This is the story of four extraordinary young women. It’s easy to slip into hyperbole when writing an editorial like this, but “extraordinary” is the appropriate description. Occasionally you come across people who make a lasting impression on you, and that was the case with OYE scholars Neris, Rosa, Sandra, and Oriel during my three-week visit to the Organization for Youth Empowerment in El Progreso, Honduras.
Neris’ diminutive physical size (well under 5′) and infectious laugh belie her personal intensity and her desire to complete her education. Often in my travels, I see some pretty tragic circumstances. Neris, however, has a positive family environment and lives in one of the most beautiful areas that I’ve ever seen. Campo Monterrey is deep in the plantation region of Honduras. We drove an hour and a half through miles of banana, sugarcane, and palms (used to make palm oil) to her family’s modest home that is also a convenience store. Surrounded by tropical greenery, there is the sense of an idyllic family life. Nonetheless, attending public school is not a given in Honduras. It takes money, as well as transportation from the isolated community where Neris lives. Thanks to her family’s support and a scholarship from OYE, she is on her way to a business career.
Rosa is shy and unassuming, her voice cracking because she was a little nervous being interviewed. Due to her family’s economic circumstances, she was not planning on attending high school and was headed for a life of very limited opportunity. Thanks to her mother’s perseverance, and financial support from OYE, both Rosa and her brother are able to continue their education and break the cycle of poverty that is so common in Honduras. Rosa is very focused and is excelling in her studies. A rooster adds it’s voice to Rosa’s mom’s interview. One of the things I remember most about the trip is the daily chorus of rooster crows that started with one and then swept across the town for miles. You miss it when you leave El Progreso.
Sandra is a pragmatic realist who had considered leaving Honduras due to the lack of opportunity. I’ve conducted a lot of interviews with, and about youth who have been characterized as “at risk.” Sandra is the first student that I’ve ever heard discuss the stigma of such a characterization from her own viewpoint. Having witnessed much gang violence, she was tempted to just give up, but now she’s attending college and has a personal agenda of assisting her family to find a better life.
Oriel’s original posting on our blog was our most visited entry, and was shared all over the world. She is all sweetness and light. Her mother had passed away just a few weeks before our visit and she had assumed the responsibility of raising six younger siblings. Despite her grief and her newly acquired responsibilities, she had the time and energy to participate in an event to raise money to end hunger in Africa. The determination in her voice when she discusses setting an example for her siblings is very memorable, and I knew that it would be the last words of the documentary as soon as I recorded it. When you’re having a tough day, think about Oriel’s upbeat demeanor.
These four young women are just a few of the youth who are transforming their lives and their society through participation in the Organization for Youth Empowerment program. I hope you will find inspiration in their stories, hit the share buttons, and contribute financially to assist them in their important work.