Voices

From the World Vision U.S. president: Ready to shine

A young man in a white T-shirt sits in a wheelchair with his arm around a middle-aged man in a casual white button-down shirt.

I’ve met a lot of entrepreneurs in my day, but none like the young women and men at an entrepreneurship fair in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. With their business plans and products displayed on tables in front of them, they radiated enthusiasm and pride.

Each one of them had overcome considerable challenges to be there. Rampant unemployment and widespread domestic violence in Honduras hold young people back from reaching their dreams. Many turn to gangs to find purpose and identity. Others make the risky choice to migrate to another country in search of opportunity, leaving behind all they know and love.

I believe God intends more for these kids. So do the pastors who partner with World Vision in Honduras. They go into high-risk neighborhoods and seek out kids in these no-win situations, offering them a different path through Youth Ready — a World Vision program that provides job readiness training and mentoring for youth. With the practical skills they build and the supportive guidance they receive, these bright young people are empowered to resist harmful choices and dream big for their futures.

For one of the entrepreneurs I met, 23-year-old Kevin, Youth Ready was a lifeline at his lowest point.

Kevin was born with cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair. Growing up, he faced discrimination and bullying because of his physical limitations. He felt that he was nothing but a burden to his parents, causing him to spiral into insecurity and depression. “I had no direction, and my dreams were dead,” he said. “This is why I wanted to die, because during that time I didn’t have a purpose in life.”

Such hopelessness hurts my heart, especially as the dad of a wheelchair-using daughter with cerebral palsy. I know how valuable each child is in our Father’s eyes. And yet I also know that in the world’s most difficult places, where poverty impacts access to medical care and social services, children with disabilities are often the most vulnerable.

Thankfully, that wasn’t the end of Kevin’s story. He learned about Youth Ready through a local church that partners with World Vision. He started attending the workshops and eventually pursued the entrepreneurship track, learning skills a business owner needs, like administration and finance. Now Kevin manages a thrift shop, earning an income to help his family while also saving up to open more shops and employ people with disabilities.

Youth Ready gave him the sense of purpose he craved — and much more. “I learned to believe in myself, in what I’m able to do, and best of all to have dreams and make them true,” he said.

What a change for Kevin! From feeling despair to gaining skills that will carry him confidently into the future. Now he hopes his experience can be an encouragement. “I want to advise other youth: You don’t need to risk your life and migrate to another country. You can be happy here,” he said. “You just need to have faith, trust God, and work hard to accomplish anything you want.”

Having the right tools and support is only part of the formula for such deep and lasting transformation. The rest comes from knowing who we are in the eyes of our Lord. As Ephesians 2:10 says, “we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

I left the entrepreneurship fair in Tegucigalpa inspired. The youth I met were equipped to do more than work — they were ready to shine as God’s handiwork and bring hope to their troubled communities.

 

Edgar Sandoval Sr. is president and CEO of World Vision. Follow him on X, formerly known as Twitter, at @EdgarSandovalSr.

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