The Overcomers: Surviving gang violence

Aug 12, 2020
Eight-year-old Juan* lives with his aunt and several cousins in a gang-controlled neighbourhood in San Pedro Sula, Honduras. With an average of 20 homicides per day, it’s one of the most dangerous cities on the planet. In addition to the threat of gang violence and recruitment, his community faces poverty, inequality, malnutrition, drug trafficking, child labour, and now a global pandemic.

Watch Juan share his story in his own words:


Sometimes at night there are shootings between the gangs and a stray bullet could hit anyone. When we hear the shootings, we lie down on the floor. It’s the first thing we do.

It is dangerous here. The gangs run everything. If we don’t get involved with them, they don’t disturb us. My brother got involved with a gang and he’s in jail now for drug trafficking.

I am not going to school. My aunt told me that from now on I should look for something to do. So, I’m working on a construction site and they pay me 50 Lps a day. (less than $3 CAD per day).

I would like to be a fireman or maybe work construction. I want to go to Spain to work. I would send money to my family so that they can come too. But I’m afraid of what will happen if we leave.

Sometimes in the afternoon I take a nap with my aunt, and the gangs start shooting so we get to the floor again. We think about leaving, but if we leave and come back, the gangs are going to kill us. 

Before the pandemic, Juan wasn’t in school because it is too dangerous to get there. And now with COVID-19, his family doesn’t have access to the technology he needs to participate in online classes. Working at the construction site keeps Juan occupied and under the radar of the gangs. He participates in a World Vision Peace Club at a local community centre where he and other children receive trainings in leadership, formation of values, violence prevention, self esteem, self-care and some recreational activities. He and his aunt are also receiving humanitarian assistance during the pandemic.
a group of children meet inside a cinder block building in Honduras.Juan participates in a World Vision Peace Club that meets at a local community centre. Photo: Helene Franchineau

World Vision research warns that 85 million additional vulnerable children, including refugees, are in immediate danger from physical, sexual and emotional violence within the next three months because of increased instability caused by COVID-19. These children face dangerous threats, but they have incredible strength and resiliency to overcome these dark challenges to survive, recover and build a new future. Learn how you can support children like Juan move from victim to survivor --- and from survivor to overcomer.

*name changed to protect his identity. 

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