Bitcoin in Honduras
Honduras has one of Central America’s most robust and fastest-growing economies. Still, there is no doubt that the nation has had its fair share of economic strife. In April 2022, a heavily tourist-populated region nicknamed “Honduras Prospera” legalized the use of Bitcoin and other forms of cryptocurrency. Honduras Prospera will serve as a trial for Bitcoin usage in Honduras, with expectations for future growth.

Economic Struggles in Honduras

Honduras’ economy has certainly had its struggles. Hopefully, by introducing Bitcoin in Honduras, the country’s economic struggles will diminish. In the pre-COVID-19 pandemic age, in 2018, at least 16.5% of Hondurans lived on less than $1.90 a day. Since 2019, two significant hurricanes and natural disasters have impacted the nation and exacerbated the number of people in poverty due to the pandemic and its effects. In 2021, the poverty rate reached 73% with the extreme poverty rate reaching 53%. That marks the highest poverty and extreme poverty rates in Honduras since 2005.

One of the primary reasons Honduras’ economy has struggled is its dependence on agriculture and trade with the United States. If either of these sectors struggles, the entire economy struggles. Honduras’ agriculture accounted for slightly less than 30% of the country’s workforce in 2019 and is responsible for at least 12% of Honduras’ Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Honduras’s trade with the United States accounts for about 41% of all Honduran trade annually. At the end of 2020, the bilateral trade earnings were more than $9 billion with a surplus that unfortunately only favored the U.S. Despite the immense difficulties the country has experienced since 2019, Honduras’s economic projections have been optimistic, with expected annual economic growth of 4.5%. The acceptance of Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies in Honduras will allow that figure to increase by the end of the next fiscal year.

Benefits of Accepting Cryptocurrency for Honduras

Introducing Bitcoin in Honduras has many benefits for the Prospera region before the rest of Honduras follows suit. The usage of Bitcoin in Honduras aims to entice foreign investors and make tourist spending easier to facilitate. It is a move following the introduction of Bitcoin in El Salvador, one of Honduras’s neighboring countries. Bitcoin in Honduras and El Salvador, while likely to face technical challenges in the early stages, intend to bring new business opportunities across borders and in international markets.

Cryptocurrency and Bitcoin have significant potential for economic security and allow for lower transaction fees. The decreased costs will encourage foreign investors and encourage locals to make use of Bitcoin as well. The lowered fees will prove beneficial to those living in poverty as they work to avoid extra costs and fees. One of the greatest challenges to implementing Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies anywhere is the technological barriers many places face. These include setting up a digital wallet. However, as Honduras Prospera is a tourist destination and is prepared for technological changes, it is a perfect location for a test run of cryptocurrency use.

Having Bitcoin in Honduras will open the door for new employment opportunities and can diversify the financial foundation of Honduras’s economy. The diversification of Honduras’ economy will allow for future safety should its agricultural foundation falter or trade with the U.S. become too difficult.

Honduras’s Economic Future

People do not widely accept the idea of Bitcoin in Honduras, as the first rollout of Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies are only taking place in one region of the country. Hondurans are skeptical of the economic advantages of Bitcoin after seeing the difficulties El Salvador has faced in its first weeks of using the cryptocurrencies.

One of the best ways to bring about economic growth in Honduras is to increase economic competition in all regions of the country, especially in the rural areas. The rural areas of Honduras are the most likely to experience poverty. Plus, with the benefits of Bitcoin in Honduras, including the lower transaction costs, Bitcoin should be able to easily spread to the country’s corners. Bitcoin also allows for merchant protection. Given Honduras’ heavy reliance on trade and the international economies and markets, the success in the piloting of Bitcoin will create even more support for introducing Bitcoin to the area.

Honduras’ estimated economic growth has stalled at about 4% since 2020. Honduras is still struggling to rebuild its infrastructure and economy since the COVID-19 pandemic and natural disasters hit, making any efforts to fix the problems invaluable. With the benefits of Bitcoin in Honduras, many already are finding popular Bitcoins for use, and with the need for any economic recovery, expanding Bitcoin’s availability for use will likely receive significant support. There are many websites already helping Hondurans find the best Bitcoin or cryptocurrency to use and the first Bitcoin ATM opened in August 2021. The expansion of Bitcoin will lead to economic growth in Honduras. It might allow Honduras’s economy to exceed expectations for its annual economic growth, thus amplifying the impacts of cryptocurrencies.

Clara Mulvihill
Photo: Flickr

MujerProspera Challenge
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) introduced MujerProspera (WomanProsper) Challenge on January 13, 2022. The challenge encourages applicants to propose innovative ways to promote gender equality in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. Overall, this project addresses the relationship between gender and poverty and forms part of a long list of ongoing USAID projects that bolster the opportunities of the world’s impoverished.

