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! "
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