I’m walking with Digna Portilla Amador on her way to school. She is a shy girl, but has a beautiful shining smile and bright eyes. Maybe you have never heard of this 13 year old girl from Honduras, but in 2011 her face was seen by millions of people in Ireland.
In 2011, the Trócaire box featured Digna when she was five years old. Digna is from La Confianza, in the Aguan Valley in Honduras. That year’s Lent campaign highlighted her community’s struggle to stay on their land.
Last week, 8 years later, I had the chance to visit Digna and her family and accompany her on her way to school. We sat in her garden, under a palm tree and she told me about herself.
Digna told me she loves going to school, and she has some very good friends in her class. She is now in 8th grade. She is really fond of her Technology subject but really dislikes Maths.
Next year she wants to use her free time to learn hairdressing. She tells me that her uncle’s friend is a hairdresser. “Next year, I'll go practice there, I want to learn from him and, one day, be a stylist and have my own salon".
Digna is not a fan of hide and seek anymore, but she does love playing football at school. There, she is also part of an ‘Emergency Committee’. This committee has been trained to be ready if emergencies happen. This is important work, given that Honduras is prone to natural disasters such as hurricanes and flooding.
Digna is not the only one in the family who decided to participate actively in the community's life. Digna's mother, Carmen, decided to join the 'Permanent Observatory of Human Rights in Aguan' (OPDHA). This is a local partner organisation supported by Trócaire that monitors human rights abuses in the Aguan Valley. It assists victims whose rights have been violated.
Carmen is also part of a women's network and brings Digna to their meetings whenever she can. She says that she received so much support when she went through hard times.
“When the whole group is with you, you can feel the difference and find new motivation” says Carmen talking about OPDHA. Digna understands its importance as well, she says “it feels great having the chance to join these activities and learn from them.”
Living in La Confianza has always been a challenge for the community, and still is today. Poverty is widespread and families struggle to earn money to provide food, clothes, school stationery and health care to their children.
When Digna featured on the Trócaire box in 2011, the community was at risk of losing their land. Digna and her family faced violent threats and intimidation by army-backed corporate landlords keen to remove them from their farmland. Today, thanks to negotiation and to Trócaire´s advocacy work, the community is still living in the same area they were back in 2011.
The community is slowly growing: new houses are being built, more people have access to education, families are organising against natural disasters and awareness is growing of the importance of women’s empowerment.
Trócaire local partner organisation FSAR (Fundación San Alonso Rodriguez) is continuing to provide legal advice and to strengthen farmers´ groups in the Aguan Valley.
All this wouldn´t have been possible without your contribution.
Thank you for your support for Trócaire and our work! Despite many challenges, Digna, her family and her community continue to have hope.
If you've generously supported our 2019 Lent appeal, Trócaire boxes can be returned to parishes or you can donate to our lent appeal here.