Being a World Neighbour: Honduras project partner to tour BC to talk about experience with climate change and conflict

  • Kamloops:
    Monday, February 26 at 7:00 p.m.
    Kamloops United Church, 421 St. Paul Street

  • Oliver:
    Wednesday, February 28 at 3:00 p.m.
    Quail’s Nest Art Centre, 5840 Airport Road

  • Vancouver:
    Thursday, February 29 from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.
    YWCA Hotel Vancouver, 733 Beatty Street
    Registration required: https://www.bccic.ca/event/climate-change-and-conflict-in-honduras/

BC tour planned

Men in Honduras view project documents standing around a table.
Caption: Carlos Vijil (right), the Executive Director of Vecinos Honduras, World Neighbours Canada’s partner non-governmental organization (NGO), works with Honduras community members on projects that improve the lives of Hondurans.

If you are curious about how financial contributions to the local non-profit organization World Neighbours Canada (WNC) are being put to work in Honduras, you won’t want to miss one of three upcoming presentations in Kamloops, Oliver, and Vancouver. 

“We are very excited about the upcoming visit of Carlos Vijil, the Executive Director of Vecinos Honduras, our partner non-governmental organization (NGO) in Honduras,” stated Judy Gray, a member of the WNC board of directors. “Carlos will be in B.C. for about a week to share his vast knowledge about Honduras.”

Gray stated Vijil is trained as a Sociologist (University of Costa Rica), and has worked in rural development for more than 50 years. He has a thorough understanding of many issues facing Hondurans today, and a passion for improving the lives of Hondurans. 

“As part of Carlos’ tour in the interior of B.C., he will be in Kamloops for a few days and we’d like to offer you the opportunity to meet him and learn more about the projects that World Neighbours Canada supports in Honduras, thanks to Vecinos Honduras,” stated Gray.

Vijil will be presenting at private and public venues to talk about the work being done. You can attend a Kamloops presentation on Monday, February 26 at 7:00 p.m. at the Kamloops United Church, 421 St. Paul Street, or come and hear more in Oliver, at the Quail’s Nest Art Centre, 5840 Airport Road, Wednesday, February 28 at 3:00 p.m.

His final stop is in Vancouver, at a presentation hosted by the British Columbia Council for International Cooperation (BCCIC) on Thursday, February 29 from 6:30 – 8:30pm at the YWCA Hotel Vancouver, 733 Beatty Street. 

“[Vecinos Honduras] aims to strengthen community-based organizations in rural communities so they can advocate for their own needs and priorities, to protect natural resources (including watersheds), encourage food sovereignty, and ensure sustainable livelihoods for rural people,” states the BCCIC website. “This is a unique opportunity to hear how climate change and environmental and social conflict are impacting communities in Honduras and why collaboration, solidarity and climate justice are critical.” 

This session is called Climate Change and Conflict in Honduras: Building Community and Climate Resilience in the Dry Corridor, and it will allow attendees to hear more about the impact of climate change, and the political and economic forces that have exacerbated poverty and social inequity.

While the Kamloops and Oliver presentations are open to drop in, the BCCIC event requires advance registration for the free presentation. For more information, visit their website. 

About World Neighbours Canada: 

World Neighbours Canada (WNC) is an organization founded in southern B.C in 1989 and currently has programs active in Nepal, Burkina Faso, and Honduras. WNC works with local partners on projects unique to each area, as determined by those in the affected areas. The overall goal is to help partners analyze and solve their own problems, and to encourage and train leaders and organizations local to the project areas. World Neighbours Canada has no central office and overhead costs are minimal. This work relies on public donations, and nearly 100% of donations go directly to the program areas. 

About Vecinos Honduras: 

Born in 2009 to support the development of the Honduran rural sector, its objective is to “facilitate and accompany participatory and equitable processes of comprehensive human development for families and organizations in rural communities, promoting the sustainable use of resources, food sovereignty, the rescue of moral and cultural values, community health, respect to nature to protect and improve the environment and quality of life for present and future generations.”   

