Wednesday, October 8, 2014

OYE's blog has found a new home!

Hello again and thank you for your interest in the Organization for Youth Empowerment. We sincerely apologize for the unintended hiatus in bringing you up to date information on the goings on of OYE and life in El Progreso.

We are happy to announce that after five years of using this platform, we have decided to fully integrate our blog into our new redesigned website, which we launched at the end of September. You will continue to have access to our blog archives here, but all new blog posts can be found at our website HERE. (And Spanish content can be found HERE.)

We thank you for following us here and invite you to follow us at our new location. ¡Nos vemos!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

"Graffiti no es de las pandillas": An Afternoon with Rei Blinky

On Sunday, May 25th, OYE opened its doors to welcome nationally renowned urban and graffiti artist Jorge Pineda, more commonly known as "Rei Blinky." Accompanied by two of his associates/fellow artists, Rei led a theoretical and practical workshop on urban art and graffiti for 13 of OYE's art participants.

According to Rei, "El arte no solo es la creación de cosas, sino que es el pensar que con esas cosas podrías transformar el mundo." (Art is not only the creation of things, but also the thought that with these things you can transform the world, translation mine.) After graduating from high school, Rei received a scholarship to study in Puerto Rico. Returning several years later as an arquitect, he found the streets of his home changed; morale was low and values practically absent. Upon this realization, he decided to spread a message of unity in the streets through his art. "In one single word, unity is the message," says Rei. You can read more from this interview with Cristian Aguilar HERE.

Atenas Hernández, a Honduran blogger wrote of Rei's work: "Utilizando colores cálidos y brillantes inspirados en la flora, fauna y clima tropical de su San Pedro Sula natal, Rei ha empezado a alegrar las paredes grises de diferentes ciudades de nuestro país gracias a sus Crazy Birds (Pajaros Locos) y murales de rostros femeninos que pinta junto a un colectivo de jóvenes artistas y que buscan concienciar al país contra el alto índice de violencia hacia la mujer." (Using hot and bright colors inspired by the flora, fauna and tropical climate of his home San Pedro Sula, Rei has started to beautify the gray walls of different cities throughout our country thanks to his Crazy Birds and murals of women's faces that he paints with a group of young artists who are looking to raise the nation's awareness on the high incidence of violence against women, translation mine.) To see beautiful photos of some of Rei's works, check out Atenas Hernandez's blog post HERE (article in Spanish).

This is not OYE's first encounter with the urban artist. In October of 2012, Arte La Calle participants collaborated with Rei to paint a mural at KM2 Solutions, an international call center in San Pedro Sula and our number one corporate sponsor in Honduras.

Collaborative mural at KM2 Solutions; Jorge Pineda, aka "Rei Blinky" and OYE Arte La Calle.

This time around, Jorge Pineda came out to OYE in El Progreso, accompanied by two of his fellow artists, Rafael Valladares and Ángel Torres, to lead a workshop on urban art and graffiti, specifically focusing on spray paint techniques. They targeted the common misconception that graffiti is gang-related, declaring that graffiti is art and a way to give color to the city's walls.

After sharing a bit of his personal history as well as the emergence of urban art in Latin America, Rei demonstrated the basic spray paint techniques and at the same time exhibited his personal graffiti style.


Fellow artist Ángel Torres then gave a short demonstration of creating graffiti letters and then gave the OYE participants the chance to practice for the first time.

Ángel showing the art of graffiti letters.
The rest of the workshop was dedicated to practice. Thanks to a generous donation by Pinturas Comex, there was plenty of spray paint to go around. The art students divided into groups and tried their hand at spray painting as the invited artists wandered from group to group, providing helpful tips, answering questions and painting alongside them. The results of the workshop were quite impressive, especially considering all had little to no previous experience with spray paint.

Group shot after the workshop.
All of the Arte La Calle participants were thankful for the opportunity to learn from Jorge and his fellow artists and look forward to incorporating spray paint into their city mural projects.

Friday, May 23, 2014

A Fun Start to May: Field Day and Pulhapanzak Excursion

The first weekend of May was jam-packed and fun-filled for all of us here at OYE.