Gender and Poverty

Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras noted high levels of extreme poverty even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, although the spread of the virus prompted rises in poverty levels throughout the region. According to the Center for Strategic and Management Studies, the Northern Triangle, of which Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras form part, stands as “one of the [most impoverished] regions in the Western Hemisphere.” Migration patterns and environmental disasters also exacerbate the struggles of those living below the poverty line. As of August 12, 2021, USAID estimated that 8.3 million citizens across these three countries require humanitarian aid.

These facts do not exist in isolation of gender inequality. In fact, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras stand out as nations where gender and poverty intertwine. Data from the Gender Equality Observatory shows that extremely high percentages of women in Guatemala (51%), El Salvador (39.4%) and Honduras (43.5%) had no “incomes of their own.” All of these rates are higher than the regional average, which stood at 27.8% as of 2019.

Evidence proves that changing these statistics leads to positive change. A World Bank report on women’s role in Latin American and the Caribbean (LAC) economies notes that “an increase in the number of women in paid work between 2000 and 2010 accounted for around 30% of the overall reduction in poverty and income inequality.” Women in these countries receive fewer opportunities and face more challenges than many men in the same social and economic situation. As such, U.S. efforts to combat global poverty must also combat global gender inequality.

Developments in Central American Women’s Rights

Local activists, politicians and international organizations in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras continue to make significant progress in women’s rights. One group, the IM-Defensoras, has launched several campaigns throughout Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras since 2016 to protect women and provide a cooperative network for female humanitarian activists.

In addition, the Regional Office of U.N. Women for LAC launched the Women, Local economy and Territories (WLEaT) program in 2018 with a specific focus on the Northern Triangle countries. WLEaT “contributes to the creation of new and better employment and income opportunities for women entrepreneurs and businesswomen” by strengthening their access to business services and promoting inclusive financial practices in the private sector. The program, therefore, contributes to multiple Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), such as ending global poverty (SDG 1),  combating gender inequality (SDG 5) and promoting “decent work” and economic expansion (SDG 8).

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, in June 2021, USAID and several partner organizations provided resources for women in need of humanitarian aid. This includes a total of $60 million spread across the three Northern Triangle countries to encourage employment, train Indigenous women for midwife careers, prevent gender-based violence and more. Most recently, on January 13, 2022, USAID introduced another important program: the MujerProspera Challenge.

What is the MujerProspera Challenge?

The MujerProspera Challenge stands as one of many U.S. programs pushing against multiple levels of inequality. The program’s official request for applications documents states that the project seeks to “advance women’s economic security, employment, and/or entrepreneurship” in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.

The lofty document lists different types of solutions that draw from training initiatives in the private sector to the implementation of gender-inclusive legislation. However, overall, MujerProspera provides another way for women in these countries to protect their agency and independence.

Applicants can win funding awards ranging from $150,000 to $500,000 in value. Through these awards, applicants can fund necessary initiatives or solutions that acknowledge the relationship between gender and poverty and promote women’s involvement in the economic sector. The MujerProspera Challenge thus empowers women, local activists, entrepreneurs and organizations to develop solutions to improve situations of gender inequality and poverty in their home countries.

– Lauren Sung
Photo: Flickr

Agricultural Initiatives in HondurasNatural disasters heavily impact the livelihoods of people from the Central American country of Honduras. November 2021 marks one year since the disastrous effects of Hurricanes Eta and Iota on the Honduran landscape and people. These hurricanes led to the destruction “of up to 70% of Honduras’ crops and grains,” causing severe financial struggles for small-scale farmers and their families. Over the past year, organizations have come together to rebuild Honduran agriculture. Revitalizing the economy and creating opportunities through agricultural initiatives in Honduras is vital to ensuring sustainability and decreasing poverty in the nation.

Agricultural Initiatives in Honduras Improve Gender Inequality

Honduras has high levels of gender inequality — the World Economic Forum reported “a gender gap of 27.8%” in Honduras. Honduras also ranks as “one of the most unequal countries in Latin America in terms of development.” Inequality particularly affects women and girls. For example, in Honduras, coffee accounts for more than 32% of the nation’s agricultural GDP and women are responsible for “at least 20% of that contribution.” However, “the economic returns of women in agriculture are often lower than those of their male peers.”

The International Women’s Coffee Alliance (IWCA) began in 2003 when women from Costa Rica, Nicaragua and the United States formed the group to empower and connect women in the coffee sector. The Honduras chapter of the IWCA, AMUCAFE, seeks for more women to hold “leadership and decision-making positions” in top coffee organizations to “reduce the gender gap while creating better business opportunities” for women.

