Where We Work
Hands Offering Hope works with youth from Lázaro Cárdenas, a municipality in the Yucatán Peninsula state of Quintana Roo, Mexico. It’s a community with deep roots, vibrant energy, incredible natural beauty, and limited economic opportunities.
Quintana Roo is home to Mayan ruins, and over 30% of the population is Indigenous—one of the largest Indigenous populations in Mexico. The region is beautiful—dotted with popular beaches, including Cozumel, Cancún, and Playa del Carmen. Holbox, an island paradise, sits just off the shore from Chiquila, one of the villages we serve.
These beautiful natural landscapes make the region an extremely popular tourist destination—so much so that tourism accounts for over 90% of the local economy, which has boomed in recent years. The natural environment is stunning—between the reef, savannah, mangrove, and forest ecosystems, biodiversity thrives. Manatees, alligators, and monkeys all call this beautiful region home.
The area is not without its struggles, however. In the nearby neighboring state of Yucatan, 17% of mothers had their children as teenagers. In Quintana Roo, HIV infections have recently soared, and the state ranks the fifth highest in Mexico for infection rates. Local education is lagging, with youth literacy rates lower than most other states. About 38.8% of people live in moderate poverty, and 8.4% live in extreme poverty. And because the region is so heavily dependent on tourism, the region lost over 83,000 jobs from March to June 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Those who do not work directly in the tourism industry often play supporting roles as fishermen, farmers, beekeepers, and foresters. For many of the students we serve, jobs in fishing, farming, or hospitality are the only options they have ever known.
We are committed to this community and believe fully in the potential of young people who are growing up in this beautiful and challenging context. Already, the Institute has brought together students from Chiquila, San Angel, Solferino, and Kantunilkín, and we are eager to expand our programs to towns and villages across Lázaro Cárdenas, Quintana Roo, and the Yucatán.