April 2022

Hope in In high school, Antonia was an independent, determined student who planned to study literature at university. Life had other ideas. “In high school, I remember pushing a lot of boundaries as I was interested in projects that didn’t always fit within the traditional school curriculum.” And this trait is probably why Antonia to decide to apply to a Project Trust Gap Year in Honduras. She was thrilled to be accepted to the program. Naturally, her parents were worried because, at the time, Honduras was the murder capital of the world. But they knew that once Antonia set her mind to something, there was not much hope of turning back. So after completing her training, Antonia moved to San Pedro Sula, to spend a year working in a home for ex-street children who came from a background of abuse and neglect. She also spent months making a documentary about the influence of the United States in Honduras and the Central American migration crisis. For this project she interviewed activists, politicians, gang members, migrants, refugees, school teachers, and protesters. “This sparked my interest in the political structures that formed Honduras’ systems.” This year in Honduras totally changed her mind about studying literature. Instead, Antonia found the Bachelor of International Studies at Leiden University - an interdisciplinary degree combining politics, economics, and history and cultural studies and specialization in a region of your choice. Antonia chose to specialize in Latin American Studies. Then she did a Masters degree researching how Honduras’ violence affects youth in the public education system. “It was infuriating to work with people who were so bright and so talented and driven, and yet so systematically marginalized.” She was most upset that the young people she met there had no chance of studying at university. So, to support some of the individuals and communities that she had been a part of, Antonia, and a fellow student started an NGO called educate, a non-profit organization that works to empower children and young people in Honduras through community based projects led by local leaders “I started working on the plan for educate while in university. I felt that it has to be possible to create a system where young people have access to opportunities in a sustainable way.” That stubborn hope was what carried Antonia through this process on a personal level. “It took eight months of paperwork to become a registered charity,” she said. educate’s initial team of three volunteers has grown to more than 35 members in Honduras and the Netherlands. “I have to say it happened really organically, and I’m kind of amazed at the wonderful people that we have on our team. Every single one of them is great. I feel really privileged to work with really wonderful people.” Their work now includes projects such as scholarships for students. Their scholarship program is set up through close partnerships with local public high schools and their teachers. These partnerships make it possible for educate to find high potential youth whom they support financially by paying for study materials and tuition fees. They also support local communities to create libraries and, during COVID, they started a food package program. Antonia is most excited by educate’s latest project, partnering with local government in Santa Bárbara to build a youth center. Mentorship programs, tutoring, and workshops will be offered to build future community leaders. Antonia feels the world needs more people who are passionate about changing the world for the better and engaging in these passions deeply. “It is easy to see the amount of things wrong with the world and to feel overwhelmed. But systems and structures can be changed.” Antonia believes this will happen as more creatives, activists, and social and environmental entrepreneurs engage to help solve the enormous challenges we are facing as a world today. Want to learn more or get involved? Go to educate’s website to learn more Antonia’s passion saw her become a social entrepreneur H O N D U R A S “It is easy to see the amount of things wrong with the world and to feel overwhelmed. But systems and structures can be changed.” Antonia visiting a school in the village of El Pozo, Talanga, where educate. funded the startup costs of a child nutrition center. Antonia and Mr. Paredes, the mayor of Trinidad municipality, with their agreement to collaborate on a new Youth Center.