December 30, 2014
Some years draw to a close like a good book — you knew the end was coming but part of you doesn’t want to let it go just yet. Perhaps the book even shaped you in some way, and parts of it will continue to echo in your thoughts for years. And so, to no one’s surprise, 2014 comes to a close, but it remains a year that will stick with me and AJS staff for a long time to come.
Here is just a selection of what made 2014 special:
- Anti-Corruption: In what will likely lead to AJS’s greatest impact yet, the president of Honduras signed a first-of-its-kind anti-corruption agreement with AJS and Transparency International.
- Education: Major advances have occurred for the 1.5 million students in Honduras’ public education system. The strides forward include higher test scores (a 20 percent jump in math), reaching 200 days of class, and impressive improvements in a new United Nations study.
- Peace and Justice: The homicide rate in Honduras, which was the highest in the world, is expected to fall by about 20 percent. Our anti-corruption and anti-violence work has played a significant role in this process.
- Land Rights: AJS launched an index that holds the government accountable for reforms that protect poor families from having their homes taken from them.
- Health: AJS investigations revealed corruption in government purchasing of medications, resulting in six officials being arrested. The UN is now helping to handle purchases, with AJS providing oversight in the process.
In addition to all this, nearly a hundred families graduated from our family training programs (two graduates are in picture at left), and hundreds more at-risk youth participated in our specially-designed youth groups. Our lawyers, investigators and psychologists helped achieve 14 convictions in cases of violence and dozens more cases are in process.
But all of this is not to say that 2014 didn’t come without pain and grief as well. Indeed, we would hardly be following Christ’s example if it didn’t. We grieved with families in our programs who lost loved ones to violence, with those whose homes had been snatched away, with those who were victims of sexual abuse, with those who worried about their children’s future, and with those who suffer under the weight of corruption and violence.
And so, through the excitement and the tears, we hold on to hope — a hope that, no matter what the year brings, compels us to continue following the One who proclaims liberty to the captives and the oppressed, who proclaimes good news to the poor, and who proclaims the year of the Lord’s favor.
Thank you for being a part of this work and a part of the work that’s to come.
-Rick Bandstra, Volunteer Executive Director, Association for a More Just Society