For OYE, 2013 has been a very different year, full of activities with becados and their projects, which have had a major outreach and impact in other youth of the community. Personally, one of the most anticipated activities for this year has been the selection process of new becados for 2014.  I think it's one of the most important and key activities to OYE as it gives us the opportunity to meet different types of youth with financial need, with desires for personal and academic growth and interest to participate and be part of our family.

As part of the selection process for new scholars, OYE´s team conducted a three-day "tour" of the city of El Progreso and surrounding area, visiting the families of the young applicants, in order to get to know their living conditions economic needs. All the visits were very revealing because in addition of learning the poverty statistics of Honduras published in reports; we saw firsthand the needs and the difficulties that families go through in order to provide food and education for their children and guarantee a decent life and future.

One of the applicants we visited was Mayly, a 15 year old, who is about to start high school. Thanks to her excellent academic performance and great financial need, she receives a scholarship to the bilingual school, where she is currently. However, the school is limited in size and does not offer high school education. In order to graduate, Mayly will need to find a new school. She aspires to study a Secretariado Bilingue in Notre Dame high school and is now pursuing a scholarship there. Her parents cannot afford this school because they are ambulatory vendors (especially of corn products), and their income is irregular. Their home provides the basics and does not even have a television. Mayly is forced to go to a nearby cybercafé cafe in order to do her homework.  Additionally, she is allergic to many things but her parents lack the resources to give a proper treatment. Despite all these conditions in which Mayly has to live, it is very inspiring to see how she did not give up and she gives the best of herself to be an exemplary student.

Next, we visited the home of Oscar (13) and Wendy (18), brother and sister applicants who live in the village of Guaymitas, on the road to Tela.  Both showed an excellent performance in the previous stages of the selection process, reflecting, in addition to good academic performance, attitudes of leadership and teamwork. They come from a poor family where the father works as a security guard in a maquila, where he receives hourly pay and no benefits, and the mother was also laid off from a factory. Their mother told us that they had been trying for four years to obtain scholarships through OYE, as they had heard of the organization but always missed the application deadline. They were very persistent and this year they achieved it.  Additionally, Oscar has a cyst on his nose, which is in treatment but has difficulty breathing and performing physical activities (such as playing soccer). If the family manages to gather the money for next year, they will operate on him. Both Oscar and Wendy are very excited to participate in OYE and the various programs it offers.

Our final visit of the day, struck and inspired me to continue working with and empowering more young scholars.  We visited the home of Willian a 17 year old currently studying his last year of middle school through distance education system EDUCATODOS. He currently lives in the village of El Congito technically jurisdiction of El Negrito, Yoro. It was a great ordeal and adventure to get there, since it’s on the top of the Mico Quemado mountain range, approximately 20kms from the highway. Willian had to walk down the mountain to greet us and guide us up to his home. This is very common for him as access to the community is very difficult, there are only two or three four wheel drive cars that go up there and have a high cost. We were lucky that at this time of year (strangely) it has not rained a lot and the road was not muddy, since otherwise we could not have come up (OYE’s car doesn’t have four wheel drive). Upon arriving to his home, we could see from above, the amazing view they have of the road and surroundings and we were fortunate to enjoy fresh air and a cool climate (a great contrast to the climate of El Progreso!).

We were greeted by Willian’s parents and had the interview outdoors. His mother told us that Willian is the only one in the family with an advanced level of education, as the rest of the family only studied up to sixth grade.  She also told us; how her son, with his strong desire to succeed, went for a short period to pick coffee in order to earn enough money to continue his studies. Willian wants to continue his high school studies and needs the scholarship to travel once a week to El Progreso and attend his classes under the distance education by radio system, since EDUCATODOS doesn’t have high school either. His family lives on subsistence agriculture.  At home, there’s no electricity and just a couple of years ago, thanks to the initiative and participation of Willian, his family received a latrine built by World Vision. At the end the day, his family was most generous and invited us to eat chicken soup and freshly made tortillas, using all the food they produce. It was a very overwhelming experience, and the generosity of the families we visited touched my heart they proved that material wealth and a big paycheck do not create happiness and community.

