A Visitor from Honduras!

Edwin Escoto

World Neighbours is excited to announce that Edwin Escoto, the Director of Vecinos Honduras, will be coming to British Columbia to do a public speaking tour. From March 2-14 he will travel to Vancouver, Kamloops, Vernon, Cranbrook, Oliver and Penticton to meet with school children, universities, service groups and community organizations.

If you want to host a speaking event in your area, please let us know as he is booking up quickly.

We will be posting a detailed list of events shortly.

Edwin Escoto, is the Director of Vecinos Honduras. Since 2009 Edwin has helped build Vecinos Honduras into a leading NGO promoting rural development and agroecology. Edwin has also been appointed to be the new Regional Coordinator for Latin America and the Caribbean for Groundswell International, a non-profit organization with a mission of strengthening rural communities to build healthy farming and food systems from the ground up.

Vecinos Honduras uses a very effective and proven approach to empower local people to manage their own affairs. The organization typically stays in an area for 6 to 8 years. Initially they generate interest by training people in specific techniques for growing more crops, raising healthier children, and so on. They also begin to train local leaders to: organize activities among themselves; include women in decision-making; run effective local organizations such as health committees; and manage finances. Gradually Vecinos Honduras staff phase themselves out and local leaders take over. After 6 to 8 years, the goal is that people will have the knowledge and skills to initiate village development projects on their own, and seek technical support and funding from government, national or international organizations as needed.

World Neighbours Canada and the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations

By Bruce Petch,

World Neighbours Canada takes a practical approach – we want to help people achieve tangible improvements in their lives. Nonetheless it is useful to keep track of trends in international development from a wider perspective. Over the last few years, there has been a lot of attention paid to the “Sustainable Development Goals”. These goals were adopted by all United Nations member states in 2015. There are 17 goals. Goal 1 is no poverty, Goal 2 is zero hunger, Goal 10 is reduced inequality and Goal 13 is climate action, to name a few. They are intended to apply to all countries, not just developing countries. And a key part of the concept is that all the goals are interconnected. The goals (often referred to as the “SDGs”) seem to be mentioned in just about every meeting and document that touches on international development. The high profile of the sustainable development goals has helped to draw attention to the struggles faced by people around the world who are trying to grow enough food for their needs, find enough water, and survive drought and other natural disasters.

Community gardens help improve the health of the community and provide additional funds.

World Neighbours Canada supports the goals, especially the ones central to our mission like no poverty, zero hunger, gender equality and climate action. But we look at the goals from a “results on the ground” perspective. If our programs can be stronger by taking a more integrated approach – for example, the gender equality implications of increasing food crop production – we embrace the concept of the “SDGs.” Our partner organizations have a deep understanding of the connections between the different goals. For example, in Nepal our partner organization has been focusing on goal 6 – clean water and sanitation – but the outcomes they are aiming for are goals 3 (good health and well-being) and 6 (gender equality; women and girls do most of the water-carrying). In Burkina Faso, food security and child malnutrition are critical issues. Our partner organization works in an integrated way towards zero hunger, good health and well-being, gender equality and no poverty. In Honduras, our partner is embarking on a new initiative to provide entrepreneurial training and support for young people in rural areas, touching on goal 8 (decent work and economic growth) and goal 4 (quality education). In every country, we have a long history of ecological approaches to agriculture, which fits with the environmental goal called life on land (number 15).

The Sustainable Development Goals provide a useful framework for a coordinated approach to the alleviation of poverty and better management of finite resources. World Neighbours Canada is inspired by these goals to support our partners in ensuring that people’s lives are impacted in meaningful ways, rather than focusing narrowly on specific outcomes.

20 reasons for gratitude to start 2020

We at World Neighbours Canada feel blessed and this New Years we wanted to share 20 reasons we feel so lucky. These are the reasons as submitted by our board members and volunteers.

  1. I am grateful to all the people in Canada who support World Neighbours Canada year after year. Every donation, large and small, is appreciated and the moral support means as much to us as the financial support.
  2. I am grateful to the staff and volunteers associated with our partner organizations in Nepal, Honduras and Burkina Faso for their tireless dedication to the alleviation of poverty. They are remarkable people who deeply understand the communities where they work and know how to help villagers achieve self-reliance and avoid dependency.
  3. I’m grateful that the staff of our partner organization in Burkina Faso, (Association d’Appui à la Promotion du Développement durable des Communautés – APDC) AND those of our project villages have, to date, escaped being targeted by the Islamist insurgents in the Eastern region of the country. This is a huge concern for all living there and demonstrates the commitment of staff and villagers to implement changes that will improve their lives. 

