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2011-08-09

Honduras: Faith, patience rescuing children from gangs

By René Novoa for Infosurhoy.com—09/08/2011

Isaac Dubón is dedicated to rescuing adolescents and children from gangs after he left Mara Salvatrucha a decade ago.

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Isaac Dubón on being in a gang: “What I can tell you is that my life was destroyed. I lived submerged in an environment of drugs, violence and death. They were looking to kill me.” (René Novoa for Infosurhoy.com)

Isaac Dubón on being in a gang: “What I can tell you is that my life was destroyed. I lived submerged in an environment of drugs, violence and death. They were looking to kill me.” (René Novoa for Infosurhoy.com)

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras – Leaving a gang is a complex process, but it is not impossible – just ask Isaac Dubón.

“When I was 9 years old, I began hanging out with members of the Mara Salvatrucha. By the time I was 11, I was a member,” said Dubón, 28. “You have to do everything they ask you to do in a gang, you live for the gang.”

Dubón said growing up in a gang was traumatic.

“What I can tell you is that my life was destroyed,” he said. “I lived submerged in an environment of drugs, violence and death. They were looking to kill me.”

He said there had to be more to life than being in a gang.

“My life went on amid [flying] bullets,” he said. “I wanted to leave [the gang] on my own, but I couldn’t. When I was 18, God sent some people to take me to the Proyecto Victoria, where I started rehabilitation 10 years ago [toward the end of 2000]. I was in rehab for eight months, but I went back to San Pedro [Sula] and got back into drugs. However, a few weeks later I decided to go back because I wanted a new life.”

Dubón is from a broken family. He was born in San Pedro Sula, 244 kilometers (151 miles) north of the capital and the third-most violent city in the world, according to the 2010 ranking by the Citizen Council on Public Safety and Penal Justice, headquartered in Mexico.

34 years rescuing children

The Proyecto Victoria is located in the village of Cepate, in the community of Cofradía, about 25 kilometers (15 miles) north of the nation’s capital of Tegucigalpa, on the old highway that goes to the department of Olancho. It was founded in 1977 by Cuban-American pastor Mario Fumero.

Rosa Amalia Aguilera, director of Proyecto Victoria, said “entry into the program is voluntary and the process takes from six months to a year. We attend to 100 people in this locale and 50 in San Pedro Sula.”

Aguilera said the families of the youths enrolled in the program pay $81 lempiras (US$4.20) per day for food, “but not everyone can afford to do so, because they are low-income. The ideal budget to work with is $250,000 lempiras (US$13,235) per month. Currently, we run on a deficit because we get $200,000 (US$10,587) per month.”

The Honduran government allocates $40,000 lempiras (US$2,118) to the institution monthly. The rest of the funding comes from donations by churches and individuals who benefitted from the program.

Financial constraints have hindered the organization, which is committed to keeping its doors open to those in need.

“Pastor Fumero had considered the idea [of closing], but when he saw the ripple effect, he realized it had to go on no matter what,” Aguilera said.

And the results show Fumero was right.

Melvin Flores, coordinator of the Proyecto Victoria Prevention program, said “we have one of the highest rehabilitation rates in Latin America: 45% of those who enter the program are reintegrated into society.”

Flores added the participants learn work skills by participating in classes that teach carpentry, computer skills, welding, baking and silk screening.

“The therapy we offer has three phases: detoxification, weaning [off drugs] and social reintegration,” he said.

Dubón said the program works.

“Reintegration is just the beginning because we come from a different world,” he said. “But when we want to be included in society, we discover that the system is different because we are stigmatized for having belonged to a gang. That is when the desire to show yourself you can be someone new starts.”

Violence and drugs divide Honduran society

Dubón said the public stereotypes former gang members.

“Society is hurt,” he said. “The system has been damaged by the violence brought on by the gangs. Parents who lose their children, children who lose their parents, husbands who lose their wives… all these deaths are because of the gangs.”

He has worked for the past nine years as an educator and social coach for the Child Prevention Program at the Instituto Hondureño de la Niñéz y la Familia (IHNFA – Honduran Institute for Children and Families).

