The AMIGOS story began in 1965 when a visionary, 29-year-old youth pastor named Guy Bevil led a team of teenagers into rural Honduras to fight a growing polio epidemic.
"We wanted to work in the most abandoned areas, where no health service was available, where a permanent worker would not want to live, where the government could not serve...We said we would go to the end of the road, plus four hours on foot or mule beyond," explained Guy.
Watch this 5 minute documentary to see where it all began:
Their efforts protected thousands of lives from the crippling disease, while establishing new friendships between the people of Honduras and the United States. This first group of AMIGOS Volunteers returned home far more mature, appreciative of other cultures, and aware of the personal benefits of helping others. Their success underscored that young people can make a positive difference in the world.
"From the beginning it was understood the adults would run the program in Houston and the young people would run it in Honduras," Guy reflected, "What we were doing was so unique that we had to create an organization, which could work without regular transportation or communication. Every day presented new challenges. Only young people could be flexible enough to face the challenges of overcoming major obstacles every day. And they did just that and are still doing it today."
More than 45 years have passed since that first summer, and more than 20,000 young people have followed in Guy's footsteps. AMIGOS has remained headquartered in Houston, but has grown throughout the United States, with affiliated chapters in more than 2 dozen major cities. Today we focus more on skill-building for youth (from both the United States and Latin America) and have conducted a much broader array of health and education activities in response to priorities identified by our host communities. Even as our activities have evolved to meet the changing health and development needs of Latin America, our core values have remained the same. We still believe in the power of youth.
"[People say] times have changed…" Guy mused, "[that] young people today are not idealistic… [that] this generation is more materialistic. If you are to believe that, just talk to one of last summer’s veterans. When we give them an opportunity to participate in the AMIGOS programs, they come back and inspire us."