Honduran youth leaders seek to discourage emigration

A letter in a lost wallet that Absalón Cálix found on a street in his hometown of San Pedro Sula, Honduras, brought home to Cálix how much is at stake when families live in countries apart.

The poignant letter was from a father who had emigrated to the United States and wrote to his daughter about his hopes they would be reunited someday.

“That day, I understood that migration is more than just a word,” Cálix said. “For us, migration is almost like saying goodbye forever. But it doesn’t have to be this way.”

Cálix wants young Hondurans like himself to choose to stay rather than make the dangerous trek north to Mexico, the United States or Canada. Now, with training from a U.S.-backed nonprofit called MeWe International, he has learned how to use stories to convince them.

Man in shadows speaking in front of men standing behind him (U.S. Embassy Tegucigalpa)
MeWe International head Mohsin Mohi Ud Din leads a storytelling workshop for Honduran youth leaders exploring harmful effects of emigration. (U.S. Embassy Tegucigalpa)

Cálix is among 25 youth leaders who attended the three-day workshop at the Centro Cultural Sampedrano, the U.S. Embassy Tegucigalpa’s American Spaces center, where they talked about the harmful effects of emigration on Yoro and Cortés, the Honduran departments or states where they live.

Their conversations and activities explored such topics as broken families, dangerous journeys, local economic stagnation and the difficulties of reintegration, all with the aim of discouraging friends and family from leaving communities that need them.

Drawing of human body with markings of human emotions (U.S. Embassy of Tegucigalpa)
Youths used words such as “pain,” “fear,” and “joy” to describe the emotional effects of emigration. (U.S. Embassy Tegucigalpa)

Participants broke into teams and came up with their own ways to convey the message to young people that they are better off staying and shaping the future of their hometowns. On social media they use the hashtag #MeWeHonduras. The pilot program was supported by grants and mentorship from U.S. Embassy Tegucigalpa, the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and the Organization for Youth Empowerment.

They “confronted their own past traumas and fears” to enhance their leadership and communications capacities, said MeWe International founder Mohsin Mohi Ud Din.

Three seminar participants listening and writing ideas (U.S. Embassy of Tegucigalpa)
[L-R] Dunia Perdomo, Waleska Rodríguez, and Fernando Fernández teamed on a project about their roots. (U.S. Embassy Tegucigalpa)
One team partnered with a university to host an event called “Camp Brain Drain,” where students networked with employers to explore job opportunities. Cálix’s team produced a video series for social media that uses personal stories to highlight the negative consequences of emigration on those left behind.

The teams presented their projects at a “Change Your Story!” event in August to mark Honduras’ fourth annual Irregular Migration Prevention Month.

“These youth have reached thousands online through video content” and scores more through community workshops, said Ud Din.

Hear Cálix’s story in his own words in this video.