Through the life experiences of the scholarship candidates visited, we can see that there are still young people that despite economic and social difficulties they face, they are nonconformists and don’t blame their environment. Otherwise, we could see, that they and their families are good fighters and entrepreneurs and work to continue their education and achieve their goals. This is also a reflection of how the economic situation does not affect their academic performance, as all of these young people are very smart and proactive, eager to move on and to make significant changes in their community. This year, on the call for scholarships, OYE focused more on quality than quantity of applicants, so we had few candidates. However, I am more than satisfied with the quality of young people that we had the opportunity to meet and visit because I know that they will take full advantage of the scholarship that we will give them. I am very eager to start 2014 with a new generation of leaders working towards a better future.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Testimonial by an OYE Scholar: Yosseth Pacheco

Two days ago Yosseth Pacheco approached me at my desk. Yosseth is a young energetic scholarship recipient in his first year at OYE. When he first arrived to OYE he was friendly but quiet. He participated but was reserved. As his first year draws to a close, Yosseth is one of OYE's most active participants gladly representing OYE at events in San Pedro even speaking in front of audiences of 50 or more!
Upon approaching my desk, Yosseth asked if he could write a testimonial for OYE's blog. Of course! There is nothing better than hearing from the students themselves. Below is Yosseth's testimonial written in Spanish and then translated to English by yours truly.

Experiencia dentro de OYE: Siendo este mi primer año dentro de la organización me siento muy feliz ya que desde el primer día que ingrese a OYE sentí el compañerismo que hay entre los becados, pero no solo los becados si no que cada uno de los miembros de la ONG; María Mejía Directora ejecutiva, Dunia Perdomo Directora de programas y proyectos, Samuel Rioux Coordinador desarrollo internacional, Carlos Galeas contador y administrador, Doña Triny, Gerald Castillo Coordinador del proyecto Arte la Calle, Sandra Fiallos coordinadora de Adobe Youth Voices, Fabiola Oro coordinadora del proyecto Revista Jóvenes, Yarli Yanes coordinadora del proyecto Radio Ritmo Online, son personas maravillosas que han sabido como aguantar los caprichos de cada uno de nosotros, muchas gracias.
Experiencia dentro del proyecto Arte la calle: No se por donde empesar esta gran experiencia,  se que tengo un gran coordinador que nos ha tenido mucha paciencia en cada tarea  que nos pide que realicemos. Gerald Omar Castillo le doy gracias por todo por cada regaño por cada excelente en los trabajos que nos dio, sin duda un maravilloso coordinador que siempre apreciaremos por todas las enseñanzas. Estoy feliz dentro del proyecto arte la calle.     
-Yosseth Pacheco

Yosseth and Claudia receive prixes for their participation

Experience at OYE: This being my first year at the organization, I am very happy. Since the first day I entered OYE I have felt the companionship that exists between the scholarship students, but it is not only the scholarship students that share this sentiment of companionship. Each member of the staff is part of the OYE community; Maria Mejia the Executive Director, Dunia Perdomo the Project and Program Coordinator, Samuel Rioux the International Development Coordinator, Carlos Galeas the Account, Dona Trinidad, Gerald the Art Coordinator, Fabiola the Magazine Coordinator, Yarli the Radio Coordinator, an Sandra the Adobe Coordinator are all incredible people that have dealt the with whims of each of us. Many thanks. 

Experience with Arte La Calle: I don’t know where to begin this great experience. I know that I have a great teacher that has demonstrated patience with us in each lesson and exercise. Gerald Omar Velasquez Castillo, thank you for each criticism and each compliment n our assignments. Without doubt you are a great teacher and we will always appreciate your lessons. I am happy to be part of the Art Project.

Yosseth's Artwork


Wordle: Somo Oye

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Going Above and Beyond: Race4OYE

Left to right Matt Trybus, Mary Clay Thomas, and Christine Flory

Congratulations to the dynamic duo Matt and Mary Clay, an unbeatable husband and wife team. Both have been intimately involved with OYE Honduras. Matt has served as a board member and University Volunteer coordinator for the passed five years, and Mary Clay has initiated a University Internship program that sends Social work majors to OYE for internships. Per tradition, the two teamed up to run the Richmond Marathon and raise scholarship funds for OYE.