“[IHNFA Director] María Suyapa Núñez and I visit jails and marginalized neighborhoods to work on gang and drug addiction prevention,” Dubón said. “In addition, the institution attends to 7,000 children.”

More than 500,000 children nationwide, including 10,000 living in Tegucigalpa, are at risk of joining a gang, according to IHNFA.

There are 3.954 million between the ages of 1 and 19 in Honduras, which represents about 49.1% of the nation’s 8.045 million residents, according to the country’s National Statistics Institute.

Maj. Ramón Martínez Hernández, head of the Community Police Department, said “by 2000, we counted approximately 412 anti-social groups and 36,000 gang members” but added that his organization hasn’t been able to update its data.

The department’s Gang Prevention Unit, established in 1999, has taught 1,913 children and adolescents nationwide about the perils of gang life and using narcotics.

“We don’t have a federal budget, therefore our task is carried out through workshops and training in schools, as well as by permanent patrolling based on reports from the areas with the highest number of incidents, which are Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula,” Martínez Hernández said.

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15 Comments

  1. teresa ferreira xalao 10/02/2011

    I would like to see news from San Pedro Sula, Honduras.

  2. Marco Antonio Caceres 09/30/2011

    Pastor Mario Fumero's actions are excellent, since he has proposed giving a second chance to young people who are on drugs or in gangs. A man like HIM is worthy of admiration, since he gets most of the help from abroad and from people with good hearts and not from this government that donates a pittance to change the lives of these compatriots. Keep it up Pastor Mario, for the GOD of JUSTICE will reward you.

  3. Rafaela Rodriguez 09/27/2011

    Brother Mario Fumero is a great blessing in Honduras. May God bless him richly and abundantly, as well as the public and private institutions and people of good hearts who, one way or another, provide the help needed for the project. I hope the government will give all that money taken from money laundering, and that others would be able to give a tenth (10%) for this project, since there is a large number of people who approach the project asking for help and the project finds itself limited because of a lack of cash.

  4. yoyo 09/26/2011

    how awful

  5. johana 09/26/2011

    The truth is the gangs are a result of bad decisions whether by the government or the people in charge at home and in society.

  6. lorena cornelio 09/25/2011

    CONGRATULATIONS FOR YOUR EFFORTS, WORK AND DEDICATION. THE LORD WILL CONTINUE TO BLESS YOU AND OPEN DOORS FOR YOU. DON'T DESPAIR. THE LORD KNOWS ABOUT YOUR WORK. I KNEW ABOUT THE GANG PROBLEM BUT I HADN'T SEEN THESE FIGURES. THEY ARE REALLY HIGH. I WILL BE PRAYING FOR YOU. WARMEST REGARDS.

  7. CLAUDIA 09/24/2011

    WELL, GOD BLESS YOU. I THINK EDUCATION BEGINS AT HOME. WHETHER OR NOT A FATHER IS PRESENT A MOTHER'S MISSION IS TO CORRECT OUR CHILDREN. THERE SHOULD BE A LAW TO PUT IRRESPONSIBLE FATHERS OR MOTHERS IN JAIL. AND TO THE GOVERNMENT: A PLAN FOR BETTER EDUCATION AND HEALTH WILL CORRECT THE CHILD SO AS NOT TO PUNISH THE ADULT. REGARDS AND BLESSINGS. MAY GOD BLESS HONDURAS.

  8. hugo brown rodas 09/10/2011

    I don't know why we Hondurans always tend to blame the teachers for what goes on with our youth, our problems with our youth come from our homes education starts there, the teacher just gives form and direction to them, why don't we come and say what does private enterprise do in favor of the evil that pounds us day after day I was mugged twice in San Pedro Sula and they and no one cares about that, we've gotten used to living like this I would like to know what the Catholic Church and the Churches of the Harvest and Abundant Life do who make so much money and don't pay part of their income in taxes I don't hear about them going to spread the Word in our country's poor neighborhoods, nor do they go to the jails, what do they do to cooperate in getting those children off the streets, all they care about is tithes and offerings they don't care about loving one's brother. GOD is love, not money.

