Honduras: Channels of Hope changed a marriage
In each of the communities we serve, World Vision is committed to gender equity. We recognize that to create a better world for both boys and girls, we must address negative gender norms that result in injustice and systematic poverty. World Vision’s Channels of Hope program is designed to engage with participants at the attitude and knowledge levels, inspire a change of heart and behavior, and to motivate a sustained and effective response to issues that threaten the wellbeing of communities. The following story was provided by World Vision photojournalist, Laura Reinhardt.Francisco Rodriguez is a man transformed. He used to work as a day-laborer in the nearby town and go out drinking with friends afterwards. He wasn’t a good father and husband. Then he received agricultural help from World Vision. As he worked alongside World Vision staff, he noticed their Christian lifestyle and his faith grew. Now he and his wife volunteer in World Vision’s Channels of Hope program.
Francisco Rodriguez used to go to work in the closest town, La Esperanza, in western Honduras. He took any work he could find, usually construction. “Sometimes he would just work and make enough money for the day so it was really, really a difficult life,” remembers his wife Carmen Arriaga. The difficulties were increased because Francisco often stayed in town drinking. Carmen says she and her daughters never knew what was going to happen when he came home drunk.
Sometimes she made him wait outside when he was in that condition— as long as 20 minutes. She knew it would make him angry, but she was angry too. Despite Francisco’s behavior, Carmen never considered divorcing him. “This is probably because I come from a disintegrated family,” says Carmen. Her father abandoned the family, leaving Carmen’s mother to raise five children on her own. Carmen didn’t want the same for her own children.
A Change Begins
In 2003, everything began to change, but it didn’t happen overnight.
Carmen was pregnant with the last of the couple’s six children. Her doctor asked if she was a single mother because her husband never came to appointments with her. When Francisco finally did go with Carmen, the doctor chastised him asking him: “What’s wrong with you? What you are you doing? Do you believe in God? You have to change. Do you go to church?”
Francisco replied that he did go to church, but only to keep the seat warm. Still the doctor’s words got him thinking.
No longer a day laborer
That same year, Francisco began attending agricultural training offered by World Vision. Francisco had land, but it lay fallow because Francisco traveled so often to La Esperanza for work. Through the training, he began to grow crops on his land and found a new way to support his family.
Now he looks at his fields of corn, radishes, and beans and feels satisfied. “All this is a result of the training that we have received,” he says. “Today I’m able to stay here and do this work, and work with my family and stay in the community,” says Francisco. No longer must he travel to La Esperanza with all its temptations.
As Francisco participated in World Vision’s work in his community, he says he began to see how faith in Christ motivated the staff. As a result, Francisco’s own faith began to grow.
Training to last for eternity
That same year, Father Lucio arrived to serve in the community, and divided his parish into smaller groups to build stronger communities. Inspired by Father Lucio’s teaching, Francisco attended church regularly. As Francisco’s relationship with Father Lucio grew, the priest asked Francisco to be in charge of a community group. Francisco agreed, but wondered whether he could handle that responsibility.
In that leadership role, Carmen remembers her husband “was touched by God, so he could change.”
In Honduras there is usually one priest to serve a large area. The priest is not able to visit every village within his territory each week. The day-to-day operations of the church are left to lay people who meet almost every day to worship together and discuss pressing issues. World Vision invited these lay people to its Channels of Hope training, which started in Yamaranguila in April 2012.
Channels of Hope first formed in Africa in 2003 to address the growing AIDS crisis. World Vision worked with local faith leaders to combat the stigma facing people who were HIV positive.
The program is expanding to also address gender issues and maternal and child health. It looks at gender through a Biblical perspective and helps dispel some cultural gender biases.
As Francisco attended the training, he became more open to Carmen’s participation. “Now there is no longer any chauvinism,” he says. “It’s the church that has changed us and showed us that men and woman are worth exactly the same in the eyes of the Lord and that we have exactly the same rights.”
Carmen has blossomed and grown more confident. “It’s been a transformation that is incredible and every day I thank God because this has totally changed every step I take,” says Carmen. “World Vision has been like a right arm for us.”
Now Carmen leads a support group for pregnant women and new mothers, which is part of World Vision’s focus on maternal and child health. She speaks confidently, providing other community members with health information she learned from World Vision’s training.
“First of all, [I] thank the Lord because he gives me the strength and the health to do this and also [I] thank World Vision because of all the training, all the knowledge that I got from them,” says Carmen. “That’s how I can support other ladies and I do it with my heart.”
Together, Francisco and Carmen offer spiritual guidance to more than 65 families in the community. “I have to say that it’s really a great experience to be able to be trained and then talk to others by telling them our story, by providing testimony and telling people things can change,” says Carmen. “There’s nothing more beautiful than teaching others what you have learned.”
“Often the local government or the [national] government are not able to reach people in the way that World Vision is able to do it by coming and working with the people, and that has really allowed us to continue,” says Francisco.
He offers his thanks to the sponsors and donors who have made this all this training available to community members: “It’s thanks to the grain of sand that they contribute, that we are able to achieve everything that we have achieved.”
A good father and role model
These days, Carmen is often out in the community working with women. In a surprising role reversal, Francisco frequently is the parent who prepares dinner for his children, something he never would have dreamed of doing just a few years ago.
Their youngest child and only son, Ever Francisco, 9, was born just as his father started to change his ways. He attends many of the spiritual trainings with his father. “I have to say that my vision for my son is that he will be a better man than I am,” says Francisco. “I think that he is learning all this and that is what will make a better man out of him.”
The whole family often works together in the fields. “I’m really thrilled about this because when you work together [as] a family then it really motivates you to continue growing and to continue doing things,” says Francisco.
The man who used to disappear and keep his family on edge now spends time working and praying with his family. He even makes time to play with his children.
A single tear slips from Carmen’s eye. “I’m not crying because it’s concerning or that I’m sad, but in fact it’s because of the huge transformation that has taken place,” she says.
Ten years ago, neither Francisco nor Carmen would have predicted where their family would be today. “I think I never imagined where we would get, what we would do,” says Carmen.
She jokes with Francisco: “Can you imagine if we had a university degree how much we would have done?”
Francisco hopes that each of his children will receive a good education. He’s proud that three of his daughters have already finished their studies. “I think we’re on the right track, and I hope that we can [continue] for them to have a better life.”
A better life is something that Francisco and Carmen are experiencing right now.
“I’m just happy by the mere fact of being alive, of having a life that I have with my wife, with the daughters that we’ve had, and of doing what we’re doing,” says Francisco. “There are many people who are tired of life, but we aren’t. We all have the drive to continue developing and to continue forth. And so, we’re very happy and satisfied with our life.”