The dynamic duo shared this recap:
Richmond 1/2 marathon recap. Mary Clay Thomas crushed it in 2:06:17. I finished in 1:43:38. Had a ton of fun with Seth Flory , Christine Flory, andMark Russell. Corey Burgoyne was our generous host.
Congratulations to finishing the 1/2 marathon and in such athletic times!

OYE is proud to call Matt and Mary Clay members of its family.

See Matt and Mary Clay's campaign on crowdrise and remember, its never too late to support a good cause!
Matt and Mary Clay Race 4 OYE

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Calling All Young Leaders and Change Makers!

As 2013 draws to a close OYE is more than happy to turn its attention to the future, and this means selecting new scholars and planning for the 2014 year. This past weekend the process of preparing for 2014 kicked off in earnest as we interviewed potential OYE Scholars. With board members settled to arrive at the end of this week the tumultuous agenda preparing for next year shows no sign of slowing down. Board members, beneficiaries, and staff will participate in both long and short term planning sessions.

Program Coordinator, Dunia Perdomo, Introduces the first exercise.
This past weekend the organization hosted its first round of interviews for 2014 OYE scholars. In addition to returning OYE scholars, approximately 30 local youth were invited to participate in both
OYE Volunteers Morgan and Alex
observe new applicants with board mem-
ber Walter Molinari (Black t-shirt).
group and individual interviews. For the first time, OYE implemented a dynamic Group element, allowing a diverse committee to evaluate how applicants interacted among their peers. Divided into groups of youth with like ages, the applicants were given challenges and the committee assessed who took leadership roles, who was a good listener, who demonstrated rational thinking or deduction, and what was the general group dynamic. This was the first time that OYE has used such tactics to gain a deeper understanding of how applicants think, function, and transact with their peers.

First time applicants work together
In addition to being a great observational tool, the dynamics gave the applicants a chance to accommodate themselves and gain some confidence before entering the individual interviews. The individual interviews give the applicants an opportunity to express their hopes and aspirations and convey things that one cannot see during a dynamic group activity. As Walter Molinari pointed out, the personal interviews are essential to finding youth with leadership potential, as opposed to those who have already developed a strong sense of leadership and voice. At OYE we are seeking youth with positive attitudes and a desire to make their community a better place, a clear distinction from a competitive drive and take-charge attitude. Walter lauded the individual interviews as a great tool, identifying some of OYE’s greatest leaders like Gerald and Sandra who never would have come across in a group interview.

Activity #1, Applicants collaborate to build
unique model homes
The next phase of the process involves home visits. This allows OYE staff to know where the scholars live and meet their families. Vice versa the families of OYE scholars have the chance to meet OYE staff. Both sides arrive to a better understanding of the other. Information is confirmed and OYE has the chance to develop a personal relationship with its community. (This is by far my favorite part of the process.)

All in all the process is evolving and offers a well-rounded perspective on aspiring OYE scholars. The applicants this year have been inspiring. It is so hard to select the ones that
Applicants work as pitch team, selling
their model home to OYE
will receive OYE scholarships, but as our programs expand  we can realistically offer each and every applicant the chance to benefit from OYE’s Leadership and Capacity Building classes and participate in OYE youth-led community outreach programs.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Matt and Mary Clay, Back at it (Part tres)

Two of OYE's greatest supporters and pioneers of our fundraising project, Race4OYE, are back at it! Matt and Mary Clay, a dynamic duo, are set to run the Richmond 1/2 marathon. In Matt's own words, this is why:

"After a one year hiatus we are back at it. A few weeks ago Mary Clay and I signed up for another Richmond 1/2 marathon. We are using this event as an opportunity to as she puts it, "to be fit at 40" and to raise awareness and much needed funds for the Organization For Youth Empowerment (OYE) based in El Progreso, Honduras.

We became involved with OYE during an alternative spring break trip I took there in 2009 with a group of students from James Madison University. Since then I've become a member of OYE's Board of Directors and Mary Clay, in her role as Director of Mary Baldwin College's Department of Social Work, initiated an international social work field placement with OYE.

