Breaking the Cycle – Children International’s Youth Programs Help Young People Avoid Gangs and Violence and Prepare for a Self-Sufficient Future

Breaking the Cycle – Children International’s Youth Programs Help Young People Avoid Gangs and Violence and Prepare for a Self-Sufficient Future

Multimedia from this Release

Joining CI’s Youth Health Corps has helped these teens learn about the risks and consequences of their choices. ©2014 Children International

Jaqueline says CI’s youth programs help teens learn to value themselves and others. ©2014 Children International

Our youth programs offer positive alternatives to gang culture, such as job training for these young Dominicans. ©2014 Children International

Thursday, April 24, 2014 - 9:10am

CAMPAIGN: Stories From the Field

CONTENT: Article

Breaking the Cycle

By Garrett Kenyon

Honduras is the first stop for nearly 80 percent of the cocaine transported to the United States from South America, making San Pedro Sula ground zero for the war on drugs. For two years running, the city has had the highest murder rate in the world. Heavily armed troops patrol the streets, but even the military’s intervention has failed to make a dent in the burgeoning drug trade.

The gangs control nearly every aspect of life in the barrios and aggressively recruit new members. In neighborhoods where opportunities are scarce or nonexistent, gangs can be a powerful temptation. They offer the illusion of authority and excitement, a sense of belonging and support. For some, joining a gang may seem like the only way to keep from being victimized.

The impact violence has on the lives of poor youth is too big to be ignored. Even for those who haven’t been directly victimized, living in the shadow of violence takes a heavy mental and emotional toll.

Against the odds

“No peace.” That’s how 19-year-old Jaqueline describes life in her barrio. “You can’t just walk around the community … you don’t know when something will happen.”

A few years ago, Jaqueline was on a public bus that was attacked by a gang in broad daylight. She and her fellow passengers escaped with a few cuts and bruises. Other bus riders haven’t been so lucky.

Becoming active in CI’s youth programs helped Jaqueline work through the bad memories of this incident. Last year, she earned a two-year degree in teaching, and now she’s studying at a university. She says her participation helped her remain positive despite the negativity of her surroundings.

“The program helps us value ourselves as we are, gives us self-esteem and teaches us to value the people around us,” Jacqueline explains. “We also learn about our rights and responsibilities,” she adds, a lesson she’s putting into practice by helping younger kids achieve success. “I currently offer tutoring to children in first, second and third grade,” she says.

A better path to a successful future

“The CI support network of community centers, youth programs and reliable mentors offers a more positive alternative,” says Natalie Foxworthy, CI’s program officer for youth development and education. “They help youth develop the essential life skills they need to avoid the negative influences they confront each day.

“Youth also learn about the consequences of risky behaviors and how to avoid them, how to plan for a more positive future and how to help their peers who may already be involved in those negative activities.”

Groups like the Youth Health Corps (YHC) and Youth Councils give young people a way to channel their energy back into their communities. Aflatoun, a social and financial education program, teaches them to be responsible with money, while the Sports for Development program teaches conflict resolution and teamwork.

Additional programs like Into Employment and HOPE scholarships help youth make the successful transition into happy, productive adults.

Jaqueline is just one of thousands of young people all over the world who’ve chosen a better way of life with the help of a CI youth program. “They helped me so much,” she concludes. “I wouldn’t be where I am without them.”

Photos and reporting assistance by Jesús Almendárez.

This article is also available on the eNews Section of our website.

About Children International

Children International prepares children and youth to escape the traps of poverty by supporting their critical needs, building resilience, and engaging them in transformative activities. Children International accomplishes this by providing crucial benefits and compassionate care through easily accessible, modern community centers. Children International’s presence, programs and supporters have a positive impact on children, youth, families and communities; provide protection; encourage self-sufficiency; and serve as catalysts for change.

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Brittany Gelbach
+1 (816) 943-3832