On Saturday, the sport's program Deportes organized an athletic field day open to all of OYE's scholars and staff. The main objective was not only to promote physical activity and health, but to unite the OYE family and promote interaction between scholars from all of OYE's community action projects through an afternoon of friendly competition. Nearly 50 participants from all five projects, along with our administrative staff, participated in a series of physical and mental challenges, including:
  • A sack race
  • A relay race
  • Tug-of-war competition
  • Multi-station competition, including both physical and mental challenges

Naturally, the field day would not have been complete without soccer. The last half-hour was dedicated to the sport universally loved by Hondurans, youth and adults alike.

While each project achieved small victories throughout the afternoon, one team emerged victorious at the end of the day: Arte La Calle. One must never underestimate the value of a team huddle.

Sports project coordinator Erick Estrada reflects on the event, saying: "It should be noted that all of the participating youth showed great interest and team spirit in all of the activities throughout the afternoon. This pleases all of us who are part of the sport's project because it means that we can continue to organize this type of activity in the future, since physical activity benefits all of us, youth and adults alike."

Top left: Team Revista Jóvenes v. Team Arte La Calle in a tug-of-war competition. Top right: Heidi Reyes, youth coordinator for Radio Ritmo Online, cheering on her teammates participating in the relay race. Middle right: Arte La Calle team huddle. Bottom: The victors, Team Arte La Calle.

On Sunday, the radio project Radio Ritmo Online organized a fundraising excursion to Pulhapanzak Falls, one of Honduras' hidden gems. Only an hour and a half outside of El Progreso, Pulhapanzak is Honduras' most famous waterfall and also its tallest, dropping approximately 140 feet. OYE staff and scholars, friends and family spent the morning and afternoon exploring the falls and surrounding area, swimming, playing soccer and simply relaxing. This excursion not only provided an affordable opportunity for our youth (and their friends and families) to experience this stunning sight, which was a first for many, but also served to raise $150 for the radio project.

Top left: Radio Ritmo Online participants at the entrance to Pulhapanzak Falls. Bottom left: The White River (Río Blanco). Bottom middle: OYE scholars in front of the falls. Right: Pulhapanzak Falls.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Put on your running shoes for the first Race 4 OYE event of 2014.

Since 2010, OYE supporters have organized Race 4 OYE events all over the country, capitalizing on their love for running to promote social good and raise thousands of dollars to support OYE's mission.

Saturday, May 3rd, marks the first Race 4 OYE event of 2014. A team organized by Patrick Ahern, father of co-founder Ana Luisa, will be showing their support for OYE at the 16th Annual Manna 5K Fun Run/Walk at East Potomac Park - Hains Point in Washington D.C.

If you live in Washington D.C., we encourage you to join the Ahern family and friends by registering for the race. While your $30 registration fee goes to support Manna, a NGO dedicated to providing quality housing for low-income persons and families, any additional funds raised go directly towards OYE's scholarship program, which provides over 60 at-risk Honduran youth with the opportunity to continue their high school and university education.

For all of you out there who believe in OYE's mission and the potential of our youth, regardless of whether or not you are a runner or whether or not you are a DC'er, we hope you will join us by making a contribution to this effort. It is because of the support of people like you that we are able to continue with our mission to empower the at-risk youth of El Progreso who benefit from our integrated educational, leadership and community action programs.

Just last year, three Race 4 OYE efforts raised over $9,000 USD for OYE's programs.
  • May 2013 - MANNA 5K Team organized by Patrick Ahern raised $2,775 USD
  • October 2013 - NY Marathon ran by Sam Vigersky raised $4,315 USD
  • November 2013 - Richmond Half-Marathon ran by Matt Trybus and Mary Clay Thomas raised $2,225 USD
Help us kick off 2014's Race 4 OYE fundraising efforts with a successful first campaign. With your support, we can surpass last year's fundraising by miles. (Pun intended.)

To join the Ahern family and friends at the race, you can register HERE.
To make a financial contribution to support this effort, visit our CrowdRise campaign HERE.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Welcome back, UW Oshkosh!

On March 22nd, OYE had the pleasure of once again hosting our friends from the University of Wisconsin in Oshkosh. This year, we welcomed nine new student volunteers and welcomed back their student advisor, Chelsea Redger.