Currently, there are 391 active women in AMUCAFE who benefit from the networking and education opportunities that the organization allows for. Women face barriers in business loan approvals for their agricultural work “as only a few have land ownership which serves as collateral for loans.” Furthermore, at times, “the returns for the sale of women-produced coffee comes through the male figures in their families: fathers or husbands.” In order to empower women in the coffee industry, AMUCAFE seeks to learn “best practices related to trade and commercial promotion” to ensure “better returns for [AMUCAFE] members and long-term financial sustainability for [the] organization.” In turn, this will contribute to overall poverty reduction in Honduras while reducing gender inequality.

Creating Economically and Environmentally Sustainable Coffee

Coffee production is taxing on the environment of the countries that rely on it as an agricultural commodity. In Honduras, large environmental costs occur from the loss of forest habitats due to deforestation. Woodlands are disappearing in favor of growing crops because small-scale farmers depend on the sale of coffee to markets abroad.

With the support of a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF), two environmental experts, Timothy Randhir and David King, will undertake a five-year journey “to make Honduran coffee sustainable across environmental, economic and social fronts.” The project also aims to uncover how environmentally sustainable coffee-growing practices can “yield higher and more stable incomes” for Honduran coffee farmers. The project stands as important work as coffee represents a main source of income “for more than 100,000 Honduran families and provides employment for about a million people.”

Deforestation leads to greater rainfall and flooding which causes soil erosion. Replacing “older, wood-fired dryers” with new “solar-powered industrial coffee dryers” is another key aspect of the project. The experts will study “the environmental and economic sustainability” of this new technology in improving Honduran agricultural practices. Improved practices and technology will help decrease deforestation and minimize the use of carbon-emitting natural resources while ensuring sustainable coffee production and higher incomes.

In the long term, these sustainable and inclusive agricultural initiatives in Honduras should reduce poverty. Additionally, they may be helpful in conserving the environment while improving the lives of the Honduran people.

– Robert Moncayo
Photo: Flickr

Human trafficking in Honduras
Human trafficking in Honduras is one of the most prominent human rights issues in the country. A 2020 report by the U.S. Department of State identifies Honduras as a Tier 2 country since it is making great strides in reducing human trafficking cases. However, the country still needs to meet the set baselines. With the new legislation, a new anti-trafficking plan and advocacy efforts by government-backed programs, Honduras is on its way to creating a safer society.

Causes of Human Trafficking in Honduras

The main causes of human trafficking in Honduras are unemployment, lack of economic opportunity and family issues. These issues leave people desperate to have a stable income and, unfortunately, make them more vulnerable to human trafficking. According to World Bank data, the unemployment rate in Honduras reached 10.98% in 2020, about a 5% increase from the unemployment rate of 5.7% in 2019. Often, traffickers lure victims to other countries with false promises of an escape from poverty and crime-ravaged areas, according to the 2021 report by the U.S. Department of State.

Honduras is primarily a source country for sex trafficking and forced labor. Oftentimes, traffickers exploit victims within their own communities and homes. Traffickers transport women and children, who are primarily victims of sex trafficking, abroad to experience exploitation in countries such as Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and the United States. Additionally, traffickers usually transport people for forced labor to Guatemala, Mexico and the United States.

As the U.S. Department of State reported, traffickers force their victims to beg on the streets, traffick drugs and work in the informal sector. Children have to work in dangerous occupations such as the agricultural, construction, manufacturing and mining industries. The U.S. Department of Labor statistics show that 9% of children from ages 5 to 14 in Honduras are working. Around 53% of these children work in the agricultural sector, 12.7% work in the industry sector (mining, construction and fireworks production, etc.) and 34% work in the services sector.

The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the situation, negatively impacting economic opportunity further. This has increased the vulnerability of people to human trafficking in Honduras, according to the 2021 report by the U.S. Department of State.

Government Initiatives

The previously mentioned report shows that the Honduran government is taking action to reduce cases of human trafficking in Honduras in the following ways:

  1. Increasing funding for Inter-institutional Commission to Combat Commercial Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking in Persons (CICESCT): In 2019, the Honduran government increased funding to 5.5 million lempiras (USD 221,400). CICESCT uses this funding to provide assistance to victims such as protection and therapy. In 2020, CICESCT’s immediate response team provided 67 victims with these services. Additionally, CICESCT works with other organizations and NGOs to provide further assistance to victims such as medical care.
  2. Identifying More Victims: Law enforcement and social service providers have certain procedures to follow to identify symptoms of human trafficking and refer suspected victims to the CICEST immediate response team.
  3. Enacting a New Penal Code Provision: The definition of trafficking is now as per international law. However, the new penal code lowered the penalty for trafficking, resulting in the crime not being on par with other serious misdemeanors.
  4. Implementing the 2016-2020 National Anti-Trafficking Plan: This plan includes measures such as providing anti-trafficking training to the public (virtually during the pandemic) and providing awareness-raising campaigns through social media. The Honduran government also formed a network of 32 government agencies and NGOs to help carry the plan out.

