Gracias a Dios is the furthermost eastern department in Honduras. The area is only accessible by boat and plane, and in recent years this poverty-stricken region has been overrun by drug trafficking operations. According to reports from the Department of State some 80-90% of cocaine bound for the US passes through Honduras, mainly through this department. As a result of the rampant drug trafficking, substance abuse, crime, and prostitution have become pervasive problems in the communities. Recent reports cite the proportional use of crack and cocaine among males aged 15-30 to be as high 50%, and the remoteness of the region makes it difficult for military or police to enforce rule of law. The lack of security force presence, extreme poverty, and a poor educational system all contribute to the vulnerabilities among youth that malign actors exploit.
Recently a US team began working in the region. Given that the exploitation begins with such young boys and girls the team wanted to find a way to have an impact on the youth. They identified an educational program that had been developed by the central Honduran government called “Guardianes de la Patria” (Guardian’s of the Homeland). To be implemented by the teams Honduran military partners, the 9-month program is designed for at-risk youth who are identified by their local teachers. It will involve numerous classes and activities designed to achieve multiple objectives: strengthening physical and mental development, reinforcing principals and ethical moral values, improving educational performance, develop a culture of service and national pride, and preventing juvenile delinquency, drug abuse, and affiliation with drug trafficking organizations. Finally, the program seeks to strengthen familial ties and unity within the community, all principles that help to insulate youth from becoming vulnerable to malign influence.
The Government of Honduras designed the program with the intent that it be sponsored by local businesses and leaders. Because of the extreme poverty of the region the program was left unfunded in the Gracias a Dios department. Through your support Spirit of America will be able to provide the necessary supplies and logistical costs to implement this very important program for up to 300 at-risk youth.