SEATTLE — Honduras is one of the poorest countries in Latin America and has one of the highest murder rates in the world. The economy in Honduras is expected to grow by 3.5 percent in 2017, although it is not enough to improve the living standard for 66 percent of the population living below the line of poverty. In extremely poor areas Hondurans are living on less than $2 per day. However, studies have found social programs can potentially reduce poverty and ease the cost of living in Honduras.
Among the many social programs available to alleviate the cost of living in poor economies is Compassion International, offering programs to children in need around the globe. The long-term child sponsorship program through Compassion International provides wraparound services to children living in poverty and promotes life-changing relationships during the most vital years of life. Cheri Hemlinger from Iuka, Mississippi became involved with the sponsorship program in 1994 and started sponsoring 10-year-old Jonathon, from Aldea Santiago, Pimienta Honduras in 2012.
Jonathon lives in a small community with his parents and older sister. Typical to most homes in Honduras, Jonathon’s family resides in a home constructed of dirt floors, wood walls and a tin roof. Most adults are unemployed but some work as day laborers, farmers in domestic services or in factories. They earn the equivalent of $157 per month. The community needs high schools, employment opportunities, parks and potable water.
The World Bank emphasizes the importance of improving education quality and expanding sources of rural income in Honduras. More than half of the population lives in poverty and per capita income is one of the lowest in the region. Poverty rates are higher among rural and indigenous people. Reducing Honduras’ persistent high poverty rates depends, in part, on further improvements in educational attainment. Fortunately, Jonathon’s mother had a job as a tutor at a local Child Development Center.
Compassion works through local Child Development Centers in poor areas to provide sponsored children, like Jonathon, with education, nutritional meals, healthcare, activities, tutoring, school supplies, clothing, vocational training and field trips. It also provides education and counseling for the children’s parent or guardian.
Hemlinger said, “I continue to stay involved because I can definitely see the positive impact my sponsorship is having in the life of Jonathon and his family.”
With low administration costs, nearly 85 percent of funds sent from sponsors go directly to the child. Hemlinger sends a letter with words of encouragement to Jonathon and a check for $38 to the Development Center each month for cost of living in Honduras. In return, she is informed about Jonathon’s progress through hand written letters that are translated into English. Hemlinger said Jonathon writes to her about how he is doing in school, activities he is participating in, his health, family life and his hopes and dreams of becoming a veterinarian.
Hemlinger said, “It becomes very real when you get a letter describing what they were able to purchase with the money you send. To us, chickens, goats, water, indoor plumbing, a roof on our house, new clothes and birthday presents don’t seem like much.”
She explained, “This family is forever grateful that someone, they don’t even know, would care enough to make sure that they have not only the basics, but a little money for the ‘extras’ that they could normally only dream about.”
The modest economic growth over the past five years has not improved the quality of life and cost of living in Honduras. And with public debt on the verge of rising, the International Monetary Fund set a three-year arrangement in place in 2014 intended to ease Honduras’s poor fiscal position. In the meantime, underprivileged Hondurans are provided basic necessities through social programs like Compassion International’s holistic approach.
– Jennifer Mcallister