Patricia Andreson is a generous donor to the U.S. Fund for UNICEF.
As a mother, grandmother and former schoolteacher, I have a special place in my heart for children and young people. Every child deserves a chance, but there are so many who donâ€™t get one. Some kids grow up in awful situations. I believe if you can get children headed in the right direction and make them strong enough, then they can overcome whatever theyâ€™ve had to go through.
During a field visit to Honduras earlier this year, I met some teenagers who had been given a second chance by UNICEF.
Gang violence is a big problem in Honduras, where the unemployment rate is very high. A lot of these kids try to find something to do, and they end up making wrong decisions and joining gangs. We met one young man who told us that he was trying to find a place to belong and find love. He couldnâ€™t find it at home, and so became part of a gang. He had to get a tattoo, which identified him as a gang member â€” even after he left. Employers would check young people like him to see if they had a gang tattoo, and if they did, they wouldnâ€™t give them a job.
Â At UNICEF-supported centers in Hondurasâ€™ capital, Tegucigalpa, these kids can now turn their lives around â€” beginning with the removal of their tattoos by doctors. They get a lot of other support, too, like counseling and job training, and they learn to take responsibility for themselves. We met some boys who had come back to talk about how they had changed their lives and how they had become mentors. They were now trying to keep other boys and girls away from gangs. I was so inspired by these brave young men, and by this program, that I made a contribution to the U.S. Fund for UNICEF to help keep it going.
Â What really impressed me with the gang project and others was how UNICEF would help the local communities get these programs off the ground. It was not a charity campaign, where someone comes in and does all the work and keeps doing it. UNICEF provided resources and guidance, but then the schools and communities and parents took ownership of the projects. I liked how UNICEF worked with the government and made sure everybody was on board. One great example is UNICEFâ€™s partnership with a local municipality to train mothers how to feed their babies and make sure they get the right nutrition in the first two years of life.
Being able to witness UNICEFâ€™s work in Honduras was very meaningful to me. I got involved and went on this trip because of my son-in-law, Matt, who encouraged our family to support UNICEF. Matt passed away recently, and our support for UNICEF is a memorial to him. I think he would be deeply proud of what is happening in Honduras.