About Honduras: 

Honduras is one of the poorest countries in Latin America. In terms of per capita GDP, at US$ 2,771.70 (World Bank, 2021), Honduras is the second poorest country in the region behind only Haiti. Worldwide it ranks 137th of 191 countries in the United Nations Human Development Index (2021). Over 50% of Honduras’ total population lives in poverty and 35% of Hondurans live in extreme poverty (income of less than $2/day), with poverty concentrated in the rural areas where half the population of 10.2 million resides. Chronic malnutrition of children (stunting) is widespread. Violent crime has plagued the country for several years, related to the drug trade, corruption and political turmoil. (Sources: Vecinos Honduras, World Bank, Insightcrime.org)

World Neighbours Canada talk in Vancouver

Calling all World Neighbours Canada supporters in the lower mainland! World Neighbours Canada would like to invite you to a live talk by Vecinos Honduras Director, Carlos Vijil on February 29th at 6:30pm.

For more information and to register visit https://www.bccic.ca/event/climate-change-and-conflict-in-honduras/.

This event is co-hosted by BCCIC and World Neighbours Canada. It is delivered with support from the Government of Canada and the Inter-Council Network’s Spur Change program.

 

Visiting Honduras – School Hygiene

Dileyla Funez displaying the new school latrines.

One of the small projects World Neighbours Canada (WNC) supported over the past couple years was providing materials for latrines, water collection and hygienic supports for schools in communities around Concepcion de Maria, Choleteca.

As a result of the Covid-19 epidemic the government of Honduras changed the requirements for schools in Honduras to have cement floors, latrines and water for cleaning purposes. This was to ensure hygienic conditions. Unfortunately, these requirements were not supported with funds and many schools could not open.

Dileyla Funez, with a parent volunteer demonstrate the water collection system.

In the community of Majada we visited one of these schools that we supported. It is a one room kindergarten school that used to have a dirt floor and no latrine. Now it has a new cement floor, a water collection cistern, and two toilets. WNC provided the materials but all the work, including carrying the materials the two kilometres from the road, was provided by parent volunteers. Vecinos Honduras provided the technical support.

Children dancing on their new clean floor. The previous floor was dirt and would either get muddy or dusty.

We were treated to many enthusiastic children who, along with their dynamic teacher Dileyla Funez, entertained us with song and dance. We got the sense that the dancing was more for the children than for us, but it was wonderful to see the joy and exuberance of the children, and the pride of the parents.

In total, 76 girls and 69 boys from four (4) educational centres in the communities La Majada, La Plomosa, El Peñón #2 and El Peñón #1 will have improved health conditions as a result of the construction of latrines and the installation of water storage tanks to harvest rainwater from the roofs.

Seventy-six parents were involved on the installation of the tanks at these educational centres by carrying materials, providing unskilled hand labour and gaining awareness about creating healthier environments for boys and girls.

This February, World Neighbours Canada (WNC) board members Gabriel Newman and Judy Gray along with WNC volunteer Peter Gray visited Honduras to see the work that was being done by our partners there, Vecinos Honduras. They will be sharing stories and information that they have gathered over the next few months. Write up by Gabriel Newman. Photos by Judy Gray.

Visiting Honduras – Entrepreneur Ever Perez

Ever A Perez -Carpenter

In Azabache we met Ever Perez. He is a 28 year old father of two who started his own wood working company with the support of Vecinos Honduras (VH). After finishing school at grade 9 he wanted to become an engineer but his parents could not afford to send him away to complete high school and attend university. Instead, he worked locally as a labourer. One of his hobbies was woodworking and he would carve keychains. He was selling them at a local fair when he met Manuel Castellanos, the facilitator with VH. VH was looking for young people who might be interested in learning some entrepreneurial skills.

