Jeremías lives in Cerrito Lindo – a violent neighborhood on the outskirts of San Pedro Sula, Honduras. He was troubled seeing gangs target and try to recruit children as young as ten years old. He wanted to reach at-risk youth and give them a productive alternative, so he decided to start teaching electrical and solar-panel-installation classes in three different gang-infested neighborhoods. (Many villages in Honduras have no electricity except from solar panels, so it’s a great vocational skill in Honduras).

By partnering with a local contractor, he is able to give his students hands-on experience in the field, which increases their employability. Hopelessness is a key factor driving youth to join gangs, so such vocational training is an important deterrent for gang involvement. When we first started partnering with Jeremias, approximately 5 students were graduating from his classes every three months. But now he is now able to give high-quality tool kits to each graduate so they can successfully find work, and interest in his project is soaring. In fact, he is expanding his vocational training to include other skills in high demand – basic computer literacy, tailoring, hair cutting, and even English classes.

A second factor driving gang membership is a desire to belong to a “family.” Jeremías has found that a very effective alternative to the gangs is soccer! He has formed and coaches 4 soccer teams comprised of 80 kids ages 10 to 18 and another 20 young men who are over 18. To get them safely to weekend soccer games in rival gang territories, he pays for a bus to drop them off right at the stadium. The kids are passionate about soccer, and Jeremias acts as a needed father-figure in their lives.

The kids have done so well in soccer tournaments that they have attracted the attention of professional feeder teams. One of his players was even invited to spend a month in Colombia to try out for a professional team there. We hope his players will be able to take advantage of such opportunities in the future.

Jeremias, together with his wife, Reina, and son, Dennys, originally did all this work on their own. With his projects gaining visibility, however, he is attracting many more volunteers. Eight new volunteers joined his team in the four months after we began our partnership, and those helpers are enabling the expansion of his programs. They are all working out of a love for the youths and a desire to make their neighborhood, and country, a place where children can live in safety, set goals for their future, and have the opportunity to realize those dreams!