As with all volunteers that pass through OYE's doors, we strive to provide a well-rounded experience that leaves our volunteers with a better sense of Honduran reality and the feeling of being a part of creating positive change in Honduras. We accomplish this by offering a variety of academic, cultural and community engagement activities, all of which promote cultural exchange and interaction between the volunteers, OYE scholars and the local community.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Get Ready! Only four days until Indiegogo Campaign Launch for OYE's Scholarship Program.

As many of you know, OYE initially started out as a small-scale scholarship program to give Honduran youth of El Progreso something that neither their government nor their families could provide: the opportunity to pursue high school and university-level education and break the cycle of poverty in which they lived.

While OYE has expanded its programs in recent years to include capacity-building and leadership workshops and five diverse community engagement projects, our academic scholarship program continues to be a pillar of OYE’s work with at-risk youth in El Progreso. Without this scholarship, many of our remarkable youth leaders would not be able to continue their pursuit of education and would rather be forced to prematurely enter the labor force to provide to the family income.

In the interest of promoting our scholarship program, we are excited to announce the April 8th launch of a campaign (via Indiegogo) to raise $2500 for the scholarships of four of our youth coordinators. Without the initiative and dedication of our youth coordinators, OYE would not be what it is today.

ETA: Our Indiegogo campaign is now live. Click HERE to donate now!

In preparation for this campaign, I asked each of the four featured scholars to provide a short biography – focusing on their education, family and their experience in OYE. Here are the results.

Meet Heyli. Heyli is 18 years-old and in her final year of high school. She lives with her aunt and cousin in El Progreso, while the rest of her family – including her parents – live two hours away in the town of Siguatepeque. After four years in OYE, she has distinguished herself as a leader among her peers and currently serves as co-coordinator for OYE’s newly formalized sports program, Deportes.

To Heyli, OYE is so much more than just a scholarship program. Through her time in OYE, she has gained confidence in herself, cultivated her interpersonal skills, learned and developed new skills, and become more extroverted in many aspects of her life, which has allowed her to feel more at ease in social settings and relate better to her peers and those around her.

In her 18 years, Heyli has experienced many challenges and disappointments, yet she refuses to let these experiences define her and her future. In her words, “Life presents us with many challenges, but if we know how to face and overcome these challenges, they become our accomplishments. Of all my accomplishments, I am most proud of becoming a strong leader, student and person.”
This year, Heyli is on the cusp of accomplishing one of her dreams, graduating from high school with honors and a positive self-image. With your donation, we can provide the economic means to support Heyli’s dream of graduating high school.

Meet Erick. Erick is 19 years-old and currently in his second year at a private technological university in San Pedro Sula where he studies electronic engineering. Hailing from a small nuclear family, he lives with his mother and older brother in El Progreso. After eight years in OYE and participation in a variety of community engagement programs, including the mazagine and design programs, Erick has distinguished himself as co-coordinator of OYE’s sports program, which found its origins in OYE’s annual soccer tournament. Erick lives and breathes fútbol, which made his selection as co-coordinator of the newly formalized sports program a clear and natural choice.

Considering OYE has been a significant part of his life since his early adolescence, Erick’s appreciation of and affection towards OYE is undeniable. In his own words: “OYE is a second family to me. It is a place where I share experiences with my peers and learn important skills that serve me in different aspects of my life.” Through his time in OYE, Erick has come to appreciate the value of working with peers with different personalities and interests and overcome his fear of speaking in public and leading his peers. In addition to university and OYE, Erick maintains a part-time job as a teacher at a local school to contribute to the family income, which he considers one of his greatest achievements to date.

Meet Jefry. Jefry is 17 years old and started university this year at the national public university in San Pedro Sula, where he studies mathematics. Jefry lives with his mother and his six siblings, three older and three younger. In his fourth year in OYE and in the art program, Jefry was selected as one of the three youth coordinators of Arte La Calle, specifically coordinating one of OYE’s longest standing and most visible initiatives – murals.