Ever worked with Manuel to create a business proposal and to apply for a small loan from VH (the money was supplied by Groundswell, an American NGO whose methodology is similar to World Neighbours). With his loan he was able to buy a couple power tools as he was previously doing all his work by hand. He paid back the loan and took out another loan to buy a generator and some land to build an actual shop.

Ever Perez and Manuel Castellanos

Ever said his business is very busy. He has hired two employees to help him. His little company builds everything from doors, bedframes, boxes, novelties, and decorations. He says he has plenty of work. His business makes it possible to stay in the community and raise his children here.

Ever Perez’s hand tools. He has added a table saw to his operations.

Vecinos Honduras has worked with communities in Azabache for twelve years and plans to leave by the end of 2023. Towards the end of the project, after working on capacity building, agroecology, water, and maternal/child health, the community was looking for ways to help keep their young people in the area as employment option are limited. Working with the communities, Vecinos Honduras, supported by other agencies, began working with many young adults on how to become entrepreneurs. Various trainings were provided to support the development of business ideas. Small loans were also available to help the participants made key purchases.

Outside funding ended to properly complete supporting these entrepreneurs and community groups (more to come on that later). World Neighbours Canada has stepped in to support VH in these communities to ensure that these enterprises learn proper bookkeeping and other essential administrative skills to help ensure their success. Ever admits that the administrative side of the business is his least favourite but he is proud of what he has been able to build in three years.

This February, World Neighbours Canada (WNC) board members Gabriel Newman and Judy Gray along with WNC volunteer Peter Gray visited Honduras to see the work that was being done by our partners there, Vecinos Honduras. They will be sharing stories and information that they have gathered over the next few months. Write up by Gabriel Newman. Photos by Judy Gray.

The view from Azabache.

Visiting Honduras – New Communities

This February, World Neighbours Canada (WNC) board members Gabriel Newman and Judy Gray along with WNC volunteer Peter Gray visited Honduras to see the work that was being done by our partners there, Vecinos Honduras. They will be sharing stories and information that they have gathered over the next few months. Write up by Gabriel Newman. Photos by Judy Gray.

The meeting is about to begin in El Chaparral.
The farmers group in El Chaparral.

In the community of El Chaparral, outside of the town of Langue, in what is known as the “dry corridor” of Honduras, we met with a group of farmers who recently started working with Vecinos Honduras.

 

One of the first steps is to create a map of their community highlighting the features, houses, strengths and weaknesses. They are showing us their map. The map will be upgraded as things change in the community. We interrupted them as they were digging a new well for the community. They were very happy to show us the locations of the water sources.

The map they created of their community.

This group of farmers have come together to work on a shared plot with the intention of experimenting with seed production. They are cross pollinating to create a bean that is even more productive in their particular ecological area. They recently won “best beans” at a local fair.

This strain of beans they have been working on is very abundant.

They want to continue improving production using natural and organic means. They also hope that they are able to save enough seeds to get them through the dry season, when many farmers run out of their own seeds to eat and have to buy at inflated prices. Their future plans involve buying more silos to store the seeds.

A silo for storing corn kernels.

Visiting Honduras – Community Art

This February, World Neighbours Canada (WNC) board members Gabriel Newman and Judy Gray along with WNC volunteer Peter Gray visited Honduras to see the work that was being done by our partners there, Vecinos Honduras. They will be sharing stories and information that they have gathered over the next few months.

This first posting includes some of the artwork found within the villages, mostly at the Vecinos Honduras offices. Central to the imagery is the power of the connection between corn and life. The first three photographs are from a mural on the offices at Conception de Maria, Choluteca. Vecinos Honduras has been working here for the past eight years. We met with farmers, health volunteers, teachers, students, and community volunteers to hear what they have accomplished, and what their goals are for the future.

The last three photographs are from the walls of the offices at Conception de Maria, Langue. While Vecinos Honduras has worked in the Langue district for a while, we visited communities that are new to VH to find out what they hope for their future.