UNODC Campaign

In 2019, the Honduran government joined the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Blue Heart Campaign. The idea is to raise awareness about human trafficking in Honduras and to prevent these crimes. The Blue Heart Campaign focuses on advocacy and seeks to recruit others to help prevent human trafficking crimes by building political support to take more action against it. The campaign sends its donations to the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Trafficking in Persons, whose goal is to aid other organizations and NGOs globally to assist victims. According to the UNODC, the campaign resulted in the rescuing of 194 people in 2019.

CICESCT

CICESCT is a Honduran government agency that aims to reduce the number of human trafficking cases and to provide care for victims. Since its formation in 2012, Honduras has increased funding for CICESCT. This allows for more aid and investigations into human trafficking cases. In 2018, more than 300 victims received aid, protection and services (mental health counseling, food, housing, legal care and medical care) to integrate back into society. Also, 28 people received prison sentences with time ranging from five to 15 years for human trafficking.

Moving Forward

There are still critical issues to resolve regarding human trafficking in Honduras. However, the country has made significant progress and is continuing to work on eradicating human trafficking from the country. If this level of progress and awareness continues, Honduras can achieve a trafficking-free society.

– Shikha Surupa
Photo: Unsplash

Hurricanes Eta and Iota
Honduras is a Central American country bordering the Caribbean Sea. Because of its location, Honduras is able to produce valuable goods like textiles, sugar cane and coffee. However, 2020 proved to be a challenging year for the country and its economic output. COVID-19’s impact on Honduras was undoubtedly destructive but the added impact of Hurricanes Eta and Iota further affected Honduras’ economy and overall conditions in the nation.

COVID-19 in Honduras

Honduras confirmed its first official case of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in early March 2020. Schools closed shortly after March 13, 2021, and businesses were limited to 50% capacity per a nationwide mandate. These commissions stunted the economy and placed Honduras in a financial crisis. While the country’s GDP contracted, Honduras experienced a period of inflation. Prices of everyday items, like coffee, skyrocketed. In addition, a decrease in worldwide tourism led to growing economic instability. The World Bank reports about 45% of Honduran households facing income losses in the wake of the pandemic. Suspended operations and businesses put approximately half of Honduras’ citizens out of work. The emotional toll of the virus itself is equally notable. The significant number of deaths reflects COVID-19’s impact on Honduras. More than 9,000 citizens have died since the start of the pandemic.

Hurricanes Eta and Iota and Honduras

On November 3, 2020, Hurricane Eta made landfall in Honduras as a Category 4 storm, affecting more than 1.8 million people. Not even two weeks later, Hurricane Iota made landfall on November 17, 2020. An astounding number of vulnerable families experienced displacement, forcing many to relocate to crowded collective shelters. Helpful and necessary resources in shelters dwindled fast and the lack of proper social distancing mandates contributed to Honduras’ increase in COVID-19 infections. The devastating effects of Eta and Iota’s flooding had major impacts in the flooded San Pedro Sula airport, restricting people’s abilities to seek refuge elsewhere via flights.

Vaccine Rollout in Honduras

COVID-19’s presence was difficult for most countries to endure, but with the destructive addition of Hurricanes Eta and Iota, the year was undeniably life-threatening for Honduras. Honduras has vaccinated about 24% of its total population. Compared to other countries, it also has a decreasing number of peak cases. However, as of April 2021, COVID-19 vaccine rollouts have slowed in Honduras because of the United States’ own complicated vaccine rollout.

As newly mutated strains of the virus can easily prolong Honduras’ medical and economic ruin, COVID-19’s impact on Honduras is apparent. With the introduction of the COVAX initiative in August 2020, co-led by WHO, CEPI and Gavi, more developing countries will be able to access vaccines. However, with the United States’ slowed distribution and environmental challenges like Hurricanes Eta and Iota, it is difficult to ascertain how long it will take Honduras to rebuild itself. Addressing the country’s needs with sufficient funding and resources will, most likely, be an incredibly instrumental means of aiding Honduras.

