Empowering Change: The Ripple Effect of Jovenes en Camino

Sign for Jovenes en Camino
College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences

Empowering Change: The Ripple Effect of Jovenes en Camino

April 1, 2024 | by Clara LoCricchio

Belmont University's Ongoing Partnership Provides Essential Healthcare Services and Empowers Future Leaders

In the mountainous valleys of Honduras, a Garden of Eden has blossomed amid a landscape too often marred by poverty and hardship. This is Jovenes en Camino, a foster home that has provided shelter, education and unlimited possibilities to nearly 200 abandoned and at-risk boys since opening its doors in 2004.

Honduras is the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere behind Haiti, plagued by lack of economic opportunity, crime, and scarce public services — especially in the isolated interior communities. Many children are forced into the streets by parents unable or unwilling to care for them, robbing them of safety, education, and any sense of a future. Jovenes en Camino strives to be a true home and support system for these boys, providing not just shelter, but education, counseling, life skills training and a nurturing environment.

To further enhance the holistic care offered, Jovenes en Camino partnered with Belmont and Lipscomb Universities in 2019 to build a locally run pharmacy on Jovenes en Camino's campus in El Zamorano that they continue to support today.

The pharmacy allows the home's young residents to access vital medical services and pharmaceutical care within their own community.

"It's not just about receiving medicine, it's a gift from God," said Nelson, who has lived at Jovenes en Camino since he was three years old. "Having access to healthcare in our own community is life changing."

Students and faculty from both universities' pharmacy and occupational therapy programs have since traveled to Honduras regularly, providing essential pharmaceutical care and health services, with the most recent group of students returning in March. For the aspiring healthcare professionals, it's an invaluable opportunity to become better, more holistic caregivers by applying their skills in an underserved global community.

“It’s vital for our students to experience mission trips to Honduras to witness firsthand the stark disparities in health and wellness influenced by geography and social conditions,” said Dr. Adam Pace, Belmont’s executive director of health and wellness. “They’re able to see how the social determinants of health are not just academic concepts, but real-world factors that significantly impact people's lives.”

Jovenes en Camino aims to create a ripple effect of change throughout Honduras by empowering its young residents to break cycles of generational trauma and poverty. While the high school graduation rate in Honduras is just 39%, it's 100% for those raised at Jovenes. By helping these young men realize their immense potential, they're positioned to become leaders and role models who can uplift their communities.

It's a powerful distinction from orphanages, where the primary goal is adoption. Jovenes en Camino nurtures the mental, physical and spiritual needs of young men in their own communities to raise a new generation of leaders, not uproot them.

"Of course, you can impact someone when you bring them to the United States," said Nelson. "But it stops there. At Jovenes, you're empowered with the tools and the instruments you need to thrive and then go out and do the same in your community."

Norman Baqedano, who came to Jovenes at just two years old, is the recipient of a Walton International Scholarship. He is now in his second semester at the University of the Ozarks in Clarksville, Arkansas, and has lofty post-graduation goals.

“I want to become the president of Honduras,” Norman shared. “And I don't just want to — I will. I will become the president. I want to make an impact. Jovenes showed me that I’m capable of doing that.”

For Jovenes en Camino Executive Director Sarah Catherine Teixeira, nurturing world-changers like Norman and Nelson is what it’s all about.

"The young men here are future leaders who can create lasting positive change in Honduras from within," she said. "Our goal is that one day, an organization like ours will no longer be necessary because they've uplifted and empowered their communities.”

Watch this video to witness firsthand the life-changing work happening at Jovenes en Camino and meet some of the inspiring young leaders it has empowered.