Eleven youth from across Honduras came together in Tegucigalpa on a Saturday in May for a special meeting. One participant traveled seven hours on three different buses to arrive at the gathering. It was that important.
These eleven young people, ranging from 17-23 years old, all spent time behind bars in juvenile detention. Today, they are committed to a new way of life outside the centers, but it’s a
challenge. “I want to show people that I have changed, but in this society
it’s not easy to be welcomed back. People don’t just forget,” shared Yefry, one of the participants.
Orphan Helpers Success Coaches work with the released youth individually. They help the young men and women in areas such as overcoming obstacles, connecting with a church, finding employment, and pursuing an education.
On this day, the goal was to bring youth together for a full day of prayer, praise, support, and encouragement. During the meeting, youth talked about the challenges of trying to leave behind their old life and reintegrate back into society.
“I don’t usually share about my struggles, but I had so much bottled up,” Angela said through tears. “This meeting was the first time since my release where I could be vulnerable and let it out. I was around people who understood the regret and rejection I feel every day.”
Most young people leaving juvenile detention centers end up right back in the same community. While they resist going back to their old life, they also face difficulties in gaining acceptance and starting a new life. “It’s inspiring to see how hard they are working to accomplish their goals and seek reconciliation in their communities,” observed Andrea Schuitema, Orphan Helpers Director of Programs. “Some in this room were even considered enemies before, but now here they are together, worshiping, encouraging one another and discussing how they can serve their neighbors. This is something that can only be accomplished through the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Success Coaches plan to hold more Academy alumni meetings like this one. They believe this support network will give the youth the sense of belonging they seek. “Through participating in an experience like this, they feel like they are part of a community with identity,” says Regina Luna, Orphan Helpers Aftercare Coordinator in Honduras.
“They feel valued, important, and motivated to be an even better example.”