Looking at his paintings and mural work, you would never guess that Jefry was not a “born artist.” Recalling his first months in OYE, Jefry confesses that he was one of the last first-year scholarship students to pick a project. While he ultimately chose the art program, his inclination was based not on any previous experience or penchant for art, but rather because of his preference for the leadership style of a former art coordinator, his predecessor and one of OYE’s finest leaders. During the past four years, Jefry has spent countless hours at OYE before and after classes practicing and honing his artistic skills. This dedication did not go unnoticed as he was selected by his peers and OYE staff as one of OYE’s eight youth coordinators this year.

Jefry humbly acknowledges OYE’s positive impact on his life. He recalls a time not long ago when he was nearly forced to drop out of high school because he simply could not find the money to continue; however, with his OYE scholarship and the support of his faithful friends and peers, Jefry was able to finish high school and is now pursuing a university education.

Meet Claudia. Claudia is 19 years old and currently in her second year at the national public university in San Pedro Sula, where she is pursuing a degree in educational administration. She lives in El Progreso with her parents and two sisters. Like many of her peers, Claudia’s father is employed at a factory and her mother takes care of the home. After four years in OYE as a participant in the art program, Arte La Calle, Claudia has risen to become one of its three youth coordinators, specifically coordinating the production of art pieces to exhibit and sell to promote auto-sustainability of the program.

While OYE’s scholarship program serves as a motivation to continue her studies, Claudia’s experience in OYE transcends this simple fact. Through the various capacity-building workshops OYE offers, her work as receptionist and her community outreach experience in the art program, Claudia has developed her leadership and organizational skills and learned the value of sharing and serving the community around her. A testament to the value of the capacity-building and leadership program, Claudia states: “These workshops have allowed me to expand my knowledge on a variety of topics that are of great importance as we are able to apply so much of what we learn in our daily lives.” Claudia herself perfectly exemplifies this statement. Furthermore, she does not only apply the knowledge and skills she has acquired in her personal life, but she has also truly given the best of herself to OYE, most recently becoming a youth coordinator of Arte La Calle, one of OYE’s most successful and celebrated programs.

In Honduras, only a small percentage of youth have the opportunity to attend university and an even smaller percentage graduate. With your donation, we can provide Claudia with the economic support to continue to pursue her degree in educational administration and become one of a hopefully ever-increasing group of university graduates.

We are calling on YOU – former and current volunteers, staff and committed supporters – to help US give these four individuals the opportunity to continue their pursuit of higher education and create positive change in their lives and communities.

To show your solidarity for OYE’s mission and your support of our youth, we invite you to join us in this campaign. Upon the campaign launch on Tuesday, April 8th, we encourage all of you on Facebook to change your profile picture to our campaign logo (above) and promote the campaign among your friends, family and coworkers. With your help, we are confident we can achieve this goal and provide the hope of another year of education for four of our youth coordinators.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Check it out! Revista Jóvenes First Edition of 2014.

In collaboration with the Adobe Diseño project (led by Oscar Osorio), Revista Jóvenes Magazine project (led by Fabiola Oro) releases the first edition of 2014 of their youth-focused magazine. Check it out on Issuu!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Trash and Trees Bring Us Together.

“Hands on El Progreso” took place on January 26th at the Río Pelo in the neighborhood of Penjamo located just outside of El Progreso’s town center. The event brought together 100 volunteers and various sponsors and organizations.

The collaboration between OYE, the municipal government, the Red Cross, Fire and Police Departments and the Penjamo neighborhood allowed for the execution of a safe and successful event.

“Hands on El Progreso” was inspired by a University of Wisconsin - Oshkosh (UWO) event called “Hands on Oshkosh”. Participation in “Hands on Oshkosh” has reached over 300 students per semester since its inauguration in 2010. Volunteer Angie Dusenberry introduced this event to the OYE scholars in the hopes that it would inspire volunteerism and unite the community.

The collaboration between OYE, the municipal government, the Red Cross, Fire and Police Departments and the Penjamo neighborhood allowed for the execution of a safe and successful event.

Recruiting volunteers to pick up trash seems daunting, but ultimately proved to be an easy task. OYE scholar Oscar Osorio and Angie presented the event at OYE’s Entrega de Becas event, our annual welcoming ceremony for first time and returning OYE scholars and their families. By highlighting event details, they sparked the interest of many of the scholars.

