by Emily Grossman
HOI participated recently with other NGOs (non-governmental organizations) in the fifth annual Networking Honduras Conference where we had the opportunity to engage with Honduran government officials and leaders of other ministries, sharing how we serve in a variety of capacities throughout the country.
The Honorable Vice President Ricardo Alvarez, former mayor of Tegucigalpa, and his wife Lucretia spoke during plenaries and offered to meet one on one with NGO representatives throughout the three day conference. Señora Alvarez is particularly interested in engaging with NGOs and told those at the conference her door is always open to hear new ideas and to help smooth roadblocks the ministries may encounter. A third official, Carlos Flores, from the office of the Secretary of Finance discussed the new tax law and its impact on NGOs.
A highlight of the conference was Kevin Arita’s presentation, A Long Walk Home. At age 9 and seeking his mother in Georgia, Kevin was delivered to Texas by a coyote. He found his way from the US border to the Atlanta area and 11 years later he graduated with honors from a local high school. He now attends Texas Christian University in Fort Worth. Though he currently has a student visa to stay in the US, he was granted Dream Act status three years ago. Kevin will serve as an intern in the HOI Economic Development Program at Rancho el Paraiso this summer. If you are going to the Ranch in June or July, seek him out!
Dovetailing with Kevin’s presentation, Jill Van Beek from the Association for a More Just Society detailed how drug trafficking has disrupted Honduran society: as victims of drug and gang violence, children and adults flee the country (and often seek sanctuary by crossing illegally into the US), innocent children and adults are murdered, and law enforcement at all levels are overwhelmed and have become ineffectual in protecting citizens and ensuring perpetrators will be punished. The focus of the Association is to defend the rights of the poor in the judicial process. Coming from a Christian perspective, Ms. Van Beek and her organization not only challenge churches and individuals to practice the Biblical teachings on justice to ensure a safer, a more secure society for the people we serve in Honduras, but they also work within the local and federal judicial system to uphold the current laws.
Other topics during the plenary sessions ranged from teaching entrepreneurship in elementary and middle school as a way to bring families out of poverty to drilling wells to reaching youth in a variety of milieus in Honduras.