New Realities in Honduras
May 15, 2012 - Honduras
In 2011, our home in Honduras was hit with an unexpected government mandated minimum wage increase. In efforts to garner support of the poor, Honduran politicians implemented a 57% increase on the minimum wage. The flip side of this generous new law is that most companies and organizations could not comply due to lack of funds. Many people lost their jobs. Others, if they were to work at all, were forced to do so in the shadows for much lower wages. And those who were unemployed simply could not find any work because no one was hiring. With the help of our fundraising offices, our home in Honduras was able to comply with the new law and make it through 2011. The reality this year, however, is that the budget that we have been able to make stretch year in and year out, simply put, is no longer enough. In January 2012, the Honduran government raised the minimum wage again. With a total increase of 69% in a year's time, the cost to pay our staff and comply with the law has crippled our budget putting many of our flagship and core programs at risk. All other costs in Honduras are on the rise as well. Food, clothes, educational materials–everything from beans to batteries have gone up in price.
We must cut costs and personnel at our home, even as we look for new sources of income to respond to this new reality. We must do all of this without giving up on the basics and the programs that are core to who we are as an NPH family; programs that provide our children with tools and support they need to create a better future for themselves. These minimum wage increases and the domino effect they have had in the Honduran economy have left a canyon-sized deficit for our home and programs. We need help to ensure that the future promise we offer our children does not end in a dream, but remains tangible in the security, love, programs and opportunities we strive to provide.
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- We had to let go of 20 of our employees, and we are working on finding new and creative ways to reorganize departments to cover all of the needs. This is the only way to bring down our salary costs substantially enough for 2013.
- We have adjusted our menu, eliminating chicken from our weekly diet and shutting down chicken production on our farm. The production of chicken is one of the largest food expenses in our home. We will still have some meat in our weekly menu, but most of the necessary protein will come from the increased quantity of rice and beans; an accepted substitute throughout Central America and a staple in all of our homes.
- We are also discontinuing our pork production, as that too has proven to be a protein too expensive to produce ourselves.
- Our vocational training and workshops will remain open as part of our student’s curriculum, but we have had to cancel the external certification process. The costs of having independent certifications from an outside organization are too high for us to cover this year.
- Many smaller cuts have been made in every department and many of our annual celebrations have been removed from the calendar or significantly reduced in scope. The savings from these cuts will help us a great deal in the years to come.
Even with these measures, for the rest of 2012, more of our annual programs remain at risk of being cut if we do not find a way to fund them soon. The commitment to our children, the love and security that we strive to provide each of them remains, and with faith we will continue to do the most we can for our children with what we have and find new ways to do more with less.
NPH Honduras is raising more than 450 children and supports 84 youths through educational programs or scholarships.
In the last year, the Honduran government has increased the minimum wage by 69%.
Costs for food, clothes, healthcare and education have also increased.
The home's budget cannot be stretched any further without jeopardizing the level of care we provide our children.
We need funds right now to save the vocational internship program and pay the costs for our new students who will soon be entering the high school and university program! The vocational internship program is now more important than ever – given the cut of the National Certification, we need to offer educational opportunities to all of our ambitious students.
Vocational Internship Program
This program focuses on all of our children in 8th and 9th grade. First they participate in a series of talks and workshops that teach the basics of living away from the Ranch. Next we take them out to show them how life in the city works. After all of the training, our children begin two-month internships at different companies and workshops throughout the city, in areas determined by what they are learning in our workshops. We find internships in tailor shops, maquila clothing factories, shoe-making workshops, maintenance teams in the malls, welding shops, and more. We try to find family members who are willing and able to have the children during this time to make the city experience as genuine as possible, but there are always a number of our children who have no one, so we have them live in our youth houses in the city.
Children who have already successfully completed their internships in past years use this time to find temporary employment so that they learn the challenges of the job search. Last year, 39 of our children and youths took part in this program, as well as 7 external students.
Support for High School and University Students
We have ever more students in high school and university. This program covers the increasing cost of these additional students. Also, the situation in Tegucigalpa has deteriorated so much that we find we need ever more supervision, support and guidance for our teens and young adults who are living in the city. Problems with gangs and drugs are very real–in the past years we have even lost a few of our children to these temptations. Public schools are constantly on strike (of a total of approximately 200 school days in the year, public schools lost on average about 100 days in the school year of 2009, 60 days in 2010 and 90 days in 2011 due to strikes), and we need to find ways to support the studies of our young people to make up for this. Our solution has been to restructure the department so that our kids feel more supported and so that we become aware of problems before it is too late to help. While in 2010 we only had two people working with all of these children and young adults, we have expanded our department to ensure that we recognize problems in the lives of our youths as they arise.
National Director, NPH Honduras