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Hello — Hola — Labas!

Posted by on Aug 12, 2019
Hello — Hola — Labas!

Be­ing greet­ed by a bunch of fam­i­ly mem­bers when you ar­rive in the air­port af­ter a few days out­side the coun­try be­fore squeez­ing every­body into the back of a pick­up head­ing home – does that sound fa­mil­iar to you? Maybe if you are Hon­duran. But not to Lithuan­ian Ieva Aukš­tuolytė. She has had an ex­pe­ri­ence for life vis­it­ing Hon­duras. Not only was she amazed by the coun­try and its cus­toms, but she was also very ex­cit­ed to meet Youth for Hon­duras.

Ear­li­er this year Ieva, who is a psy­chol­o­gist, ar­rived in Hon­duras with the Lithuan­ian SURF-team, Youth for Hon­duras’ part­ners, to ac­com­plish some of our com­mon goals. She made work­shops for our youth, coun­selled some of them in­di­vid­u­al­ly on job in­ter­views, and ex­pe­ri­enced what life is like for youth in this part of the world.

Here we share some of her thoughts on her trav­el which had job shad­ow­ing as its pur­pose. 


Hola, me llamo Ieva

I con­sid­er my­self an im­pa­tient trav­el­ing soul, so I was su­per ex­it­ed when I was cho­sen to go to Hon­duras with SURF. My first days in Hon­duras were amaz­ing. A new cul­ture, new ex­pe­ri­ences, new food — and not to for­get new, love­ly peo­ple.

When I first en­tered YFH, I was greet­ed by five 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 of my stay. Hav­ing in mind their type of job and the youth they worked with, I con­sid­er them the most ded­i­cat­ed and pas­sion­ate peo­ple I’ve ever met! I couldn’t be­lieve how much en­er­gy each of them puts into their dai­ly tasks. They were work­ing very hard but al­ways had a smile on their faces.

Sur­pris­ing for me was that be­fore or af­ter a meet­ing and the meals they were pray­ing. They were thank­ful for every­thing they had. That was some­thing new for me.

Dur­ing my first days, I was meet­ing new peo­ple all the time: col­leagues from the or­ga­ni­za­tion and young peo­ple who were par­tic­i­pat­ing in the tran­si­tion pro­gram. 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 and di­alects than in Spain where I lived be­fore com­ing to Hon­duras. I had to break my tongue which was a good ex­er­cise for me since I, lat­er, had to con­duct work­shops for the youth in Span­ish. Most of them didn‘t speak Eng­lish.

The main goal of my job shad­ow­ing in Hon­duras was to ed­u­cate young peo­ple and teach them on spe­cif­ic top­ics re­lat­ed to psy­chol­o­gy and their ca­reers. I have a back­ground in psy­chol­o­gy and Hu­man Re­sources which al­lowed me to pre­pare work­shops for the youth about emo­tions, emo­tion­al in­tel­li­gence, self-es­teem, stress, stress man­age­ment, crit­i­cal think­ing, and job pos­si­bil­i­ties.


Meeting the youth from YFH

I dis­cov­ered that the youth in Youth for Hon­duras, who are all com­ing from dif­fer­ent or­phan­ages (which the or­ga­ni­za­tion rather calls children‘s homes as this doesn‘t sound too harsh), don’t have much con­fi­dence, es­pe­cial­ly the young women. They are kind but they are also scared be­cause most of them haven’t been taught how to live out­side their or­phan­age, how to be self-con­fi­dent, how to pre­pare food, how to trav­el, or how to be in­de­pen­dent. Every youth in YFH has his or her own sto­ry, and most of them are trag­ic be­cause of their tough child­hoods.

Talk­ing about the young women, many women in Hon­duras face chal­lenges. One re­al­ly strange thing for me was the ten­den­cy of dis­crim­i­na­tion of women and their sep­a­ra­tion from so­ci­ety. It was re­al­ly hard to ac­cept the fact that machis­mo is so preva­lent in the Hon­duran cul­ture. An ex­am­ple of machis­mo is when men don’t let women take high­er po­si­tions in com­pa­nies or when women are not seen as equal part­ners. The worst part was the sto­ries from women who are afraid to leave their hous­es be­cause of pos­si­ble abuse­ment.


Jobs in Honduras

A big prob­lem in Hon­duras is the low em­ploy­ment rate. It is dif­fi­cult to find and get a job, es­pe­cial­ly for youth whom the com­pa­nies are dis­crim­i­nat­ing against. When youth fin­ish school, com­pa­nies are ask­ing for skills they don’t have yet be­cause they still haven’t had their first job ex­pe­ri­ence. Even af­ter grad­u­at­ing from uni­ver­si­ties, young peo­ple are strug­gling to find a job. Some still search for their first job a few years af­ter ter­mi­na­tion.

Un­em­ploy­ment rates in the coun­try are also very high. Fur­ther­more, some young peo­ple lack mo­ti­va­tion to earn mon­ey be­cause they haven’t seen this ex­am­ple in their own fam­i­lies. They haven’t been around good role mod­els who could teach them to be ready to live an in­de­pen­dent life.

This is in­deed the case for youth who have been liv­ing in or­phan­ages, too. That is why one of my mis­sions was to in­spire the youth in Youth for Hon­duras and give them ad­vice on how to find a job. Most of the peo­ple who came to my sem­i­nar had nev­er been to a job in­ter­view, so the in­for­ma­tion was very rel­e­vant to them.


