She became an example to everyone in the church. She gives hope and teaches the love of God to children during Sunday school and her smile brings joy to all that surround her. She is only 14 years old and at a very young age, Julie* has seen the darkness of life, felt the pain of losing her loved ones, but at the same time found the strength to get up, move forward and shine. Julie lives in a neighborhood surrounded by gangs, drugs and violence. “Living in this neighborhood can be very scary. There is a lot of poverty, a lack of opportunities and broken families.
That’s why sometimes children at a very young age will join a gang, to find the things they don’t have at home,” she says. And sadly, that was what attracted her join a gang. “My father was an alcoholic, he beat up my mother, that’s why she decided to migrate to the US. After that, my father left us with my older brother and my grandmother,” she sadly remembers.
Trying to feel loved, and wanting to support her grandmother, Julie and her brother joined a gang. They robbed small stores and people around the community. All the time she was out getting into trouble, her grandmother prayed for them each day. “I felt sorry for my grandmother, but I didn’t want to get out of the gang, I thought that I had a family there, but soon enough I found out it was all a lie,” she says. One night while everybody was sleeping, gang leaders took her brother out of the house and beat him up because he had a debt with them. Her brother was so injured that he lost his sight. At that very moment, just like children bring their toys with tears to an adult to mend, she brought her broken dreams, hopes and fears to God.
“It was very hard, when we went to the hospital and found out my brother was blind. But at the same time, God put a little hope on my heart when the doctors mentioned that probably with surgery, he could see again,” she says, holding her breath and trying not to cry. Days later, Julie decided to leave the gang and attend church. There she met Miriam, a church leader and World Vision Honduras Volunteer. Miriam asked her if she wanted to change her life and the lives of other youth in the community through a World Vision Project called Fostering Hope. Julie decided to be part of the project. “What can I say? The project saved my life and is saving the life of many youths in the neighborhood through the Peace Road clubs,” she says. The clubs trained Julie and others many different skills like conflict resolution, how to have empathy and relationship skills. The groups talk and heal those broken relationships while creating a community activity where youth can participate. The clubs are changing the environment of violence to an environment of peace.
Six months have passed since Julie joined the project. Being a member of the gang is in the past. Julie has invited other youth to attend church and join the Peace Road club through support groups and neighborhood soccer tournaments. “There is work to do. Yes, violence has been reduced a little but there is a lot of work that needs to be done. Why do I do it? I do it for my brother, because every day I have this prayer... Father, listen. Show him that he has a home and that he doesn’t have to lose hope. Father save him, I will do everything in return for the day he can see and praise you… because I believe you will give him sight once again so he can serve you,” she proudly says as she gets ready to practice the song she will sing at the Sunday church service.