HELLO – HOLA – LABAS!

YEEEY Super excited! These were my first words when I heard that I will be going to Honduras! I am Ieva – simple, calm but at the same time eager to learn and take on new challenges. I would call myself an impatient, traveling soul, not to mention an animal lover. I first heard about the opportunity to travel to Honduras while I was traveling in Tenerife, a small Spanish speaking island in Atlantic Ocean close to Africa.

Traveling, new cultures, new people, new experiences and new foods are my passions! I spent half of the year living in Tenerife, then I travelled for 6 months in various countries, I was participating in various projects with people from different countries. I am about to become a psychologist, and I have always been interested in human feelings, behaviors and relationships. These were my main interests when I was traveling to Honduras.

FIRST IMPRESSION AND CULTURAL DIFFERENCES

My first impression while landing was – hmmm there are lots of huts here. And the main street is just across from the airport.

Honduras impressed me from the beginning. First, I saw was crowd of people waiting for their relatives at the airport. If you would come to Lithuania you would probably see couple of people waving for their loved ones but in Honduras there were crowds of people – full families consisting of 3-5 kids, grandparents, aunts and uncles. Local Hondurans told me that it is very normal to come with everyone from their family and wait for a person even if they left from city for a week or even just a few days. They are very close, and they have big families. It is very normal for Honduran families to have 8 or 10 kids. One more difference is that Hondurans kiss each other on each cheek when they are greeting each other while most of Europeans just shake hands or give hugs. Another interesting thing for me was to see people who  were driving pickups with people sitting, standing and many times even squeezing into the bed of the truck. I remember asking – is that normal in here? I was surprised to hear that yeah citizens are not very interested in security here so don‘t be scared or surprised, people do it all the time. Later on I noticed that that‘s true, even military and policemen all travel the same way.

One really strange thing for me was the discrimination of women and their separation from society. It was really hard to accept the fact that there is Machismo is so prevelant in this culture. Machismo is when men don’t let women take higher positions in companies; women are not seen as equal partners. The worst part is that women are afraid to leave their houses because they might be abused or killed. It is not recommended to wear short skirts, dresses, shorts and sleeveless t-shirts because you might cause danger not only for yourself but for people who are with you. So now imagine a pale skinned European girl with blond hair and blue eyes coming to one of the most dangerous places in the world for women…

A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE ORGANIZATION

My first days in Honduras was just amazing because I was visiting new places. I was amazed by the beauty of this country and its people.

I went to the organization: Transition to Youth for Honduras. It’s a local NGO which helps young Honduran people who don’t have families or have families but are living poorly so they have to stay in orphanages (but they call it a kids home) because it doesn’t sound too harsh for them. They don’t want to separate children who have and who don’t have families.

Youth in there don’t have too much confidence, especially the girls. They are kind but at the same time scared because most of them haven’t been taught how to live, how to be self-confident, how to prepare food, how to travel, or how to be independent. Every person in TTH has different story, and most of them are tragic because of their tough childhoods.

MY FIRST STEPS IN THIS ORGANIZATION

When I entered organization TTH I was greeted by 5 wonderful people who did their best to welcome me and make me feel secure and comfortable. They were helping, teaching and sharing experiences during the whole period while I was staying there. Regarding their jobs and the children they were caring for, they were the most dedicated and passionate people I’ve ever met! I could not believe my eyes how much energy each of them had! They were working very hard but always had a smile on their faces!

What was surprising for me was that before or after a meeting, and meals they were praying – they were thankful for what they have. It was something new for me. But I was glad, it was new experience for me because I met grateful, thankful, and true people.

During my first days I was meeting new people: colleagues from the organization, young people who were participating in the transition program. Most of them were 17-20 years old.

It was quite a challenge for me because, even though I speak Spanish (not super well but I have never found it difficult to communicate with people), Latin American Spanish is a little bit different, they use different words, accents than in Spain. I had to focus very hard on what they were saying and how I could respond. It was a good time trying to break my tongue so that I could talk to them in their language. Especially because later on I had to conduct workshops for youth only in Spanish, as most of them didn‘t speak in English.

My main goal in this job shadowing was to educate young people and teach them specific psychological topics. My background in psychology allowed me to prepare workshops about emotions – emotional intelligence, self – esteem, stress and stress management, and critical thinking. Also, in last couple of years I’ve been working as a human recourses specialist so I was asked to help youth by presenting information which could help them find a job.

