Stories: Children, Communities, Futures

Ian and Chris, both doctors, have been sponsoring Hilda for over eight years through ChildFund Australia. The couple says: “Once we had children of our own we wanted them to relate to a child of their age and sex that they could help.”

After much consideration the family decided it was about time they met the beautiful young girl that they had been corresponding with for so long. Ian and Chris wanted to give their daughters, Zarli, 9, and Xabby, 7, an opportunity to experience firsthand “how many people in the world live and why they should help others less fortunate”.

The family of four met ChildFund staff in Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras. Together they travelled about three hours through steep mountains and dusty roads to get to the village where Hilda and her family live.

The first stop was to her school where they were greeted by the elementary school students waving Honduran and Australian flags. It was here they saw Hilda and her family for the very first time. The Dickinsons were the first foreign visitors the school had ever hosted and excitement was visible on all of the children`s faces as they sang and performed dances.

At Hilda’s school, Zarli and Xabby began to notice some big differences from their life in Australia. “It is interesting how all the children fit in one classroom. In my school we have individual classrooms for the different school grades,” says Xabby. “Here, you have one classroom for all the different school grades.”

Zarli adds: “It is very impressive to know they walk long distances to attend school.”

In the months prior to their trip, the Dickinsons had gathered school supplies from friends and family to bring for Hilda`s classmates. They really could not have brought a better gift for the children, who were very impressed with their generosity.

The family continued their visit through Hilda`s community. “I must admit I was shocked about the poverty endured by Hilda and her family,” Chris states. Even the girls started to realise to a larger extent how different their lives were when asking about Hilda`s toys. Zarli and Xabby were very excited to give Hilda and her family all the things they had collected for them. They quickly handed them out and proceeded to explain how certain things were meant to be used.

When it was time to go to lunch, the girls walked hand in hand – it was hard to separate them to get in different cars!

The two families had to travel two hours away to reach the nearest restaurant. When finally they arrived, the Dickinson girls couldn’t be happier to reunite with their new friends. This was also the first time Hilda´s family had left their small village so everything was new and exciting for them.

For many Hondurans, life is hard. Around 65 per cent of the country’s population lives below the poverty line, unemployment is high in many areas, and crime is a serious and persistent problem. Gang violence, organized crime and the highest rate of homicide in the world makes Honduras a dangerous place to live, especially for children and youths.

Often, young people feel compelled to join gangs for protection or companionship, or out of fear. Some children as young as 11 are recruited into gangs and are forced to perform criminal activities for older members. Social exclusion and a lack of opportunities contribute to the feelings of hopelessness that many children and youths experience, so intervention is crucial if the generational cycle of poverty and gang crime is to be broken.

Criminal gangs cause a variety of complex problems. Many teachers have reported that gangs have created problems in their schools. Bullying and other kinds of threatening behaviour create a culture of fear among students, sometimes causing youths to drop out of school, which has negative impacts on their future opportunities and on the Honduran population at large.

ChildFund has worked in Honduras since 1982, and one of our primary goals is to give youths the tools to create positive change in their lives and in their communities. We believe that a key strategy of reducing poverty in Honduras is ensuring that youths have access to vocational training and educational opportunities.

To date, ChildFund has enrolled 4,843 Honduran youths in training and professional development programs. In addition, 803 youths have received training in areas such as auto repair, electrical engineering, clothing alteration and carpentry, providing them with the skills they need to find work and support themselves as independent adults.

Along with these programs, we have also helped work with more than 900 youths in community engagement. These young people will champion children’s rights and identify areas where change can be made, bringing hope to their communities and offering them the chance to make a lasting difference.