Supporting entrepreneurs and small credit groups in Honduras

By Gabriel Newman

Ever Perez’s wood working business

After ten years, Vecinos Honduras will be leaving the Azabache region of Honduras at the end of 2023. World Neighbours has supported Vecinos Honduras’s work building capacity, teaching agroecological techniques, implementing water systems, and for six years, thanks to support from Global Affairs Canada, implementing a maternal child health project. Now that the communities are better equipped to organize and direct their own future it is time for Vecinos Honduras to shift to new regions. Before they leave, however, there is one last program that World Neighbours Canada will support.

One of the consequences of the holistic approach Vecinos Honduras takes with community development is that communities drive many of the activities. One activity that was very popular had to do with entrepreneurship. Migration is a major issue in Honduras with many of the young people leaving the country to look for work. This is particularly detrimental to smaller communities. In Azabache, community members wanted opportunities for their children so they would stay in the community.

Irma Calderon’s pig farming business

Many workshops were conducted, and a number of cooperatives, and private businesses were created. Micro credit lending groups were also created to support local entrepreneurs. Many of the businesses were related to agriculture such as honey or egg production and snacks, yet others were skills based such as woodworking, and auto repairs. Vecinos Honduras provided guidance for establishing these businesses. Groundswell International also provided financial support to start the lending groups.

Now that Vecinos Honduras is leaving the area, they want to ensure that these businesses understand their legal and administrative responsibilities. World Neighbours Canada is supporting training sessions for these small credit groups to become official, legal entities that will continue to operate long after Vecinos Honduras leaves.

Joel Gutierrez’s motorcycle repair business

Workshops are also being held for groups and individuals in business administration such as bookkeeping, billing, receipts, loan management, and taxes.  Vecinos Honduras wants to see these businesses succeed in order for these communities to retain their young people as well as to build resilience within the local community’s economy.

The following videos were created by Groundswell International and give a great glimpse into some of the participants and their businesses.

Income generation

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3wmW8z0lA8w

Youth Local Markets

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ryzaXZD1xT8

Political Change in Honduras and Burkina Faso

By Bruce Petch

There have been dramatic political changes in Honduras and Burkina Faso. Honduras has elected its first woman president, Xiomara Castro with the centre-left Libre Party. In Burkina Faso, the elected president was forced out by the military last weekend. World Neighbours Canada supports rural development programs in both countries – we are watching closely to see how these changes could affect the people we work with.

Honduras is facing multiple crises, with one of the highest murder rates in the world and huge numbers of people attempting to migrate to the United States. Gangs associated with drugs are pervasive. According to news reports, the outgoing president is expected to be indicted by US prosecutors on drug trafficking conspiracy charges. Supporters hope that President Castro will lead positive changes in the country, including less crime, less poverty, and more rights for women. However, the challenges she faces are immense. Before her government was even in place, several newly elected members of Congress defected from Castro’s party and elected their own congressional leader.

The people of Burkina Faso have faced increased attacks from terrorist groups believed to be associated with al-Qaeda and ISIS, a spillover from a conflict that started in Mali more than ten years ago. Recently there have been public protests, expressing dissatisfaction with the government’s inability to restore security in the country. Then on 24 January 2022, the military forced the president to resign, citing the same concerns as expressed by protesters.

The local organizations that partner with World Neighbours Canada in Honduras and Burkina Faso are still functioning normally, and they are experienced in managing through crises, whether political turmoil or natural disasters. We are hoping that the changes in government in both countries will lead to better governance eventually, but at present there is much uncertainty.

To read more about President Castro:

https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2022/jan/26/honduras-first-female-president-xiomara-castro-women

To read more about the coup in Burkina Faso:

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/1/27/burkina-faso-military-coup-prompts-fears-of-further-instability

Meet Juan Armando Mendez

In 2020 a “call for stories” was sent out to each partner organization with hopes that people would find the time to participate. This story project was initiated to switch the narrative from having the World Neighbours Canada volunteers tell the stories of those participating in or initiating programs, to having them tell their own stories with as much or as little detail. This is one of those stories. To read more visit Stories.

