Meghan St. John is working as an intern in the public relations department at the U.S. Fund for UNICEF. This is her first blog post for Fieldnotes.
I just returned from my third visit to La Ceiba, Honduras, where I spent time at the Children of the Light, a small organization that provides education, care and safety to the homeless children of Honduras.
|Meghan playing with Josue and other Children of the Light in Honduras.|
I spent my time with the 23 boys playing endless games of soccer, helping with their homework and slowly tackling the language barrier to learn about each other’s lives. I also helped decorate the organization’s school library to “bring it to life.” I updated the organization’s blog and helped develop their sponsorship program.
Many of the boys at the project, whose ages range from 5 to 22, had previously been abused, abandoned and left homeless on the streets. Others had been exposed to drugs, gangs and crime. One of the older boys admitted that before coming to the Children of the Light, he did “very bad things.” In fact, on my first day back in La Ceiba, the children and I witnessed first-hand an aggressive fight between a group of Honduran men that involved gunfire and a machete. Bullets were flying right over some of the children, who were ducked down in the back of truck just feet away from the violence.
This is the life of violence and crime that local nonprofits like Children of the Light, together with international organizations like UNICEF, are working to protect children and teens from living.
In Honduras, nearly two-thirds of the population lives under the poverty line. Children in Honduras are especially vulnerable to violence, sexual exploitation and trafficking. Furthermore, the average number of years of schooling stands at only 4.3 in rural areas and 7 in urban areas. This is the result of inadequate and unqualified teachers, the scarcity of teaching materials, poor physical learning environments and the fact that many families cannot afford uniforms, books or enrollment expenses to send their children to school.
Therefore, UNICEF has worked hard to facilitate activities and programs to put an end to child inequality in Honduras and the surrounding regions.
UNICEF helped the government develop national strategies to combat gang-related violence and the sexual exploitation and trafficking of children. The criminal code was reformed to address sexual exploitation, and a national office was created to prosecute sex crimes against children. Furthermore, the child-friendly school model endorsed by UNICEF has been expanded to 80 schools in 21 municipalities and several of its elements have been incorporated into the national education curriculum.
There is still a lot of work to be done in Honduras, but because of UNICEF’s commitment and the hard work of smaller organizations, progress is being made.
Working with the children of Honduras has inspired me to raise awareness for all children in need, and I feel honored that I have the opportunity to do just that and share this experience as a US Fund for UNICEF intern.