WORKSHOPS

How to find and get a job

Only a few young people speak in English so one of my tasks was to prepare all the information and workshops in Spanish.

One of the main problems in Honduras is low job culture. It is difficult to find and get a job. Youth are being discriminated against because when they finish school, companies are asking for skills which they do not have because they don’t have any experience. Even after graduating from universities young people are struggling to find a job. They can search for a job even a few years after termination. Unemployment rates in this country are also very high and one more thing is that young people have a lack of motivation to earn money, because they haven’t seen this example in their own families, they haven’t been taught that you have to be ready to leave orphanages/homes and live your own life. That is why one of my missions was to inspire youth, to give them advice about how to find a job, where to search for it, what to do before phone call with an interviewer, also bring knowledge about what an employer expects from an employee and what to do or say during a job interview.

Most of the people who came to my seminar have never been to a job interview so for most of them it was very important and relevant information to know. In my first class there were 16 young people who were listening, sharing their ideas and experiences. In my second seminar two girls came who already knew what they wanted to do in their lives. One wanted to become a kids psychologist and the other one wanted to work as a graphic designer, and, also, work with similar NGO’s like the one where she had her program. It was so much easier to communicate with them because these girls had their future plans and I could give them relevant examples of what they could do and say during their job interviews.

What is not surprising at all is that the majority of people still have no idea what they are good at, what they want to do in lives, and what their expectations are. I think this situation is similar around the world with people aged 16-20 or even older. For many years these young people were kept up in orphanages so they do not really know what is outside of those four walls. One of the main problems in orphanages is that people who don‘t know about different possibilities in life. They only choose positions which they see, depending on who their heroes, idols are, or the people who work with them: social workers, psychologist, teachers, etc. Youth think that just because I like the way a person acts with me, shows that I can be the same. But that‘s not true. They do not think about the traits they have.

I spoke with many youngsters and many of them have met Americans so they wanted to study foreign languages, or they wanted to become teachers, nurses, policemen or selling agents. These are the most popular positions. But what is popular in western cultures is tech, marketing, economics, and law; however, these are far from their interest. This is because they have never thought about it and have never met a person who was working in that field or because they didn‘t think or believe that they were capable of studying it.

I prepared list of a skills which I used for youth to identify what their strengths and weaknesses are. A few days later I gave my first consultation to a young man who was going to a job interview. We spoke about what he could do, what kind of jobs could he expect, and what he could say during an interview. We spoke about his education and salary expectations. Lastly, I gave him a few tips on what he was supposed to ask during his job interview.

Emotions

Youth which grew up alone, without families, in orphanages or have parents who can’t provide goods, or have addictions have a hard time expressing their emotions. They don’t know why it is important to understand or to let yourself feel emotions. I spoke with youth about what is happening when we experience one or another emotion.They knew and understood the basics, but the main problem is that they are hiding their emotions, they have so much feelings inside and it is really difficult to deal with it. Most of the time youth just explode at one particularly insignificant moment because of all their pent up emotions.

Some of these kids are not aware of how to act or communicate in different situations. I received questions like: Why do people get angry if I try to speak with them in hip hop manner .Like: ,,Yo, what’s up man?” Some kids don’t have this idea that it’s not appropriate to speak like that in specific environments. They don’t have an idea what it means to be respectful.

One of the most important things for these kids is that they don’t have high self -esteem. They are fighting for a better life but they aren’t thinking about their future, only about today. They don’t care about what might happen tomorrow or in the near future. They live for today. They don’t want to think about if they will have food or money tomorrow.

One of the things I tried to do, was to explain and show why it is important to understand ourselves. Secondly, I tried to inspire them so that they could start to believe in themselves and so that they could just feel stronger. They don’t think that they are good or that they are beautiful or have strong traits/skills. I gave them a task to write at least 20 good things about themselves and then to write many good things about other people and then compare them to see if they were the same or not. Sometimes we can’t notice nice, beautiful or strong things about ourselves. For this, we must hear different people and their opinions.

Stress – stress management

When youth leave orphanages they have lots of stress because they don’t know the world. They have stayed behind closed doors for many years and their teachers are telling what they have to do and when. They are told what time to wake up, when to go to the toilet, when to brush their teeth, when to eat, when to study, and when to go to sleep, amongst other things. They don’t have any opportunity to make their own decisions.

Most of them don’t know how to cook, how to use boiler, or a washing machine because no one taught them. When young people leave orphanages, they have many things to learn. How to be independent, how to take care of themselves, how to catch a bus, how to pay for things, how to travel, how to pay rent, how to earn money so that they could buy some food, and they have to learn how to make decisions.

