As the crisp mountain air sweeps through the jungles of Honduras, change is in the air. In spite of the threat of ongoing violence, in recent years, citizens of Honduras have stood up and said, ‘Basta!’ — Enough!
Honduras had one of the highest murder rates in the world in 2011. Police and government officials were often seen as weak –some even susceptible to the influence of local drug traffickers. It was in the midst of this atmosphere that impactos was started, with the generous support of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the American people.
Members of impactos, a initiative implemented by Counterpart International, have been working around the country for more than five years to involve citizens in nationwide anti-violence, anti-corruption and governmental accountability efforts.
Working across 36 colonias, or communities, impactos worked with local groups to provide leadership training and vocational skills to Hondurans. Offering trainings on community safety, access to education, reproductive health, and crime prevention, it aimed to improve livelihoods and generate more opportunities for citizens to participate in the decisions impacting their communities and their country.
On May 6, 2016, impactos announced an 18-month extension to this successful program, funded by the generous support of USAID, at an event in Tegucigalpa.
Attended by representatives from the government of Honduras, USAID, and Counterpart International’s Chief Operating Officer, Derek Hodkey, the event brought together some of the largest civil society organizations in the country working to strengthen civic participation in Honduras.
‘This joint effort, national and international, opens up real opportunities for citizen oversight with concrete proposals to generate institutional change,’ explained the Director of impactos, Dina Eguigure.
From 2011 to 2015, impactos awarded more than 100 grants to 30 civil society organizations working all across Honduras to empower citizen voices, encourage governmental transparency and ensure accountability. The extension of the program is a clear indicator that this collaborative approach is working. The importance of continuing impactos cannot be overstated. As Derek Hodkey explained at the launch,
“Counterpart is privileged to be part of this crucial moment. During the last five years we have been working hard to build lasting partnerships among civil society organizations…we have been creating opportunities for cooperation between the civil society and the government, helping them to engage their constituencies in democratic processes, to make their voices heard. All of this is even more important now to ensure that we don’t lose this momentum.”
The Impact of Impactos…
When parents at the Froilan Turcio public school in Olancho, Hondurans were outraged about corruption and inefficiency at their children’s school, they turned to impactos partner, the Association for a More Just Society, whose Anti-Corruption Legal Assistance Center (ALAC) agreed to help take their grievances to the government.
With the pressure from ALAC, the Transparency Unit of the Department of Education, and the community, the Director of the school changed course to meet the demands of the local community. Now, the community’s children are attending school on a regular basis and teachers are leading age-appropriate lessons…
Impactos met Gustavo some years ago. Addicted to drugs, he was homeless and sleeping outside of La Isla Market in downtown Tegucigalpa. Rescued from the streets by his aunt, it was their young neighbor who repeatedly invited Gustavo to join the impactos Youth Network in his community.
Joined by youth with similar backgrounds and experiences, Gustavo recognized himself and his potential in their faces. He was inspired by their stories of getting off the streets, quitting drugs and turning their life around. And now, he too has turned his life around.
Over the last few years, Gustavo has participated in many leadership and public speaking training courses and learned a trade.
“A year ago, I was the first enemy of my family,” he says. “Now, when I stopped using drugs, my family is my priority.”
Gustavo Alfredo is currently part of the Youth Network’s Board of Nueva Capital community where he leads the planning of activities. He also says he is full of new ideas to grow and strengthen the Youth Network to help other young people in need.
These stories are just two of many that illustrate the success of impactos and the vibrant role that Hondurans have played in the progress of their communities. Clearly there is more work to be done and the 18-month extension for the impactos program, implemented by Counterpart International and local partners, will help Hondurans to continue improving their lives and building more durable futures, community by community.