OYE's mission as community-based, youth-led organization is to develop the leadership and capacity of at-risk Honduran youth who come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. It's integrated development approach combines formal education, youth capacity building, and community engagement to inspire and equip young people with the awareness and skills they need to take control of their lives. OYE’s model of sustainable, long-term development focuses its efforts on the empowerment of socially conscious youth who will emerge as leaders and agents of positive change in Honduran society.

Our past two Race4OYE efforts have generated over $3000 in funds for OYE. These funds are not monetary handouts that lead to dependence and short-term change. On the contrary, they are utilized to support a variety of programs that create opportunities for young people to participate in their own development  and empower them to become active, responsible leaders in the homes, schools, and communities.

Thanks for reading and donating! "
Follow their updates and anecdotes here!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

OYE's Revista Jovenes - September November Issue

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

A Great Look at Honduras through the Eyes of the Youth

This video was produced by Jovenes Contra la Violencia, a youth movement growing in Honduras. Many of OYE's scholarship students are joining the group Jovenes Contra La Violencia, which is entirely volunteer based uniting Honduras' youth against the growing culture and destruction of violence in the country. The movement, like OYE, is directed by youth. As an organization we look forward to forming strong alliances with these youth activists!

68% of Hondurans are younger than 30!!!
From 2007 to 2011 there were 25K homicides the majority of the victims were young people!

Friday, October 4, 2013

OYE's Youth are Resilient - A Look at Honduras

By: Samuel Rioux, Development Coordinator OYE Honduras 

As the difficulties abound, OYE is cultivating excellence. The work done at OYE is neither easy for staff, beneficiaries, nor donors. Every day we see the situation on the ground becoming more complicated and more riddled with crime, corruption, and violence. There is no doubt that living in Honduras is a challenge. OYE's students come from some of El Progreso's most dangerous neighborhoods. They have grown up in a world of violence and danger. When we say that the OYE youth are at social risk, we are talking about many factors; to name a few migration, drugs, gangs, family disintegration, coercion, extortion, and economic hardship.  These factors and adversity are the fire and the hammer that forge strong leaders. There is no doubt that each of OYE's students is special. To arrive at OYE they have already demonstrated an incredible resilience to the dangers, threats, and temptations that surround them. OYE has the privilege of honing these students into capable, confident leaders who will be responsible for positive changes in Honduran society.

A cursory survey of the news represents Honduras as a country riddled
with crime, drugs, and gangs. The US Treasury Department recently identified international drug traffickers, "Los Cachiros" in three of Honduras' 18 counties. The national police seized a number of businesses linked to their trafficking and money-laundering operation including the country's largest zoo. As seen in Mexico and Colombia, drug traffickers do not just get arrested and go away. Major drug cartels often serve as stabilizing or limiting factors for smaller gangs. They control, pay-off, and contract small gangs to do their dirty work exercising control over the greater macro-situation. However, as US and Honduran authorities close in on major drug traffickers, gang presence escalates in the cities of San Pedro Sula, Tegucigalpa, La Ceiba, and even El Progreso. It is not out of the question to expect drug traffickers to strike back at authorities or note an increase in gang violence as the "Cachiro" power vacuum is filled.

Elections will be held soon in Honduras, so that should be beckon of hope, right? Elections are what make Democracy work, giving the people a chance to elect leaders based on their morals, values, and experience to represent the wants and needs of the population. Honduras' election machine is churning, and a tension is mounting. Support is closing around two new parties, Libre and Partido Anti-Corrupcion (PAC), and Hondurans’ support for the traditional Liberal and Nacional parties that have dominated the elections for years is dwindling. However, despite the break from tradition, Hondurans project little faith that their vote will change the circumstances of their reality. 
CID Gallup executed a poll in September that shows Libre candidate Xiomara Zelaya, wife of disposed President Mel Zelaya, leading with 29% of the popular vote but followed closely by the Nacional Party's Juan Orlando Hernandez with 27%. Given the +-2 margin of error this poll places the two in a dead heat. Although the whole process is complicated by the fact that 33% of the population anticipates that Juan Orlando will be Honduras' next President, possibly due to their "reported doubts about the capacity of the Tribunal Supremo Electoral to organize and execute honest and transparent elections".