They feel stress all the time… Most of them don’t have support and they don’t know how to deal with stress. Techniques and having the ability to cope with their emotions are one of the most important things for young individuals who are about to reach adulthood. In my seminars I was teaching them techniques how to reduce stress, how to spot and cope with it and what can they do in order to get rid of it.

Critical thinking

People don’t know how to plan their future or how to make decisions. When they start in the organization, they have to make a decision. They need to make themselves a plan so that they could get help.

They can get help, but they have only one idea in their minds. They have only plan A and nothing else, no plan B or C. They live today. Today is the most important, and what will happen tomorrow doesn’t really matter for the majority of them. For example, they dream about becoming a social worker or pharmacists. These young people don’t have strategical thinking about what might happen in the future. They can’t even think past, what could happen if they don’t pass their next exam.

The system in Honduras works like this: students can try to pass the exam 3 times. It consists of various subjects, depending on field, and where students would like to study in the future. They can apply in 3 different subjects. If they pass, that’s great, if not, then they can try to apply to a different university. The thing is that there are 3 public universities in their city (the program can cover expenses only for 3 universities).

The reality is that there are people who fails all 3 times so their possibilities to get in a university gets lower. They can’t measure/evaluate themselves. They don‘t understand their capabilities.

My task there was to show that you have to look at a situation from different perspectives, you have to be capable of evaluating your strengths and weaknesses. I wanted them to think about more options than one because maybe today you won‘t get an opportunity to study what you want to, but maybe you will later. I also tried to show them that you can also think how another person, who is completely different than you are, would act in similar situation, and to ask yourself questions: why, what, to who will it matter? Why is it important for me? How can it be different? How can I make a plan for myself with the various opportunities presented?

SELECTION CAMP

One of the most memorable experiences for me was the recruitment/selection process of youth. One weekend we, with all team and many kids from different orphanages, went to a camp where my team was planning to select kids who will be participating in their program. They organized many different activities, games, sports, etc. My team wanted to see how kids from different backgrounds will behave in a new environment, how they will interact with new people, will they take responsibilities, will they support team members, will they be willing to help, and will they be interested in general. TTH had to decide who will be able to live independently, who will take ownership for themselves, and who has future vision about what they are planning to do and how.

The kids had to do their best, they had to act, and to be on their best behaviour in different situations with others. They had many different tasks while working in teams. They spent two days together interacting, eating, sleeping all together. There were team building activities that required teamwork, communication and being able to work under pressure. Also, the kids were asked to show their talents and creativity. Most of them succeeded.

The most memorable part was the evening. They all received a candle with a letter and they had to go outside in the darkness to stand in a circle and to read it. The letters were motivation for them to move forward so that they could trust themselves and they could trust in God, who is always with them. They received a message in the darkness, full of lit of candles and there were people who were telling their motivational stories about how they opened their hearts to God. This was a powerful moment because they were singing, they were listening, they were opening their hearts to faith and to their new beginning. This moment showed them that there are people who care about them, that they can trust someone, and that there are people willing to help them. There was a power of kindness and warmth in that circle. It is hard to express that in words but I do believe that these kids will remember this moment for the rest of their lives. I know I will.

There I saw how the kids were communicating. I spoke with these kids and they were telling me what they would like to do in their lives, they were telling me short stories about themselves. Some of these kids could speak English but the rest just Spanish.

I felt devastated after meeting all of them. I saw how much love, support and education they needed… It was so sad to see how stressed and nervous some of them were. They couldn’t even say a word without many applauses and encouragement. They were so shy and so scared because of their previous experiences because of the bullying, anger, abuse they had experience while growing up. Most of them never felt accepted at home, orphanages or between their peers.

Thank You – Gracias – Ačiū !

Participating in this project was interesting! It was new experience and it definitely wasn’t scary for me to leave Europe. My friends and family were all saying, “I hope you make it back from Central America because it is the most dangerous part of the world.” I took it as an adventure! And it was amazing! Amazing in all possible ways! I met amazing people, I found out more about the culture and differences, which wasn’t easy to accept at the beginning. I ate the best dishes and best fruits in the world, and I saw beautiful nature.

Everything was new but it was so warm there… I am not talking about the weather, I am talking about people who are so true, so generous and so loving and I am still so grateful for this opportunity!


See You Soon – Hasta Pronto – Iki greito!

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