The Road Ahead

Caritas Internationalis created a two-month-long emergency relief program to assist Honduras, Nicaragua and Guatemala in recovery. Each nation received €250,000 worth of aid for “food, hygiene kits, access to safe drinking water and ensuring people can protect themselves from COVID-19.” Caritas committed to aiding in the recovery and well-being of about 2,500 families in this period, which equates to 12,500 citizens. Additionally, increased congressional support of the COVAX initiative could help Honduras access more vaccines, stabilizing the nation and protecting it from further impacts of the virus.

– Maia Nuñez
Photo: Flickr

orphans learn life skillsNestled at the base of the Santa Bárbara Mountain in Honduras lies Santa Bárbara, a city known for producing sugarcane, coffee beans and livestock. The city is also home to El Jardin De Amor y Esperanza, also known as the Garden of Love and Hope. An orphanage that opened in 2011, the Garden of Love and Hope takes in children that have outlived their parents or whose parents cannot provide for them. This orphanage, though small, has an incredible impact on children through its ability to rescue them from destitute situations. Orphans learn life skills that will prepare them to be successful in life outside of the orphanage. One way the orphanage accomplishes this is through the use of its Selva Café, which helps the orphans learn real-world skills.

The Garden of Love and Hope

The Borgen Project spoke with Lukas Dale, a volunteer that traveled to the Garden of Love and Hope with a group organized through Olivet Nazarene University. Dale describes a home visit he did on his final volunteering day, giving him the opportunity to “experience the kind of conditions the local people live in.” The home “was a tiny 7x7x7-foot clay and mud box that had no plumbing and only one bed. It housed a family of grandparents, a mom, five kids and a dog.” Dale says the experience gave him “a new and more accurate understanding of the situation people in impoverished countries must live in.”

Though much of Honduras struggles with poverty, the Garden of Love and Hope works to give orphans the best resources and education possible. Its primary mission is to provide the children with food, shelter, clothing and medicine while helping them with school. Footsteps Missions significantly supports the orphanage. A nonprofit organization, Footsteps Missions works to send volunteers to Santa Bárbara to assist the orphanage.

Dale shared more of what he witnessed at the orphanage, explaining that the children were treated well by staff who are “happy to volunteer their time to care for the kids.” Furthermore, he explains that “There were many children and teenagers who didn’t have any tangible hope for their futures. A lot of the teenage girls had been raped and either had children to take care of or were just working through their trauma, for example.”

He describes the orphanage as “a very loving, accepting environment that focuses on giving the children hope for the future by equipping them with practical skills.” By providing children with safety from their former circumstances, the orphanage also supports the children’s futures.

Selva Cafe

One of the most pertinent ways that the Garden of Love and Hope helps children learn life skills is through Selva Café. Owned by the orphanage and Footsteps Missions, the small coffee shop’s funds support the costs of caring for the children at the orphanage. The café also employs children from the orphanage. By running the cash register, preparing food and coffee and serving customers, children gain work experience.

Dale reflected on his experience when he visited the orphanage. He said, “Footsteps Missions was also in the process of opening a café near the orphanage that would help fund the orphanage and give the children a place to gain work experience. Since the café was in the process of opening, we helped with some physical labor projects they had around the property, taught the owners how to use financial programs on the computer and set up a cash register for them to use.” The Garden of Love and Hope works to help orphans learn some of the life skills needed to succeed in the world outside the orphanage. It does this while serving the community through the production of coffee and baked goods that can be purchased at the café.

Importance of Helping Orphans Learn Life Skills

The concept of “life skills” means a young person possesses the qualities needed to succeed, such as confidence and personal and social skills to interact with others. The Garden of Love and Hope realized children needed to have both formal and life education, the latter of which only comes with experience. Traditionally, the family unit teaches life skills. However, since orphaned children do not always have a family to rely on, it is more difficult for them to acquire the necessary experience to succeed. By establishing Selva Café, the Garden of Love and Hope fosters a place to learn skills. Teaching children life skills will also give them the desire to serve their community, including those also in poverty.

Though it is small and relatively new, the Garden of Love and Hope and its partnership with Selva Café give the Honduran children of Santa Bárbara hope for their futures. By equipping children with valuable life skills learned through serving tourists and their community in the café, these children have the potential to rise above their life circumstances and grow into capable adults.

– Allie Degner
Photo: Pixabay

Humanity and Hope UnitedHonduras has a notorious reputation for high levels of global poverty and corruption. However, one charitable organization is on a mission to improve living conditions in the country. The Humanity and Hope United Foundation is working to reduce poverty from the ground up. In an interview with The Borgen Project, the Foundation’s director of trips and Honduran volunteers, Caleb Mejia, provides insight into the organization’s mission.

