October 24, 2019
Dear AJS Supporters,
This is not the letter I planned to send you this month. A few months ago, I was busily making a mental list of all the amazing things going on at AJS-Honduras that I wanted to tell you about—a former president’s wife sentenced for stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from a children’s fund, hundreds of high-level politicians indicted for corruption, and real progress in plans to replicate AJS violence prevention programs. And, of course, the opening of AJS’s new office building. All of those things are happening. And they are exciting.
But, decisions made in Washington D.C. over the last few months have put the work of AJS-Honduras (and hundreds of other non-profit organizations) in jeopardy. And sadly, that news must take precedence today.
I asked Kurt Ver Beek, AJS-Honduras co-founder and board president to explain what is happening.
On March 30, President Trump, frustrated by increased immigration from Central America, announced that he was cutting all aid to Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. We watched anxiously as State Department officials in charge of distributing the aid (the vast majority of which goes to non-profit organizations, not the Honduran government) tried to figure out how they should carry out such an unprecedented decision. We hoped and prayed the decision would be reversed. It was not.
Eight months later, all aid was cut. For AJS-Honduras, this means that the contracts we signed with the U.S. government to carry out our violence prevention and anti-corruption programs have been cancelled. We are fully funded through the end of the year, but as of January 1st, we will have to lay off almost half of our staff and close down innovative and effective programs. It’s frustrating because after so many years of learning how to do justice in Honduras, we felt like we were on a roll. So many good things are happening.
We are confident that this setback is temporary and we have been working hard to minimize its impact. We have reassessed program priorities and searched diligently for new grants and funding. I am happy with the new strategies we have put together since the announcement and I’m very optimistic about new funding sources that will sustain us in the long term; but the reality is that we will still have a funding shortage on January 1 and the prospect of firing staff and pausing effective programs is pretty devastating.
The decision to cut aid was unexpected and disheartening. But, if there is one thing we have learned over the last twenty years, it is that God is faithful, and often in ways we don’t expect.
-Kurt Ver Beek, AJS Co-Founder
We believe in the justice work AJS is doing and are committed to doing all that we can to make sure it is not interrupted. We trust that new agreements with new partners will be signed over the next year which will secure our programs over the long-term.
This is a huge answer to prayer. But, these agreements will take time to be finalized. We need your help to fill the short-term funding gap that will hit this January when U.S. government funding ends.
Will you give generously to meet this unexpected need so that AJS staff can continue to do justice in Honduras?
AJS-US Executive Director
P.S. Our staff has been relying on the reminder of God’s faithfulness found in the lines of a familiar hymn—Strength for today and Bright Hope for tomorrow. Hum along to “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” with us this week as you keep Honduras in your prayers.
What does this short-term funding gap mean?
Last year, AJS-Honduras had a budget of $4.2 million, of which we were receiving about $2 million from the U.S. government. Currently, we anticipate a budget of approximately $2.5 million next year and will need to reduce full-time staff from 130 to 80.
We have worked hard to come up with various scenarios for different program cuts based on how much we are able to raise from now until the end of December. The U.S. government was funding many of our violence intervention and prevention programs. Specifically, here are a few of the examples of projects that remain high program priorities but will be cut due to a lack of funds.
San Pedro Sula Violence Intervention Programs
In 2014, we opened a second office in the second-largest city in Honduras, San Pedro Sula, to address the extreme violence in that area. We started violence intervention programs in targeted, extremely violent communities. Over the past 5 years, homicides have decreased by over 70%! We also run our “rescue” program in San Pedro Sula, which works specifically with kids who are victims of sexual violence. These are often cases that the government doesn’t have the resources to investigate or coordinate (such as serial rapists, brothels, or kids who need extensive psychological care).
Due to the funding cut, we will need to close these violence intervention programs and let go of staff working in this office starting January 1. These programs cost about $200,000 to keep running.
Strong Communities Program
We work in four vulnerable communities throughout Tegucigalpa and run violence prevention programs, including at-risk youth clubs that meet weekly with over 400 kids. Additionally, we provide legal and counseling services to the youth in the clubs and their families, as well as services such as tutoring, parenting courses, and support groups for women who are victims of domestic violence. These interventions are targeted toward violent communities with significant gang activity, and our services help those most at-risk within these communities.
Due to the funding cut, we will need to reduce the types of assistance we provide including legal and psychological as well as the number of communities that we are able to work in. Each community and the services we provide cost $35,000 annually.
If you have more questions about this short-term funding gap, we invite you to participate in a call with AJS-US and AJS-Honduras leadership (see dates and times below).
Wednesday, October 30, 7:00 PM EDT
Tuesday, November 5, 12:00 PM EST
+1 (646) 749-3129
Access Code: 354-757-381