Career Counseling from Older Siblings

NPH Honduras and One World Surgery partner to provide nutritious meals and career advice to Honduran youths on their way to the working world.
January 15, 2020 - Honduras

CENA participants pose for a group picture with Nidia Rodas, head of our social work department.

According to the World Bank, more than 60% of Hondurans live in poverty. With a limited number of formal jobs available and a high volume of people applying for those jobs, competition is high. That’s why NPH Honduras and One World Surgery are partnering to provide children at NPH Honduras with career-centered workshops to prepare them for brighter futures.

“Working in Honduras is hard, finding work in Honduras is very hard, and doors close very easily. So knowing what you want to do early makes a big difference in being able to achieve what you want," says David West, a former NPH volunteer at the Holy Family Surgery Center who, along with fellow volunteer Elena Burke, created Caminos Exitosos al Nivel Academico (CENA). This program, which translates as ‘successful steps to academic achievement’ in English, connects students with adults to discuss career avenues over dinner for those on their way to high school and university. Cena is the Spanish word for ‘dinner.’

While spending time in Buen Pastor, our adolescent boys’ home, West observed that few kids took the time to actively consider their career paths while in school, making it more difficult for them to choose their courses and navigate the working world upon graduation.

Who better to mentor them than their older brothers and sisters? Hermanos mayores, or ‘older siblings,’ is the term used for adults who grew up at NPH. They give back to the place they call home by serving those who are in similar situations they once found themselves in.

One need look no further than orthopedic surgeon Dr. Merlin Antunez, Director of Social Work Nidia Rodas, or Sandra Baca, head of our legal department, to find someone willing to give an hour or two to share their experiences and give advice about higher education.

Despite facing challenges, like self-doubt or confusion about which career path to choose, these individuals have achieved their professional goals and lived to tell the tale.

“I can tell you that I tried it and failed or that I tried it and it worked,” said Osman Antunez, electrical engineer and hermano mayor, one night during a CENA event in March 2019.

Surrounded by a group of eighth and ninth graders, as well as older children completing their service year prior to entering university, an hermano mayor will talk about their studies, transition to the working world, day-to-day schedule, and what they like and don’t like about their job. After breaking bread, the kids ask them questions and continue the discussion. Far from a boring lecture, the evening is fun and casual, with both kids and presenters engaged.

“I like the program a lot because we do activities that teach us about ourselves. And it makes me think that if they [hermanos mayores] can do it, then so can we,” says Vinicio, age 21, who is completing his service year working as a caregiver in our youngest children’s home and as a receptionist in our dental office.

Mauricio Calles, an hermano mayor himself, directed the hermano mayor program years ago and currently works as the NPH Honduras house director. He continues that, “It’s an excellent idea because our kids learn from people who grew up here and they get a panoramic view of reality through these real-life experiences. The kids don’t just receive talks from guests, but share with them, which is beautiful to see.”

The program coordinators observe that these types of exchanges result in increased levels of interest among participants, even in careers that they hadn’t considered before.

The program is still in its early phase, but the near future holds promises of a shadow-style work program at Holy Family Surgery Center, alongside workshops geared towards teaching students specific work-related skills. Further down the road, the program would like to offer students scholarships so that they can study subjects, like physical therapy or biochemical engineering, which aren’t offered in public universities or in Honduras at all.

West and Burke’s biggest goal, however, is to foster strong relationships between hermanos mayores and their younger counterparts.

“We want each kid to have a mentor while they’re studying, applying to jobs, and, hopefully, throughout life,” says West.

By helping the children in this program to not only think about the future, but also design the future they want, NPH Honduras and One World Surgery are helping them to break the cycle of poverty that they were born into. Together they are taking NPH’s approach to raising children to a more holistic level.

Interested in learning more about the One World Surgery Center? Click here to find out more.

Arielle Augustin   
Communications Officer




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