  9. juan figueroa zelaya 09/06/2011

    Honduras is experiencing a big problem and those who know the most (THE MEDIA, THE PROFESSIONAL CLASS, AND THE TEACHERS WHO ARE PAID HIGH SALARIES TO THROW ROCKS IN THE STREETS) go on saying that if what goes on with Mel was legal or not and we all go on living the same way or worse than before he was president,, they go against those who have a good idea like the founding fathers did in their time (JOSE CECILIO DEL VALLE, FRANCISCO MORAZAN, ETC.). NOWADAYS PEOPLE WITH GOOD IDEALS ARISE WHO WANT TO BE PRESIDENT TO BRING ABOUT EDUCATION PROJECTS THAT DON'T EXIST TODAY IN OUR BELOVED COUNTRY, SOURCES OF WORK BECAUSE WHEN A FOREIGN COMPANY COMES THEY CHARGE EVEN WHAT DOESN'T EXIST AND DECIDE TO TAKE THEIR COMPANIES TO NICARAGUA, EL SALVADOR OR COSTA RICA, EVERYONE IS UP IN ARMS AGAINST HIM BECAUSE HE PROMISES TO UNMASK THE CRIMINALS AND THEY GO AGAINST HIM, SAYING THAT THEY HAVE THE POWER (WHICH IN ANOTHER LANGUAGE IS CALLED RESISTANCE) THE WISE HONDURANS ARE THOSE WHO WORK THE AMERICAN LAND TO LIVE LIKE HUMAN BEINGS AND NOT LIKE SLAVES TO THE HIGHER UPS OR THE PROFESSIONAL CLASS WHO SAY THIS IS A FREE, INDEPENDENT AND SOVEREIGN COUNTRY, HA HA HA HA MAY GOD BLESS HONDURAS AND ALLOW SALVADOR NASRALLA TO BECOME SOMETHING "ALTHOUGH I DON'T BELIEVE HE WILL BECAUSE THE MOST IMPORTANT ONE OF ALL TIMES IS CALLED RAFAEL LEONARDO CALLEJAS" HA HA HA HA HA

  10. Oneida Meriño 09/03/2011

    Nothing is impossible for God, and for men and women of good will; Young people need to learn that all drugs do is destroy them, and gangs even moreso, parents should know the damage they do to their children when they abandon them, when they don't give them the love and support that their children need, the Bible tells us that the whole world is besot with evil and I believe it. Isaac I congratulate you for deciding to leave that evil world. May God bless all the staff at the Proyecto Victoria, may God allow the governments and the rich to cross their hearts, so they may help in this good work. GOD BLESSES THE CHEERFUL GIVER.

  11. elsa recarte 08/28/2011

    I suggest you show a map that includes all the ethnic groups in Honduras

  12. Raul Chajtur C 08/23/2011

    The inability of our authorities to deal with the gang problem is incredible. If the state were to allot 2% of the national budget to the gang problem it would be resolved in less than a decade. I hope the bowl will be used to start a rehabilitation program, there are people trained to run a project like this, Mario Fumero, Armando Mesa, etc.

  13. marilyn 08/22/2011

    Wow this is great. Congratulations from Intibuca, in La Esperanza

  14. BALMORE RODRIGUEZ 08/22/2011

    Good job! They should pass a law forcing big business to support a member of this foundation as part of their taxes, since it benefits all of us when a city is safe. It would bring more tourism money in for the economy. I congratulate you. THE VICTORY IS GOD'S, YOURS IS THE DESIRE TO HELP HIM. AMEN

  15. juan miguel sanchez moreno 08/17/2011

    I loved this publication, this shows once again, that there are good-willed people, to help others leave that world, with no end, and I loved reading the story about the young man. And it has been proved that once more God's divine power is real when each human being is willing to change. Receive brotherly regards from Costa Rica Esparza, and regards to the foundation that is dedicated to helping many young people who are willing in their lives to get out of that world that is so dark. And later they will receive a reward from GOD.

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