Celebrating Triumph in the Midst of Adversity

By Josela López, Honduras Field Communications Specialist   |  Photos and videos by Josela López and Child Champions

Graduations in Honduras held special meaning in 2023 as we celebrated students who not only faced poverty but persevered through adversities never faced before. We also celebrated the Child Champions who helped them through. And we cheered on one very special student.

OneChild Honduras Country Director David García greeted each graduate with a handshake and encouraging words.

In March 2023, as in every spring, teens gathered to celebrate their graduation from the OneChild program in Honduras.

But this year was different.

More than ever before, it was a graduation that celebrated triumph over adversity.

Unprecedented Challenges

The 175 teens that gathered in three regions across Honduras had weathered a global pandemic that had devastating effects on youths throughout the country.

In Honduras, schools closed for more than two years and people were restricted to their homes and were only allowed to leave one day per week at the height of the pandemic.

During this time, we saw a rise in teen pregnancy, gangs grew in power, the use of drugs increased, and parents (once the economy reopened) brought their children with them to sell goods in the streets, which led to an increase in school dropouts.

Happy graduates show off their certificates.

Schools were still “going on,” but they were virtual. But most children from families that live on less than $3 a day do not have access to a mobile phone or internet connection.

This meant that those kids were not receiving school lessons.

But the support of their Child Champions helped these graduates persevere despite these obstacles.

In Honduras, an individual who has contributed to the success of students is chosen to be honored at graduations. This year’s OneChild graduations honored Reina Guzman, a pastor and former Hope Center Director from Choluteca who has advocated tirelessly for children.

Seizing Every Opportunity

In her address to the graduates, Pastora Reina challenged the students to seize every opportunity. She reminded them about their identity in Christ and how valuable they are to God, and how loved they are by God, by their pastors, and by their Child Champions. And she reminded them that they should be ready to take every opportunity that comes.

Graduate Marlon was grateful to the assistance he received from his Hope Center during the economic struggles of the pandemic.

As we celebrated the perseverance of these graduates in reaching this day, we understood that their success was also due to Child Champions who seized the opportunity to have a deeper impact on their lives during the pandemic.

During the pandemic, Hope Centers in Honduras became more vital than ever for students in the program.

They provided children and teens with tutoring, Wi-Fi connections, access to computers, school supplies, and other forms of assistance. This helped students receiving online classes to reinforce what they learned. And it gave those who were not receiving online lessons an opportunity to catch up with their peers.

Some Child Champions also helped children by visiting them in their homes and making sure they had everything they needed to do their homework.

A family member takes a photo of a graduate.

Marlon, who graduated in La Ceiba, is just one example. Marlon’s parents expressed how grateful they are to the Hope Center and church. Marlon’s dad, Elmer, was unemployed during the pandemic and the Hope Center helped them with food supplies.

“Without the help we received for our family, we do not know what we would have done during that time,” he said.

Child Champions also seized the time they had with students to prepare them for life beyond the Hope Center. Each student is required to go through a completion program before they graduate.

These programs teach teens job skills such as mechanics, hairstyling, baking, and piñata making so they will be equipped to move into their future with better life opportunities.

So graduations in OneChild Honduras are more than just a closure — they celebrate preparations and new beginnings.

A Day of Joy and Celebration

This year’s graduation in the capital of Tegucigalpa was the first large gathering since the start of the pandemic, and you could feel the sense of excitement among the graduates, Child Champions, guests and pastors.

The graduates invited grandparents, friends, parents and caregivers. Everyone came dressed in their best clothes as they celebrated the students’ accomplishments.

The graduation is also a celebration of accomplishment for the pastors and Child Champions because it represents 15 years of seeing a child week by week and impacting their lives. It means that for 15 years they were able to keep that teen away from gangs and destructive influences.

In families that live on less than $3 a day, children often start working when they are approximately 10 years old. This means that children take on an adult burden while they are still young.

But when children come to the Hope Centers, they are free to be fully children again.

For families, the Hope Center represents a place of relief and help. If you have the opportunity to come to Honduras and visit families in their homes, you will hear them talk about how grateful they are for all the support they’ve received in food relief, medical checkups, medicine, clothes, special gifts for Christmas and birthdays, spiritual guidance, and even psychological support when needed.

Ninsy proudly accepts her certificate.

Speaking of celebration, this year’s graduation also celebrated a very special graduate. Ninsy, a sweet girl who has Down syndrome, has attended the Hope Center since she was young.

With the support of her family, she was able to graduate from the program at age 18. She walked proudly across the stage accompanied by her mother to receive her certificate.

Before the ceremony ended, OneChild Honduras Country Director David García gave the graduates these words to carry with them.

“Success is not about how much you have and how much we can have in the future,” he told them. “It is not about a career or a diploma.

“And this program was not about the school supplies, relief, gifts, or even the food that was given at the Hope Centers. It was about teaching you that you are loved and cared for, and about guiding you to choose God in every step that you take.

“Real success depends on Him. This will help to see success as something achievable for you.”

Graduations from the OneChild program are celebrated in different ways around the world. In Kenya you might see happy graduates doing a victory dance; in the Philippines you might see them with garlands around their necks or heads. And in Honduras you will see everyone dressed up for the special occasion.

But the joy and sense of accomplishment is the same. Around the world, we are a community that celebrates.

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