The results of the election will be straining enough without the added pressure of the mounting crime and murder rates. Juan Orlando, the anticipated next President is basing his campaign around a strongman iron fist on crime. He has talked about beefing up security or increasing the number of a new hybrid military police force saying: "Voy hacer lo que tengo que hacer!" (I am going to do what needs to be done!) Numbers of these new military police have already begun training and
Billy Joya proposes his legislation to
operations thanks to what is known as 
Law 747 or the Billy Joya Law. Billy Joya is one of Honduras' most controversial figures forming part of one of Honduras' most notorious death squads, Battalion 316, in the 1980s. Today, he is running for Congress with the Patriotic Alliance Party, works as a political consultant, and pushed through this law creating a situation very similar to martial law in some parts of the country. 

Candidate Juan Orlando draws a stark dichotomy between right and wrong when it comes to security-right being the Law 747 or martial law and wrong returning the military to the barracks. He insinuates that his political opponents favor taking Honduras down the bad road returning the army to the barracks and permitting crime to prevail. Perhaps he has chosen his allies correctly, given the Central American tendency to rely on military intervention when politics become too convoluted, or perhaps he truly believes in martial law. One thing is clear, if he is elected there will be an increased gun presence on the streets, hopefully in the hands of the “good guys,” but if he loses will the army return to the barracks peacefully?

Where are the youth in all of this? Tragically there is a distinct sense of apathy among many Honduran youth. They have traditionally turned out to vote in low numbers and made little effort to inform themselves on the issues. However, this year a new trend is emerging. PAC and Libre have motivated young voters – this excitement is obvious in their online presence PACLibre. In fact, the age of new media has arrived to Honduras in full and traditional Nacional and Liberal parties have also adopted and elevated youth organizers to the forefront. OYE has cultivated political awareness through workshops with its scholars and is proud to see seven of its scholars and staff members participate as election monitors with Caritas Yoro, an international development NGO, and the Tribunal Supremo Electoral, the Honduran institution charged holding the elections.

However, it doesn't end there. Youth are taking actions, starting movements, and becoming involved. At the Conference on Honduras, the volunteer movement Jovenes Contra La Violencia (Youth Against Violence) presented their strategies and actions around reducing the violence in Honduras. They have executed unique projects on a complete volunteer basis and developed a real youth movement. Several OYE students  like Gerald Velasquez, form part of the movement, and OYE looks forward to future collaborations with these inspiring youth.

"If there were more art schools than military outposts, there would be more guitars and than rifles, and more artists than assassins!" - Gerald Velasquez
These hard times have make great leaders-at OYE we are cultivating strong resilient youth capable of making positive changes for themselves and their communities.

After writing this article I asked my dear friend Morgan to take a look at it. She usually provides me with my best insights-makes me question if they are my insights at all. She commented that the reality of what our Honduran friends and co-workers live through is crazy. We are living in the same country and under the same conditions, but we have an exit. When the going gets to tough we know that we can always return to the US or continue traveling. We have options. Many of our friends, co-workers, and the students here do not have those options. Their lives are here, there families are here, and their futures are here. Morgan remarked, "I will be forever grateful (yet deeply saddened) that I have witnessed these atrocities." There is always a silver lining and something good always comes out of a bad situation. I consider myself blessed to have met the strong and resilient people that form part of my community here in OYE and Honduras. I believe that the atrocities we live today are producing youth capable of incredible changes.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Radio Foro - Youth Unemployment

Yarli Yanez presents: Radio Foro Desempleo
Background-Panelists Walter Molinari,
Maria Luisa Regalado, Lic. Jose Antonio Hernandez
“We dream about finishing our studies, growing up, and finding a great dignified job, but the reality that we are living is something very different” – Yarli Yanez.

Honduras is a young country! Even regionally it has a shockingly high birth rate and large population of dependents. Here it is common for a youth between the age of 13 and 21 to leave school to in order to work or, if they are lucky, work to put themselves through school and support their family. However, youth employment opportunities are less abundant than the scarce opportunities existing for adults. Therefore, there is high demand for work among youth resulting in unfair working conditions. If a youth is fortunate enough to find a job they are likely to face challenges obtaining a legal wage, working dignified hours, and continuing to study.

