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In Honduras, A Soccer Program Points Kids To Better, Safer Life

 / Updated 

In a Tegucigalpa, Honduras neighborhood called Progreso, a program has made real progress in keeping children healthy, safe and less willing to make the dangerous migration to the U.S.

Luis Lopez started a soccer training program in the rough neighborhood a year ago to keep young children from joining older ones who were already working with gangs, sniffing glue or doing other drugs. In the last 6 months of the program, none of the fifty children who train with Lopez two hours a day, 5 days a week have been murdered, and none have left to to go the U.S. Nearly 1,000 children were murdered in Honduras in 2014 and over 8,000 Honduran children were arrested by U.S. authorities last year for entering the U.S. illegally to reunite with family.

More importantly, none of the kids have joined the gangs that control neighborhoods and use children to store and sell drugs, collect extortions and even murder.

The Kahl foundation, a small California-based organization, found out about Lopez's program and sent money to buy equipment, upgrade the field and rent buses so the children could travel around Tegucigalpa to play other teams.

"The field has created a group, comfort, friendship. It gives them a place to belong, something to care about, something they don't want to lose," said Lopez, known affectionately as "Luisito."

In this Monday, Nov. 22, 2014 photo, 11-year-old Maynor Ayala, drives the ball as he gets ready to take a shot on goal during their first soccer game outside of his neighborhood in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. A small U.S. foundation learned about coach Luis Lopez’s program to show children a way out of the violence through soccer, and sent money to upgrade the field, buy equipment and rent buses so the children might move around Tegucigalpa to play other teams.Esteban Felix / AP
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