The Benefactors of Our Program
Upon entering an assembly, the event at which Adelante’s loan recipients gather for educational purposes, I immediately notice the loan recipient’s children, who accompany their mothers to this communal event. They look too innocent to be carrying the weight of poverty on their shoulders. Poverty, however, doesn’t discriminate and anyone can be victimized by it. I look at them, and I wonder: Did this child eat breakfast? Does she know how to read? Why is she here and not in school? Do they even have a school in this community?
Seeing such realities in person made me wonder what the actual situation of these children was in terms of development indicators, such as: Average schooling years, infant mortality rate, access to health services, etc. The information I found indicated what I already assumed to be true. The only difference was that now I had the actual statistics from a reliable source to back my assumptions. The reality of most children in Honduras is truly sad. Although the government, international organizations, and non-profit organizations have made progress in alleviating the situation of more than two thirds of the population that lives below the poverty line, widespread poverty is still the biggest problem in Honduras. The Adelante Foundation is doing its part by helping the women of rural Honduras work their way out of poverty through microloans to start small businesses and indirectly benefiting these women’s children. Other organizations such as UNICEF work directly with the government to improve laws and policies on social spending. There are also many non-profit organizations that work with the children directly. Despite the work done by all these organizations and the improvements that have been achieved, some issues persist and are even worsening.
Illiteracy is one of the issues that continues to haunt children. In Honduras, something as basic and essential as receiving an education is a huge challenge for them. The average number of years of schooling stands at only 4.3 in rural areas and seven in urban areas. The main causes of these low numbers lie
in inadequate teachers’ competencies, scarcity of teaching materials, poor physical learning environments and limited interaction between schools and communities. In rural and indigenous areas, the curricula, materials and teaching methods are not adapted to the cultural context.  Some children do not even get a chance to go to school at all because there are not any schools in their community. Besides not being able to receive an adequate education, these children do not fully enjoy their childhood because they are forced to leave the schools and the playground at an early age and start working to increase their family income. Those that are lucky to find jobs, work. Those that don’t, go to the streets to beg for money.
Another issue a great number of children in Honduras face is the threat of sexual exploitation and trafficking. Sex tourism seems to be one of the only parts of the Honduran economic sectors that is booming. At various times throughout the year, one can find in the local newspapers the usual story of a foreigner found in a hotel room with a number of children. Foreigners, though, are not the only ones that contribute to this horrific danger. Many Hondurans that are involved with gangs and drug trafficking have now become interested in this new line of commerce and have begun to invest in it.
And as if these issues were not enough to deal with, these children do it all on an empty stomach, without receiving the adequate number of daily nutrients or without receiving any sort of medical attention. In recent years, chronic malnutrition has decreased from 38 per cent to 25 per cent. It remains high, however, due to limited availability of food, inadequate nutritional practices and the impact of disease. Over one-third of infants are malnourished. To make matters worse, some 18 per cent of the population has no access to basic health services, 10 per cent of the population lacks access to safe water and one-third of the population lacks access to sanitation. As a result of this, infant, under-five and maternal mortality rates remain stubbornly high.  Infant malnutrition completes the vicious cycle of poverty and underdevelopment, binding together and serving as a direct root cause of all the rest of harsh realities faced by these people.
Sex tourism, child labor exploitation, child trafficking, illiteracy, chronic malnutrition, no access to basic health services, and high infant mortality rates are only some of the issues the Honduran children deal with on a day to day basis. I must make note however, that when I say Honduran children I am excluding, for the purpose of this article and not any type of bias, the children of the middle and upper classes that control with great authority the greater part of the Honduran economy. This information applies only to the children of that bigger group, the faceless mass that accounts for 70% of Honduran population that lives below the poverty line. This leaves no doubt that the work Adelante and similar institutions are doing in Honduras is greatly needed. It is motivating to see that there have been some improvements in social expenditures on behalf of the children and that some numbers, such as children who suffer from chronic malnutrition, have decreased. But there is still much to be done. These children are the future of this country. They are the main benefactors of our efforts. As a Honduran myself, I cannot tolerate to see my compatriots face such arduous struggles. Something must be done, and thankfully much is being done by the Adelante Foundation and other pro-poor organizations to alleviate the strain of extreme poverty. As my personal mission, I seek to do everything within reach to give our nation’s poor a fighting chance, while still offering a route to their own independent realization of a worthwhile life.
 Source: UNICEF’s State of Honduran Children
 Source: UNICEF background information on Honduras
By Marcela Reyes