OYE Scholar, Gladys Recarte
Challenges are amplified when gender is introduced as a second variable. The US, where a female CEO still receives 20% less than a male peer, appears progressive beyond belief when compared to Honduran society. In Honduras women typically enter the workforce at age 15, approximately 56% of the country’s women are unemployed as employers favor male candidates, and 26% of young women fall into the unique category known as NiNis. A NiNi is someone who neither Works (Ni trabaja) nor studies (Ni estudia). Conditions of unemployment and under-employment produce dangerous results in the society like gender inequality, income inequality, migration, and poverty to name a few.

OYE’s Second Radio Forum sought to address this issue by promoting up a dialogue and engaging El Progreso’s youth population in a civic activity.

Over 200 people crowded into the upstairs conference space at OYE to participate in OYE’s second Radio Forum on Youth Employment. The event, hosted by OYE’s Radio Ritmo Online Group, invited the participation of local high school students, business representatives, civil society associations, and municipal leaders to engage each other on the topic of youth employment. Yarli Yanez, the Ritmo Online coordinator, served as mistress of ceremony among the panelists Walter Molinari from KM2 Solutions, Maria Luisa Regalado from the Honduran Women’s Collective, and Jose Antonio Zuniga the Regional Chief of the Secretary of Employment.

Panelists Walter Molinari, Maria Luisa Regalado, and Jose Antonio Zuniga
The forum addressed the pressing issues of youth employment, unemployment, and under-employment in a manner that was particularly effective engaging the young audience. The panelists offered distinct points of view, and Yarli was sure to leave the students with concise and concrete understandings of the complicated themes presented.

The forum highlighted some of the causes affecting youth unemployment in the country:

a.     Lack of technical training and opportunity
b.     Lack of education
c.      Political Corruption
d.     Rural to urban migration
And structural issues:
e.     Unequal distribution of land/resources
f.      Uncontrolled exploitation of natural resources
g.     An inefficient governing system that neglects labor rights

Over 180 students formed the audience, coming from four
local high schools.
It is not easy to hold the attention of 200 high school students, but as the panelists analyzed the causes, reality, and outcome of Honduras’ youth labor situation the audience listened with impressive attention. The forum was addressing an issue that the youth audience lives day in and day out.

Coordinated with the Radio Forum, OYE’s Adobe Yoice Voice’s program presented a short feature film, Unemployed, depicting the reality of youth labor in Honduras. Sandra Fiallos, the program’s coordinator, partnered with volunteer Dylan Cassidy to direct and film. They worked with a team of 20+ OYE scholars and volunteers to write the script, design the storyboard, film, and edit. The final product is the first OYE’s first feature film by Adobe Youth Voices. We look forward to many more.

Why be an employee and not an employer? – Asks Walter- Maybe we can think back to the colonization – its conditioning

Walter Molinari – “When we ask ourselves why are we training to be employees and not employers, perhaps we need to think back to the colonization and years of conditioning.”

View the Youth Employment Video!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Honduras 4 OYE - "How do you feel?"

As we piled art, easels, magazines, and ourselves into the NGO pick-up truck we really didn’t know what to expect from the day. Months of planning and groundwork were about to come to a head. Together with Km2 Solutions and Seattle International Foundation we were about to host our first public conference on youth development.

Volunteers from the National Beverage
Co. Collect signatures from guests.
The event, Honduras 4 OYE, served to both celebrate the new alliances OYE has formed with private businesses in San Pedro Sula and promote our philosophy of youth development. The event was born from a conversation between Walter Molinari and Mauricio Vivero during a conference hosted by SIF in Guatemala, forging new relationships with the Honduran business community and some of those businesses most active in youth development.