My seminars

In my first class, there were 16 young peo­ple who were lis­ten­ing and shar­ing their ideas. In my sec­onds sem­i­nar, two girls came who al­ready knew what they want­ed to do in their lives. One want­ed to be­come a children’s psy­chol­o­gist, and the oth­er one both want­ed to work as a graph­ic de­sign­er and with an NGO like Youth for Hon­duras. 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 in the process of get­ting there.

It was sur­pris­ing to me that most of the par­tic­i­pants had lit­tle in­sight in their own skills and ex­pec­ta­tions for their lives. For many years these young peo­ple were liv­ing in or­phan­ages, so they didn’t face the re­al­i­ty out­side those four walls and, as a con­se­quence, they don’t know much about the pos­si­bil­i­ties they have to choose from. There was a ten­den­cy that those youth want­ed po­si­tions that adults around them have: So­cial work­ers, psy­chol­o­gists, teach­ers, nurs­es, po­lice­men, sell­ing agents, etc. I also spoke with young­sters who know Amer­i­cans and, there­fore, want­ed to study for­eign lan­guages.

But those peo­ple, who have played a sig­nif­i­cant role in a young person’s life, don’t nec­es­sar­i­ly hold po­si­tions that match the skills or iden­ti­ty of the young­ster. So, that youth needs to search fur­ther to find his or her ca­reer.


Strategical thinking

I ex­pe­ri­enced that some youth in Youth for Hon­duras had lit­tle in­sight in their ac­tu­al ca­pa­bil­i­ties, so I pre­pared a list of skills which I pre­sent­ed for them to iden­ti­fy what their strengths and weak­ness­es are. This was meant as a tool to open their minds for oth­er goals and a plan B or C.

I re­al­ized that the youth didn´t think much about the day to­mor­row or the pos­si­bil­i­ty of fail­ing an exam three times (in Hon­duras this means that you don’t have any more chances of pass­ing that exam). But some­times this hap­pens and, there­fore, the young peo­ple must be pre­pared – al­though it is un­pleas­ant to think about what prob­lems might oc­cur ahead.

A few days lat­er, I had my first con­sul­ta­tion with a young man who was go­ing to a job in­ter­view. We spoke about what he could do and say dur­ing the in­ter­view, what he could ex­pect from the job, and about his salary ex­pec­ta­tions. Last­ly, I gave him a few tips on what he was sup­posed to ask the em­ploy­ers dur­ing his job in­ter­view.



Youth, who grew up alone, with­out fam­i­lies, in or­phan­ages, or with par­ents who are ab­sent in one way or an­oth­er, have a hard time ex­press­ing their emo­tions. Fur­ther­more, they don’t know why it is im­por­tant to un­der­stand or to let them­selves feel emo­tions.

I spoke with youth in YFH about what is hap­pen­ing when we ex­pe­ri­ence one emo­tion or an­oth­er. They knew and un­der­stood the ba­sics, but the main prob­lem is that they are hid­ing their emo­tions, es­pe­cial­ly those that are re­al­ly dif­fi­cult to deal with. A low self-es­teem doesn’t help on the sit­u­a­tion. It can hap­pen that the youth just ex­plode at one par­tic­u­lar­ly in­signif­i­cant mo­ment be­cause of all their pent-up emo­tions.

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 feel stronger. They didn’t think that they were good, beau­ti­ful, or had strong traits. I gave them a task to write at least 20 good things about them­selves and, then, to write many good things about oth­er peo­ple in the room. Then, we com­pared their work to see if it was the same or not. Some­times we don’t no­tice nice, beau­ti­ful, or strong things about our­selves. For this, we must hear oth­er people’s opin­ions.


Stress management

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

So, 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 the rent, how to earn mon­ey, and how to make de­ci­sions.

They can eas­i­ly be stressed be­cause of this shift in their lives. 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 some of the most im­por­tant things for young in­di­vid­u­als who are about to reach adult­hood. In my sem­i­nars I was teach­ing the youth tech­niques on how to re­duce stress, how to spot it, cope with it, and get rid of it.


Selection camp

I would like to fin­ish with one of the most mem­o­rable ex­pe­ri­ences for me. That was the re­cruit­ment or se­lec­tion process of youth. One week­end the whole team and many young peo­ple from dif­fer­ent or­phan­ages went to a camp. We or­ga­nized many dif­fer­ent ac­tiv­i­ties, games, sports, etc. The YFH team want­ed to ob­serve how the youth be­haved in a new en­vi­ron­ment, how they in­ter­act­ed with new peo­ple, and if they took re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and were in­ter­est­ed in gen­er­al. Then, YFH would de­cide who to in­vite for their pro­gram.

The youth had to do their best and show good be­hav­iour. They had many dif­fer­ent tasks while work­ing and in­ter­act­ing in teams. There were team build­ing ac­tiv­i­ties that re­quired com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills and be­ing able to work un­der pres­sure. Also, the youth were asked to show their tal­ents and cre­ativ­i­ty.

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 of bul­ly­ing, anger, abuse, and not feel­ing ac­cept­ed.

The most mem­o­rable part was the evening. They all re­ceived a can­dle with a let­ter and went 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 trust in God, who is al­ways with them. They re­ceived a mes­sage in the dark­ness, full of lit of can­dles. Some shared 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 and are will­ing to help them. There was a pow­er of kind­ness and warmth in that cir­cle. It is hard to ex­press it in words but I do be­lieve that the youth will re­mem­ber that mo­ment for the rest of their lives. I know I will.


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, and 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. I am still so grate­ful for this op­por­tu­ni­ty!