Upper left: Fredy Aguilar from the Municipal Department
of Environment. Upper right: Volunteer Angie
Dusenberry. Bottom: OYE scholarship students.
January 26, the day of the event, was a whirlwind. The first 50 volunteers who arrived received matching "Hands on El Progreso" T-shirts. Participants included OYE scholars, their families, firefighters and community members. Everyone came together at the Penjamo community center, where a representative of the municipal government warned the community about the dangers of pollution and deforestation and emphasized community responsibility in their prevention.

After the inauguration, the participants cleaned and planted trees along the Pelo River for two hours, filling over 50 bags with trash and planting nearly 100 trees. It was inspiring to see the diversity of the participants, from local public servants to children, and the excitement about future community engagement efforts.

Collage of photos of OYE scholars and community participants throughout the "Hands on El Progreso" river clean-up and reforestation event.

A huge thanks goes out to all the participants and the effort Angie Dusenberry put into organizing this event for OYE and El Progreso.

Note: Much of the content of this blog post comes from Angie Dusenberry´s volunteer write-up. 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Super Becados - A Team that Works

If you’ve worked or are social with people who work at NGOs you’ve heard the age-old adage “overworked and under-paid.” That’s precisely how an NGO should be running because at the end of the day as much of the money flowing in, in our case largely from individual donors’ pockets is earmarked to go directly towards the organizations mission.  Many people in the field take on impossible loads of work and responsibility that would be handsomely rewarded were the projects producing a monetary profit instead of social good. However, the opportunity to know that one’s work is viewed both qualitatively and quantitatively as improving societal outcomes or contributing to development is a very positive externality, attracting people to the heavy workloads and sacrifices of small non-profits.

OYE is no exception. Like any great NGO, OYE funnels your generous donations as directly into its programs to empower at-risk Honduran youth as possible. In 2013 OYE operated with only three full-time staff members and one part-time accountant. In 2014 the team has changed just slightly, bring our account Carlos Galeas on board full-time (congrats Carlos!). With such a trim streamlined team how does OYE run a scholarship program, personal and professional capacity building classes, an art program, a sports program, a magazine program, a graphic design program, and a radio program?

The answer is very creatively. 

As OYE approaches the midway point of January 2014 it is midway through an iterative training process for new youth leaders. These leaders, or project coordinators, are the key to OYE’s ability to achieve so much with such a limited professional staff. So let’s take a look at how this works:

OYE has adopted a philosophy that permits our actions to be both a means to an end and an end in themselves. That is to say that OYE’s mission is to create socially conscious youth leaders that serve as agent of positive change in their communities, but to achieve that we must rely on OYE’s own socially conscious youth leaders, our youth coordinators. Patrick Ahern, a long time OYE volunteer, has affably dubbed these youth coordinators “Superbecados.”

Superbecados are the youth that demonstrate strong leadership qualities and a commitment to see OYE’s youth projects grow. We have been blessed with incredible Superbecados over the years like Yarli Yanez, Gerald Velasquez, and Fabiola Oro who have taken the Radio, Art, and Magazine projects to new astounding new heights.
In 2014 we are proud to introduce a new group of Superbecados. These are youth that have excelled as leaders and members of their respective projects. With no further ado OYE is proud to present OYE’s keys to success in 2014-its civic engagement project coordinators or Superbecados: 

  •  Sports – Erick Estrada and Heili Aguilar
  •  Revista Jovenes (magazine) – Fabiola Oro
  •  Design (Adobe) – Oscar Osorio
  •  Radio Ritmo Online – Heydi Reyes
  • Arte la Calle – Jefry  Yoel, Yosseth Pacheco, and Claudia Pavon 

Dunia, our Program Coordinator, has dedicated the month of January to developing the skills these youth will need to succeed as Superbecados. She has developed a comprehensive training program including modules of leadership, conflict resolution, assigning roles, developing profiles, OYE’s internal politics, and the development and administration of projects.

Stay tuned to see these Superbecados guide their projects into new uncharted waters expanding OYE’s impact and empowering other at-risk Honduran youth.