COUNTRY: HONDURAS
PROJECT: ACADEMIA PARA UN FUTURO MEJOR
DIRECTOR: JEREMÍAS VOBADA

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Income inequality in Honduras is among the highest in the world. Extreme poverty makes Honduran youth particularly susceptible to gangs, because gangs offer two meals a day to members. When you can’t afford an education and there are no job opportunities, hunger drives youth into crime. As a result, Honduras has one of the highest intentional homicide rates in the world. Jobs are desperately needed for marginally-educated poor to increase incomes and offer a survival option apart from gangs.

Hope is building, however, in several communities on the outskirts of San Pedro Sula because of a man called Jeremias Vobada. Jeremias was abandoned as a baby and grew up first in an orphanage and then in a boarding school run by the same Catholic nuns. He therefore has hundreds of “brothers” throughout Honduras – in business and politics, in construction and in gangs. His outstanding “connections” combined with his passionate desire to end the lure of gangs has created the perfect conditions for change!

Jeremias runs a soccer program for over a hundred youth, giving them structure and a positive outlet for their time and energy. He also serves as a much-needed father figure for the many young men without fathers. The kids have done so well in soccer tournaments, they have attracted the attention of a professional feeder team in Colombia that invited Jeremias to send some of his older players for tryouts. The first young man that Jeremias sent was selected by a professional team, and you can imagine the excitement this generated among the other players! We hope to send more players in the future.

In addition to soccer, Jeremias and his volunteers teach vocational skills – electricity, tailoring, computers and hair cutting. By partnering with a local contractor, he is able to give his electrical students hands-on experience in the field, which increases their employability. And each graduate receives a high-quality tool kit so they can successfully pursue work. But the most exciting aspect of the program is the students are learning to construct solar panels.

Electrification rates are low in rural Honduras, and demand for solar panels is high because it is the only viable option for electricity for remote communities. Currently all solar panels are imported, and building panels locally reduces costs by about 30%. With a strong cost advantage, Jeremias believes he can provide jobs to undereducated youth by manufacturing, installing, and servicing solar panels. His goal is to establish multiple small manufacturing sites around San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa to maximize the number of jobs he creates for Honduran youth that have been marginalized due to extreme poverty and violence. We expect entire communities will be transformed in the process.

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