Left to right; Walter, Yarli, and Mauricio

Walter, a new member of the OYE Board of Directors, has grown close to the organization through his role as Corporate Social Responsibility Coordinator for KM2 Solutions, which took the lead in sponsoring the event. 
We arrived at Altia Business Park, where the event would be hosted, with plenty of time to explore the scene and prepare for the event. The event took place in the Music Salon on the second floor of the park’s Recreation Center, Recxen. The building, modern, flashy, and comfortably built, is a breathtaking change of scenery from anything an OYE student is used to. The Rec. Center is an unparalleled candy shop for young-adults, housing video games, pool tables, and even a lounge with complimentary iPads. The words culture shock might be used to describe the first reactions OYE students had upon arrival, but I would suggest another word, perhaps, awe, bliss, or joy. No sooner had the students dropped their boxes of art and magazines than they began posing for pictures.
Having visited the building myself, I half expected the excitement of the OYE students and allocated 2 hours of preparation time to ensure that everything went smoothly.  OYE displayed paintings and magazine issues created by its civic engagement projects and projected a playlist of inspiring OYE videos.  In pairs of two, OYE scholars and staff awaited the guests on the first floor. We welcomed business leaders and representatives from Cargill, Unitec, Dermalaser, Altia, the National Brewing Company, news media, and other NGOs.
Guests included students from Unitec, staff from the NGO PASMO, and
many more.
Yarli Brizuela, a member of OYE’s Radio program, served as the Mistress of Ceremony, inaugurating the event, thanking the guests, and introducing Mauricio Vivero. Mauricio, Seattle International Foundation’s Executive Director, addressed the crowd with kind words for OYE, as well as his perspective on youth development. His inspiring presentation captured the attention of the audience and set the pace for the rest of the event.
Maria de los Angeles Mejia followed Mauricio, highlighting how OYE works to empower youth. She emphasized the unique nature of OYE’s hands-on education in youth leadership and civic engagement, where youth beneficiaries contribute to their own projects and work to engage and empower other local youth. As she concluded her presentation she introduced a product of OYE youth development programs, Sandra Fiallos.
Sandra shares her story.
Sandra stole the show. She shared her personal story and testimony as an OYE scholarship student. Those present experienced a range of emotions as she remembered the powerful changes OYE has caused in her life. Describing the shy, timid, frustrated girl who arrived to OYE, it was hard to recognize the capable and eloquent young lady standing before us. Sandra’s five years of formation in OYE have produced a strong leader and an engaging individual, whose honest account of OYE and her personal growth left the audience speechless.
Luckily, Walter Molinari, KM2’s Coordinator of Corporate Social Responsibility, was ready to pick-up where Sandra left off.  He emphasized the importance of engaging and empowering youth, explained the unique nature of the Honduras4OYE event, and presented the dynamic relationship formed between KM2, OYE, and Seattle International Foundation. He followed the emotional account by Sandra with examples of concrete actions that can be initiated to unite the for-profit sector with the non-profit to build a stronger society. 

Mauricio, Walter, guests from OCAD, and Representative
 from Cargill.
After the representatives from the four sponsoring businesses spoke, everyone retired to the terrace for refreshments and a chance to socialize. OYE Radio students animated the reception and recorded brief interviews with the guests. Representatives from the businesses had to chance to mingle with OYE students and see for themselves the potential of the youth their donation will empower. 
At the end of a long but enjoyable day we packed everything back into the pickup and headed for home, a much trickier proposal than most can imagine. First we dealt with inclement weather and then unloading at the OYE office. Once all was safely stored in the office, we faced the striking reality that sets the lives of the OYE scholars apart from those fortunate enough to live and work in San Pedro.

