Imagine that you are a seventeen-year-old young man who has lived on the streets for the last seven years.
Out of a desperate desire to change your life, you make the courageous decision to leave the streets behind and join the Micah Project. In your childhood, you may have gotten through the first or second grade before abandoning your education after hitting the streets, and your teen years have been all about survival. You have entered the Micah Project looking for a new life, a way to leave the cycle of despair and addiction behind you for good.
The Micah Project has a deep calling to help young men in this kind of circumstance find “freedom, family and future in Christ.” Because many of our young men will not have the opportunity to complete a formal education program, we must provide them with an alternative way to successfully and permanently leave the streets behind.
That is why we are launching Micah Works
Micah Works is an accelerated, year-long program of classroom instruction and hands-on training to help street-connected youth acquire the skills necessary to be able to step away from the streets and successfully enter the work force. Even as the Micah Works participants receive the same rehabilitation and Christian discipleship as all of our other residents, they will also learn the specialized skills needed obtain and keep employment—a critical step for leaving the streets behind for good.
Micah Works is all about job training, job creation and job retention. It is about teaching these young men that they can be trusted, competent and positive members of a society that once marginalized them.
Sadly, unemployment and underemployment are chronic issues in Honduras. According to the World Bank, 48% of Hondurans live below the poverty line and it is one of the countries with the greatest levels of inequality in the world. Factors of underdevelopment are complex and intertwined, but they have been aggravated by systemic corruption. Currently, Honduras’ president, Juan Orlando Hernandez, is under investigation in the United States for participating in large scale drug-trafficking and his brother Juan Antonio Hernandez has already been convicted (see article). The participation in narco-trafficking by Honduran politicians has also left criminal elements at the street level completely unchecked. Currently, two main gangs, MS-13 and the 18th street gang, as well as many smaller ones, control most neighborhoods in the urban centers of the country.
We have seen with our own eyes how difficult it is for working class Hondurans to find stable jobs. Even fast food jobs can be difficult to come by, and those who do have those jobs tend to stay in them for a long time because there are so few alternative options. Additionally, Honduran entrepreneurs who open small businesses out of their homes or in rented spaces are often forced to close and flee due to extortion rackets run by the gangs that control their neighborhoods. This combination of a lack of opportunity and the threat of violence has caused many people to flee Honduras in search of a better life. These are also the underlying factors that force many children and youth onto the streets.
Micah Works: On the Job Training in Water Purification
Many of the young people who come off the streets have never held a formal job. When you are raised in a stable home, you often learn the ethos of a good work ethic; parents teach and model for their children what it takes to be successful. Street-connected youth do not have those kinds of examples, which means that Micah Works must teach the “soft skills” related to employment as well as more formal training. Our goal is to create an environment where the young men in our programs can learn these skills through practical, hands-on training. At the heart of Micah Works is the creation of small businesses that will serve as training grounds to teach these important skills to the participants.
The first phase of Micah Works will revolve around the idea of water purification. Tegucigalpa has a severe water shortage; many neighborhoods have no running water, and even wealthier neighborhoods only get running water one or two times a week for a few hours; enough to fill up any recipient they can find. Additionally, the water in the municipal system is not purified and thus not potable. Because of this, one of the biggest businesses in Tegucigalpa is selling five-gallon jugs of purified water. The Micah Project has identified water purification as a viable small business that can be used to help our young men acquire successful work skills. Our property has a high capacity water well that has not run dry even in the last two years of unusual drought. Water purification is a simple business model and one that will always be in demand.
Our friend John Garrison has helped us install the water purification unit pictured below. This Clean Water System takes available, but contaminated water, and processes it through filtration, micro-filtration, and ozone or ultra-violet (UV) disinfection to produce water that is safe to drink.
The filtration step uses a 50 micron sediment filter to remove sediments and solids in the water. This filtration process is followed by filtering the water through a 5.0 micron and 0.5 micron filters to remove pathogens. The final part of the process includes disinfection with ozone or UV light to remove bacteria, viruses, and other water-borne pathogens too small for the 0.5 micron filter. This process is run in batch mode to produce clean water that can be bottled for distribution or used from a clean water storage tank.
Teaching hard and soft skills through practical training
Once we get the water purification unit up and running, we will structure the business in order to employ the young men who will be a part of the Micah Works program. They will be trained in the different aspects of the business, including preparation and cleaning of the bottles, water purification, bottling, storage, sales and distribution. We will have one Micah staff person overseeing this practical part of the operation.
At the same time, there will be a classroom component that will help prepare the Micah Works participants to be successful, independent adults. Themes in this component will include:
- Christian discipleship (this includes both general discipleship and specific workplace values such as honesty, integrity, hard work, service, etc.).
- Personality, vocational, and skills assessment and discernment.
- Money management (including how to write and follow a personal budget, open a bank account, understanding loans and interest, etc).
- Workplace etiquette (including punctuality, following directions, respecting authority and maintaining healthy relationships with fellow employees.
- Conflict resolution and anger management (important for those that have spent time on the streets).
- Addiction recovery and support.
- Goal-setting and attainment.
- Healthy relationships (includes subjects such as peer pressure, romantic relationships leading to marriage, fatherhood, etc.).
- Entrepreneurial skills and micro-enterprise development and management.
- Drivers’ ed.
- Those who are interested and able may also choose to continue formal education through a weekend homeschooling program called “Maestro en Casa.”
Young men who have completed the Micah Works program will be ready to succeed in any formal work environment. Graduates of the Micah Works program may choose one of the following three paths upon successful completion of the program:
- Internship/hiring in a formal business: The Micah Works program will help make contacts in formal businesses to help place graduates of Micah Works. Because jobs are scarce, we may negotiate with a company or business to have Micah pay a portion of their salary for six months as a “paid internship” with the idea that, if they are successful, the company will hire them after the internship.
- Seed money for entrepreneurial start-up: Some of our graduates may be interested in starting up a micro-enterprise, which is very common in Honduras. Depending on their business plan, we may help them start a small business and will supervise the start-up for the first six months.
- Further training: depending on personal interests and skills assessments, Micah Works graduates may decide to pursue further training (auto-mechanics, culinary school, etc.). Micah Works will pay for this training if the graduates meet the requirements of the further training program.
This budget requests funds for the initial build-out of the program and the first year of operations. COVID-19 and the resulting quarantine may slow the launch of Micah Works since there are technical parts and supplies that need to be imported from the United States. Currently, we have already invested $5,000 in the building (those line items are not listed here) and we have received an additional $3,000 pledge towards the technical equipment, which we have reduced from that line item.
- Technical equipment (to be imported through LWW)…….......................................….$ 1,000
- Complete build-out of water purification building……..............……...................…….$ 5,730
- Steel Exterior Door: $80
- 2 Exterior Windows: $400
- Ceiling Paint: $100
- Steel Shelving for completed bottles: $800
- Electrical wiring: $600
- Plumbing and water fixtures, 300 gal tank: $1,250
- Tile floor, walls, 3 bay wash basin, stand for interior 300 gallon tank: $2,500
- Full-time staff member (1 year)………………………................................…….........…...$12,000
- Operational costs (1 year)………………......................………………………………...……….$9,200
- Electricity: $1,200
- Bottles/caps: $500
- Maintenance: $1,500
- Transportation/fuel: $1,500
- Classroom materials: $500
- Stipends for participants: $4,000
Total for Program Launch and First Year Operations: $27,930