Obstacles in Alleviating Poverty

Honduras has been in the process of democratization for 40 years after being under strict military rule. Despite this transition, coups and widespread distrust in government officials are still prevalent. One contribution to this was the Iran-Contra Affair. Although the country avoided the direct conflict that fell upon its Nicaraguan neighbors, negative impacts still ensued. The CIA-backed anti-communist forces in Honduras violently targeted local Marxist groups and committed human rights abuses. As a result, a lack of confidence in officials surfaced. Political instability has certainly contributed to heightened levels of poverty in Honduras.

Natural disasters also impact Honduras’ ability to grow. Category 5 Hurricane Mitch made landfall in Honduras in 1998, leaving thousands dead. In addition, agriculture and infrastructure were decimated, causing high levels of unemployment and poverty. Without sufficient resources or global support to prosper, Honduras struggled to bounce back from this particular natural disaster. Then, in 2020, Honduras was hit with the devastation of Hurricane Iota and Hurricane Eta, causing widespread homelessness and destruction.

Humanity and Hope United’s Mission

The Humanity and Hope United Foundation has been working first-hand to address Honduran poverty and its effects. To do so, the NGO partnered with the three Honduran communities of Remolino, La Cuchilla and La Coroza. Mejia told The Borgen Project that Humanity and Hope United makes “sustainable changes in rural and underserved communities in Honduras.” Mejia is a 23-year-old Honduran serving impoverished communities in Honduras. “We partner with communities to create jobs that will provide for them and their families,” says Mejia. Humanity and Hope United seeks to empower people and bring them closer to self-sufficiency. Currently, the organization is working on building walled homes in La Cuchilla. In addition, the organization is also bringing a playground to La Coroza and aims to create a chicken coop in Remolino.

Sustainable and Multi-faceted Solutions

“In order to pull people out of poverty, we must create sustainable changes,” states Mejia. A major emphasis of Mejia’s is that it is more beneficial to “focus on the needs of the individuals rather than just a single issue.” As an example, Mejia explains to The Borgen Project that the organization “entering into a random Honduran village with the mission to bring clean water may not be the best solution,” as opposed to other, more selective projects.

Mejia also says that “if they were also in need of more jobs, better education and houses, a single goal decided before arrival would not wholly support the village’s people.” Humanity and Hope United’s endeavors are “multi-faceted and well-rounded.” In its poverty reduction efforts, the organization seeks to “create a sense of ownership” in communities. Mejia notes that the populations “eventually become business owners, homeowners, high school graduates” and more.

Making the World a Better Place

Working for Humanity and Hope United, Mejia describes his role as a “dream job” where he is able “to create lifelong connections with people wanting to create a better world.” He explains further that his work has impacted his worldview, and as such, he sees the best in people, “understanding that everyone has a sacred story worth fighting for.” To emphasize the passion for his work, Mejia says, “Serving people with all my heart changed my life.”

Other examples of progress are seen in the La Cuchilla village. It used to lack clean water access, with homes constructed out of mud and sticks and 90% of children unable to attend school. Since the village’s partnership with Humanity and Hope United in 2017, crops and livestock provide jobs, income and food security, allowing for self-sufficiency. The village is working on obtaining more access to better healthcare, housing, classrooms and clean water.

Joining the Cause

Anyone is capable of joining the fight against global poverty and enacting meaningful, lasting change. Mejia’s advice for supporting the Humanity and Hope United Foundation “is to take the first step and visit Honduras.” Mejia emphasizes the importance of society “becoming a part of something bigger than ourselves.” He exclaims, “see the need with your own eyes, hear the stories that will impact your heart and let that goodness drive you to help others!”

By investing time, energy and money in organizations that aim to make the world a better place, an ordinary individual can make a significant impact in reducing global poverty.

– Lucy Gentry
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19 on Poverty in Honduras
Families in Honduras found strength within community ties and organizations like Humanity and Hope, despite the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Honduras. There have been 249,118 COVID-19 infections in Honduras since the start of the pandemic. In May 2021, Honduras reported the highest peak with an estimated 1,000 infections a day, according to the Reuters COVID-19 tracker.

Prior to the pandemic, 40% of the total population in Honduras did not have employment. COVID-19 affected 250,000 families into food security due to job loss, according to the World Food Programme (WFP).

Supporting the Community

Despite the impacts of COVID-19 on poverty in Honduras, family communities within Honduras assisted others by handing them food and toiletries during the hardest times of the pandemic. Organizations like Humanity and Hope also stepped up, serving the communities of La Coroza, La Cuchilla and Remolino to help them become sustainable on their own.

