Waking up in a hotel in San Pedro Sula, said to be the most dangerous city in the world, is much like waking up in any other city – until you read the headlines. In the lobby, talk was of the seven people reported killed while we were sleeping, all in separate homicides. That number would have risen steeply if we’d looked to homicides acrossHonduras. According to figures from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, Honduras has an intentional homicide rate of 90.4 per 100,000 people. Ireland’s rate is 1.2 .
The headlines are a sobering reminder of where we are. For eight months, I’ve been documenting the progress of a training course, run by the coffee company Kenco, called Coffee Vs Gangs, designed to give a small group of young Hondurans a chance to distance themselves from the criminality and violence that defines this complicated country.
It’s been a strange introduction to a place I knew little about and it came laboured with doubt. The world hasn’t been won over by the corporate responsibility of international companies doing good, so a coffee conglomerate working in a poor coffee-producing country had to be met with scepticism. Over the past eight months I’ve interviewed the students by Skype, spoken to experts and read the data. Stories of the violence weren’t exaggerated, but could a training course make any kind of difference? I had seven days on the ground to find out.