The journey back to the houses of scholarship students was precarious to say the least. El Progreso is a small town with a population of nearly 300,000. Population growth vastly outstrips the expansion of infrastructure not to mention security. A general rule states that the more isolated a neighborhood from the center, the more dangerous that neighborhood will generally be. The neighborhoods of most OYE scholars are very isolated.  By 8 pm, taxis stop running to a significant number of the neighborhoods, especially those on the margin of the town. This creates obvious problems for students studying in University or working in other cities. Students need to arrive before the last taxi or bus leaves, and the danger does not end there. Upon arrival to their community students continue running the risk of assault or robbery.
Neris, an OYE student of nearly 5 years, is a special case. She lives in former banana plantation territory, well outsider the geographic area that composes El Progreso. Arriving to her house by car is an hour-long affair down isolated dirt roads, over thin bridges, and through mud. By bus, you can double the travel time because there are no formal stops. Any passenger can signal for the bus driver to pullover and drop them off stretching a lengthy trip into an excruciatingly long trip. Neris has made that journey twice a day every Saturday to participate in OYE. She leaves two hours before she needs to arrive in the morning and is always prompt to return home on time.
Neris posing with Mauricio
This year, Neris enters University and assumes greater responsibility at OYE. She must now travel to El Progreso nearly everyday to coordinate the Radio Project, and when she has classes in San Pedro she will have to add another two hours of round-trip travel to her routine. It takes grit and dedication for someone like Neris to stay in school and stay involved.
Neris did not believe that she would be able to attend the event Honduras 4 OYE due to her rigid travel schedule; the last bus leaves Progreso at 6 pm. I insisted she attend offering to play chauffer and drop her off at her house afterwards.  After all, the event was to celebrate youth empowerment and the opportunities we are generating for deserving youth like Neris. She acquiesced, attended the event, and had the great time that she deserved.

The trip to Neris’ house was much more than I anticipated. Gerald Velasquez, Yarli Yanez, and Alex Clark-Youngblood joined me on my quest to drop Neris off. As we bounced along the dirt roads further and further into the countryside, we each slowly came down from the high of the event. Passing countless crops and villages of farmers we began talking not of the ping-pong tables and video games at Altia but of Cantarito, the country’s version of Hide and Go Seek. Yarli, who lived in the country till she was 8, and Neris talked about the early bedtimes and4 am wake-up calls. We were entering a different world.
I pulled into the small but well kept yard of Neris’ family. It was defined by a short but well made wooden fence, I imagine more for aesthetics than to keep anything in or out. Unlike the city and its margins, Neris and Yarli emphasized the tranquility and peace of country living. Neris invited us to join her for dinner. We ate beans, tortillas, cream, eggs, and hot dogs - the staples of many Honduran diets. The experience was pleasant but in a very surreal way. The food was good and we chatted along, but Gerald had asked me something while we washed our hands before dinner that I couldn’t shake from my head. 

“How do you feel being here after Altia?,” Gerald had asked.  I understood that he packed a lot of meaning into that question. He, too, comes from a small village, possibly even more remote than the one we were in, and the tone of his question was cutting. But, what a great question!
How did I feel, how do I feel now, what was I doing in either of those places? I didn’t and still don’t
know how to answer the question that Gerald asked me because it cuts to the core of development. Last Friday, I saw two different cultures separated by a vast development gap. There is no question that structural inequality has a strong presence in Honduran society, or rather is responsible for a rift between distinct elements of Honduran society. The Honduran state is rife with weak institutions and fails to guarantee the rights of its citizens.
Nearly 50% of Honduras’ population lives in rural areas with inadequate infrastructure condemning the population to violent patterns of migration or likely cycles of poverty.  Over 60% of Honduras’ rural population lives in poverty (IDB). Rural youth are trapped between migration to the dangerous marginal communities surrounding urban centers or a structurally limited education that produces unskilled agricultural workers (campesinos).  Only 13.4% of Honduran youth between the ages of 20 and 21 years had completed high school in 2009 compared with 42% of urban youth within the same age group. Nobody is boasting that 42% of 20 to 21 year olds graduating from high school is a great achievement, but when compared to the rural option it looks pretty good.
So, how did I feel traveling from the modern palace of Honduras’ advanced communications to the rural home of an OYE scholarship student? Well, quite frankly I felt humbled. I continue to feel that way knowing that each one of the students that steps through the doors of OYE is an incredibly determined powerful person who has decided to dedicate their time with the determination to change their life and the lives of their family, friends, and community. They understand the barriers that exist and by being in school or by not having children, they know that they are an exception to the norm and are taking the first steps needed to institute that change.
Gerald said to me, “To us, this is normal, but how do you feel.”
For me it was an extreme juxtaposition and one I’ll never forget, but, at the same time, it is an inequality I will never accept.