Humanity and Hope, a nonprofit organization located in El Progreso, Honduras, initiated team and volunteer trips after a year of lockdown. Caleb Mejia, director of trips and Honduran volunteers, said people from different parts of the world take these trips and encounter the hardships of communities.

“Humanity and Hope does not want people to come down to Honduras and dig a hole or paint a school, and that’s it,” said Mejia in an interview with The Borgen Project.  “You can see something through television or through your phone, but it will never, ever be the same if you actually experience it.”

Humanity and Hope

Humanity and Hope operates on six different pillars: infrastructure, economy, community, health, education and leadership. According to Mejia, volunteer trips occur once a month with a focus on a pillar.

In July 2020, H&H’s annual health trip served nearly 1,010 people in a week. The annual health trip consisted of a team of 18 staff members, volunteers and assistance from the Honduran Red Cross and dentists.

“Along that week, we ended up doing triage, pharmacy, doctor consultations and hosted experience trips,” said Mejia.

When Hurricane Eta stepped in amidst a pandemic, Honduran communities suffered complete destruction. Despite the devastation and impacts of COVID-19 on poverty in Honduras, communities of Honduran family members, even those outside the U.S., came together to help others.

“I had the means and the people who were willing to help,” said Ashley Carrasco in an interview with The Borgen Project, a resident of California. “I helped because Honduras is my home, the love of my life.”

Ashley Carrasco and Franklin Castillo

In November 2020, Carrasco and her family fundraised an estimate of $4,000 for the communities of San Pedro Sula and Santa Barbara. Carrasco used the means of social media to fundraise on the Venmo app to provide to families affected by the pandemic and hurricane.

Carrasco and her family, located in the United States, shared their fundraiser with every possible follower. She transferred the collected funds to her cousin, Franklin Castillo, located in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, to purchase grains, diapers, baby formula, mattresses and toilet paper to distribute to the community.

“I witnessed many people losing their homes due to the hurricane and floods,” said Castillo in an interview with The Borgen Project. “The government’s response was slow like always. I have seen communities do more for each other than the government.”

Castillo raised a total of $9,000 with the help of family members in the U.S. He distributed the toiletries and food supplies estimated to last each family at least two weeks to nearly 300 families within communities that were impacted by COVID-19 and the hurricane.

Castillo continues to give a portion of his business earnings to the community. He said the pandemic is still affecting people as Honduras initiated vaccinations to the elderly, a small percentage of the population. According to Our World in Data, research university of Oxford, only 0.6% of the population has received two doses of the vaccine.

“I saw a positive change in the community,” said Castillo. “People who did not have much were trying to help others. My family and I were able to help, all thanks to God.”

– Diana Vasquez
Photo: Franklin Castillo

The Northern Triangle
Latin America is in a vicious circle of crime, poverty and corruption. High crime rates thwart economic opportunities and crime rates push people into poverty, all cumulating into corrupt leaders who use the pain for their power and self-interest. Nevertheless, nowhere is crime more prevalent than in the Northern Triangle.

The Northern Triangle is region in Central America that includes Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. It has experienced the worst problems such as poor economic growth, rampant gang violence and political corruption. This three-prong nightmare has fueled an estimated 265,000 people toward the Southern U.S. Border and will continue to grow into the foreseeable future. While some do attempt to find safety in Europe and elsewhere in South America, others take the risk and traverse their way to the U.S-Mexico border, where they risk entering the country illegally. Others surrender to U.S. border patrol and seek asylum. However, it is unlikely that they will receive asylum. On average, only 13% of individuals receive asylum and experience integration into the United States.

Gang Corruption

In 2017, a survey asked the people in El Salvador, “who runs the country?” About 42% of respondents said “Delincuencia/Maras.” For non-Spanish speakers, this translates to gangs, like MS-13.

These answers have visible ramifications that strike at the core of the government. Governments in the Northern Triangle are weak, and the people know this; the gangs know this. People understand the country’s power lies in gangs’ hands, not in the government’s.

For example, in 2012, the Salvadorian government agreed to sign a truce with the criminal organizations to address skyrocketing homicide rates. The profoundly unpopular legislation did lower the homicide rate but the people still had to continue to pay gangs. Tactics like homicide and racketeering are not the only ways these organizations flex their might.

Throughout the Northern Triangle, gangs rely on drug and human trafficking, money laundering, kidnapping and theft to export their criminal enterprise well beyond the Northern Triangle. Issues in the Northern Triangle are not just an inter-state problem but also a problem for the entire Western Hemisphere.

Governance Problem

Northern Triangle nations have made some progress when it comes to corruption. But the total damage that such corruption caused is still in the billions: $13 billion to be precise.

