The road narrows, lined by several small homes, wide eyes follow our every move. Children, recruited and placed on the busy street corners by gangs, act as lookouts to report unwelcome movement in the community.
Down the road a ways, the sound of children playing is the first sign that we are close to the community church, a safe zone in a neighborhood that used to be controlled by gangs. We are greeted with a smile from Maryuri Linarez (21) who is the leader of the ‘Dejando Una Marca’ peace club here. The club’s name translates to ‘Leaving A Mark.’ She is bold, brave, and intelligent.
Maryuri invites me into her house which is in the front of the church. As we sit down, we are greeted by her family, her dad and uncle. “Welcome to my humble home,” she says.
Maryuri grew up in a hostile home. Her dad was controlling and her mother was a bystander who never spoke up. Maryuri grew up very insecure and had low self esteem due to the things her dad would say. She recalls, “One time I was around 7 years old and all I wanted was to buy a milkshake in the mini store around the corner. I was young so I couldn’t tell the difference between the value of each lempira (Honduras currency) bill. I took one from my father ́s wallet that was 500 lempira bill ($20) and when he found out it was me, he hit me very hard.” It only got harder for Maryuri. When she entered high school, gangs who controlled the school told Maryuri and her cousin that they could no longer attend that school, since her cousin was dating an adversary gang member. “We had to hide for a couple of months in another neighborhood with my cousin. We didn ́t have a choice because if we stayed they would have killed us,” she says. This broke Maryuri ́s heart and she never finish high school.
One day while World Vision was inviting youth from her neighborhood to be part of the peace club, a neighborhood leader asked Mayuri to join. “As I began to participate in all the training that World Vision was giving, my mind started to change and I became more confident and started loving myself more, just as Jesus loved me,” she says. Through church and the World Vision Child Protection project, she invited other youth to become part of the club. The activities like sports, art presentations and music, drew other youth to change their lives, too. Maryuri has received training in raising children with tenderness, positive values, child protection, creating child friendly spaces and leadership skills for women. The training helped Maryuri heal and she forgave her father. Today they are in a better relationship.
Maryuri is leaving a mark on her community. “I know the need for good activities for the youth of my neighborhood, and I am honored to help and serve wherever they might need me,” she says. “We always have a chance to make a difference in someone ́s life even if it ́s just listening to their problems.”
Maryuri is finishing high school. Her dream is to go to college and one day and work for World Vision so she can continue to help the youth in her neighborhood.