Juan Armando Méndez, Honduras

 My name is Juan Armando Méndez, I am a bricklayer and agroecological producer, partner of the Caja de Ahorro y Crédito Rural “Nueva Generación”. I am married to Mrs. Lucila Idiáquez with an 11-year-old daughter. I live in the community of La Libertad, Azabache Danlí El Paraíso, Honduras.

Before Vecinos Honduras came to my community, I thought I “knew everything”, without having any idea of ​​”learning new things” this has motivated me more to continue learning; As a way of understanding more about the work of Vecinos Honduras, I always wondered what does it mean to Return to Earth (VH slogan)? Answering me today, “I realize that it is better to be on Earth producing, than to be with a different mind in other directions”. This new knowledge is part of the changes of a person, family and community.

I feel that my life has changed, I learned to respect nature and people, “I see them as my own person, love each other and share with others, the health of my family has changed” is also a process of unlearning some agricultural practices that were negatively affecting me emotionally and were polluting nature.

Together with my family I have a 1.4-hectare plot, diversified with local crops, its main crop is coffee. “I learned to see the plants with affection, applying organic products, taking care of the land,” and now I say, “that if there are no trees, there are no water and without water there is no life”. This philosophy is possible using organic products and stopping using chemical products. This change is not easy but not impossible, and “I have achieved it with the support of my family and Honduran neighbors”. It is already three years from beginning applying only organic products on my plot. At the beginning I lowered the agriculture production, however in this short time I increased by 1% the production from applying organic products, and I have also saved approximately $820.00 in purchase of chemical fertilizers. I feel happy with these changes for the health and economy of my family and community; “using chemicals now offends me.”

After experiencing the amino acid products (liquid) and the Bocachi fertilizer (solid) in my plot, I now share my experience, knowledge and organic product with other producers, so that they can experiment and will be convinced of the effectiveness of the product. Currently I have generated $1,200.00 from the sale of these products; next year I will invest them in expanding my growing area with 0.70 more hectares than I already have.

In addition, I am a member of a “New Generation” Rural Savings and Credit Fund. I feel motivated to be organized in my community, as “if we are not organizing it does nothing”. Being a part of this organization has given a space to market coffee production at a fair price. In the last harvest, I sold 272.15 kg of dry parchment coffee through the Rural Box, obtaining an additional profit of $168.00. “I feel happy because now I am selling the coffee well,” as before I joined this organization, I sold my product badly. Now, for every Kg I am generating an additional $1.61 because the quality of my product has improved and I am marketing through the organization, “I feel very motivated to be part of the organization.”

Together with my family we have a dream of having our coffee maca with the name “I am what I am, pure Azabache coffee”. We are already working to make it come true, it will be an option to improve and take advantage of our production, generating opportunities for families in my community.

Grateful to Vecinos Honduras and their cooperators for the support they have given us as a community, which has been used by most of the families in our community.

Hurricane Eta creates extensive damage to Honduras

Honduras has been hit hard by Hurricane Eta. So far approximately 1,700,000 people have been affected by the wide spread flooding in the north and damage throughout the country.
There has been damage in a few of the communities Vecinos Honduras works in but not the extensive flooding we are seeing in the news. Two communities in Azabache and seven in Santa Barbara were affected by mudslides, and washed out roads and crops.
 
Executive Director Edwin Escoto, is philosophic about the further set back to Honduras, “seems to me nature is demanding its place,” as climate change continues to make life harder for those less fortunate. “La Venganza de la Tierra,” he says.
 
This is very troubling as Honduras has still not recovered from Hurricane Mitch twenty two years ago. Mass emigration, corruption, droughts and poverty have continued to contribute to Honduras’s misfortune.
We are waiting to find out what the total damage is but that may take many years to establish.

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