In 2006, Guatemala successfully combated corruption when it appealed to the U.N., which established the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG). This independent body investigates the infiltration of criminal groups within state institutions. Such an organization resulted in the conviction of hundreds of officials and reduced the homicide rate.

In El Salvador, in 2019, the country created its own independent body called Commission against Corruption and Impunity in El Salvador (CITIES), which could yield the same results as CICIG. Over in Honduras, the hopes of establishing such independent oversight do not seem to be gaining the same traction. After the resignation of President Lobo Sosa in 2013, an investigation into the Honduran Institute of Social Security revealed a scandal that cost the people over $200 million. It also implicated President Orlando Hernández, who admitted to unknowingly using some of the money to fund his presidential campaign.

Unlike Guatemala and El Salvador, the Honduras legislature rejected a proposal to create its own CICI. Instead, it created Support the Fight against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras (MACCIH). Although intended to fight corruption, it does not have the same autonomy as CICIG and CITIES. MACCIH is not autonomous and cannot investigate Honduran Public Ministry. Instead, it relies heavily on its relationship with the Attorney General and Congress, which could shield the people committing corruption. This inability to pass support for CICIH instead of settling for MACCIH might be signaling that the $200 million white-collar crime is the beginning of a giant iceberg.

A Path Forward

In Washington DC, support exists for CICIH and CITIES. Congresswoman Norma Torres and others released a statement in 2019 supporting these institutions. Reinstating the CICIG and implementing the same structure in CICIH and CITIES would stop corruption. This would allow the state to use its monopoly on violence to fight crime and allow positive economic growth. In April 2021, the State Department announced $740,740 in available funding for “competition for organizations interested in submitting applications for projects that empower civil society to combat corruption and protect human rights.”

– Diego Romero
Photo: Flickr

Tropical storm EtaIn November 2020, more than 250 people from Central American countries were either missing or dead due to the tropical storm Eta. Floods and landslides displaced many vulnerable populations. The impoverished lost their shelter, food and even loved ones. However, the storm triggered people into action and several non-governmental organizations (NGOs) stepped up to help Honduras, which led to the “Operación Eta” coalition.

How Does Operación Eta Work?

The coalition’s main goal is to raise funds to support the families affected by tropical storm Eta. Funding comes from crowdsourcing. Thus, Operación Eta has established a GoFundMe profile. Behind the profile, a group of nonprofit organizations has come together. In addition, Honduran college students aiming to create social change in their country established initiatives to counteract poverty, hunger and social inequality during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, tropical storm Eta has united all these groups in one collective effort to help the nation recover. Among other nonprofits, Operación Frijol and Abrazos de Plata work within Operación Eta.

Nonprofits Working Under Operación Eta

    1. Operación Frijol: Frijol means bean, which is the primary source of nutrients for Honduran families. College students founded the project during the first months of the COVID-19 health crisis. “A group of friends from school, who were studying abroad, wanted to help their country. When they found out about the initiative, they donated money. Now we reach 110 volunteers,” Hugo Caballero, member of Operación Frijol told The Borgen Project. Donations enabled the organization to provide basic food baskets for people suffering the economic consequences of the pandemic. Since tropical storm Eta struck Honduras, Operación Frijol has transformed its platform into a donation site for victims of the disaster. The organization collected food, water, lanterns, clothes, blankets, masks and personal hygiene products to distribute. Moreover, it broadcasted the location of shelters. “There are children, pregnant women and disabled people among the victims,” Caballero said.
    2. Abrazos de Plata: Operación Frijol joined forces with several NGOs in order to create a stronger impact. One of them is Abrazos de Plata. The organization’s name means silver hugs. It describes itself as a “group of young people whose mission is to support elders living in nursing homes.” Abandoned elders, left to their own devices, caught the NGO members’ attention. The members reacted by supporting these elders in order to prevent social inequality and conditions stemming from poor hygiene and malnutrition. Since the Honduran president declared a state of emergency due to the storm, the project focuses on gathering donations and setting up shelters for those who have lost most of their belongings. Abrazos de Plata collected donations and provided supplies. “We are amazed by the effective response of our Honduran brothers, everyone donates what they can,” Rocío Pavón, a medical student volunteer told The Borgen Project.

Looking Ahead

Tropical storm Eta has wrecked homes and disrupted lives. However, this tragic natural disaster has united the Honduran people while inspiring people’s generosity and encouraging others to stand up in solidarity. The natural hazard has triggered college students into action, bringing hope to those struggling amid the consequences of the disaster.

Paola Arriaza Avilés
Photo: Pixabay