Risking Everything to Offer Youth in Honduras a Better Future

Ana, whose last name and individual photo have been withheld for her protection, has been working with A Ganar since October 2011. "It was the first program in Honduras that used sports to change lives," Ana said, explaining what motivated her to join A Ganar. The program's emphasis on teaching workforce development skills, values, and responsibility to youth was a mission Ana was eager to be a part of. It wasn't an easy decision though: the A Ganar project site Ana coordinates, San Pedro Sula, Honduras, has been labeled "the murder capital of the world."

Suffering a homicide rate of 187 per 100,000 people, rival gangs rule the city. Street violence, business extortion, drug trafficking and assaults on public transportation grip the communities Ana works in. As gangs battle for territory, residents are caught in the middle and forced to pay "war taxes" in order to stay. Many have been unable to afford the tax, so families have abandoned their homes and businesses have closed.

During her weekly site visits into the San Pedro Sula neighborhoods of Chamelecón and Rivera Hernandez, Ana's car—clearly labeled to show she is part of a humanitarian organization—must roll down the windows so she and her colleagues are not confused for rival gang members. Ana and her team must speak with caution when discussing gang violence with the youth, as some of the A Ganar participants have familial ties to gang members.

Her biggest fear is that she would end up in the wrong place at the wrong time when fights between rival gangs or gang members and the police break out.

Despite the violence and the tremendous risk Ana encounters daily, however, she's chosen to stay. Why? "To really understand the problem, you must be close to it," Ana said. "I'm committed to A Ganar and I believe in its power to transform the lives of young people."

The impact of Ana's steadfast determination to stay and help is significant. Since the program's initiation in 2012, 614 youth have participated in A Ganar training in Honduras. Many of these have graduated, and have gone on to become successful teachers, technicians, business managers, university students and entrepreneurs. Earlier this year, A Ganar youth, under Ana's guidance, created an "Espacio Seguro"("Safe Space") in Chamelecón. As part of the community service component of A Ganar, youth cleaned up a section of their neighborhood, so that residents could have a safe space to walk at night.

Ana embodies the spirit of humanitarianism, and her tireless and selfless motivation to help youth build a better future is an inspiration to us all.