  4. When our younger daughter died in 2006 she had said that she wanted some of her money to go to Nepal. We were thankful at that time and still are thankful to find World Neighbours. We knew right away we had found the right place to donate Rachel’s money. Water systems seemed so basic and the idea that all the money went to the people and the projects was very satisfying for us. It gave us a purpose and made us see some good coming out of the death of someone in the prime of her life.
  5. I’m grateful for the opportunities my husband and I have had in the past to visit the Fada region of Burkina Faso to see firsthand the work this small local NGO is doing, teaching new skills to the villagers and sharing new ideas so that the beneficiaries are able to become more independent and improve the quality of their lives.
  6. I’m grateful to be a part of World Neighbours Canada as I truly believe that the philosophy of “neighbour helping neighbour”, “a hand up not a hand out” is how lasting change can be achieved.
  7. I’m grateful that World Neighbours Canada’s philosophy includes the notion that change occurs slowly, over generations, and as such we are committed to support our partner NGOs for the long haul.
  8. I’m grateful for the friendships I’ve developed with the staff of APDC and admire and respect the commitment they all demonstrate in continuing to support the villagers during these turbulent and difficult times.
  9. I’m grateful for the support I receive from the other directors of WNC, as this support enables me to complete the necessary reports that need to be submitted.
  10. I’m grateful that Excel spreadsheet is still an acceptable form for accountants and government officials for tracking donations and expenses.
  11. It is wonderful to have different directors responsible for each country project to liaise with and to solve any money transfer issues within their assigned country.
  12. I am grateful I got to visit the projects in Honduras and meet the staff of Vecinos Honduras, who my father had worked with, admired, and told me so much about over the years.
  13. I am grateful for the many service groups, and schools who have allowed us to come in and talk about our organization and the work of our partners.
  14. I am grateful Suresh Shrestha, Executive Director of TSS, and Govinda Ghimire, Director on the TSS Board, were able to visit BC in 2019 and give presentations.
  15. I am grateful for our member organization BCCIC (BC Council of International Cooperation) for the training sessions and other educational opportunities they offer. I have learned a lot.
  16. I am grateful for those who read the articles (print or online), and click on the social media posts.
  17. I am grateful for a federal government that understands that small NGO’s are some of the most effective groups in the world to affect positive change in the world, and continues to fund us.  As with all funding, it could be greater and it could come with a little less paper work, but I am very grateful for what we get.
  18. I am grateful for groups like Rotary in Oliver, Kamloops and Aldergrove who have been supportive and generous for many years.
  19. I am grateful for my wife who lets me go traipsing through the mountains of Nepal on bad roads and in suspect vehicles.
  20. I am grateful to know that the future can include positive change and I look to the upcoming year with hope.

 

Feliz Cumpleanos! Vecinos Honduras Celebrates 10 Years!

The Vecinos Honduras team celebrating 10 years

One of the highlights of 2019 was that our partners in Honduras celebrated their tenth anniversary. For most of the year different communities around Honduras have been celebrated with Vecinos Honduras. These celebrations have highlighted the many changes that have occurred in those communities, by the hard work of the communities as a result of the guidance of Vecinos Honduras.

The celebrations wrapped up this October with a conference where there was much well deserved celebrating.

Vecinos Honduras was formed after our original partners Vecinos Mundialus (World Neighbour Honduras) was shut down by World Neighbors International as it went through restructuring. Vecinos Honduras was created out of the best and brightest of Vecinos Mundiales and we have worked with them ever since. We are incredibly proud of all their hard work and the communities who have been transformed over the past ten years!

We look forward to the next ten years! Congratulations

Mothers and Volunteers share the benefits

Meeting with community members, monitors, mother guides and participants.

In May of 2019 two World Neighbours Canada directors visited Honduras to see the Maternal Child Health projects we are supporting with assistance from Global Affairs Canada. This is a report from a visit to the community of Caveles Uno.

For this particular project, Vecinos Honduras provided training for community members in two important roles, Monitors and Mother Guides. Monitors were trained in how to weigh and measure children under the age of five, and Mother Guides were trained in age appropriate developmental exercises for children under the age of five. These volunteers also received training in health education which they would share at monthly weighing sessions.

We sat with down 19 Mothers, 2 Monitors, and 5 Mother Guides, along with Vecinos Honduras’s regional staff to discuss their experiences with these sessions. There were also approximately 18 children present at the meeting as well. Volunteers enthusiastically shared their experiences in the program with us. One Monitor who joined 8 months ago shared how the weighing and stimulation sessions are critical to the community, and the support and
training the volunteers receive from VH helps them deliver a stronger program. Volunteers had different reasons for taking on the role. One Monitor shared that her motivation to join was the relationship with VH and her trust in the organization. Another Mother Guide shared that working with children is her calling and the role was a perfect fit.

“ We all remember our childhood and these kids will remember all of these moments in the sessions and the impact it has within their household for the rest of their lives. ”

The group ranged from first time mothers with newborns to mothers of many children. All mothers expressed that the sessions have been helpful to learn more skills and ensure their children are developmentally on track. One mother shared that she joined the sessions when her son was 4 months old and prior to the sessions did not know that he was underweight. With support from the Monitor and Mother Guide and guidance on local nutritious foods for the child, he gained adequate weight. Another mother with a 7 month old  shared a similar experience. Many mothers of multiple children have noted a difference in the way their previous child were raised  compared to those in the sessions; children in the sessions have learned to walk faster, talk earlier, mother is more aware of the food the child is fed, and children are less shy and timid. It was clear from our conversation with mothers that this space is extremely important for building community-wide connections and relationships among women. Many women shared that prior to these sessions, they would only greet others with a hello or bye, but now often have  conversations that are much deeper.

The sessions have also impacted older children, especially the children of Mother Guides and Monitors. Volunteers expressed that their children sometimes read through their books and do some of the exercises, whereas some are interested to become Monitors and Mother Guides as well. Often, elder children accompany their mothers to sessions.

A mother guide working with the other children.

Mothers shared that their favourite activities to do with the children at home are singing (especially the periquito song that is sung in sessions), dancing, and one mother shared her daughter enjoys playing ‘boys games’ such as cars and balls and she encourages her and also plays along.

Give the gift of potential

The holiday season has begun and if you are looking for a gift that will make both you and the receiver feel joy, please consider making a donation to World Neighbours Canada in their name.

Just click HERE to donate.

With a donation to us you know that 100% of your donations will go to our projects run by our partners in Nepal, Honduras or Burkina Faso as we have no paid Canadian staff and our limited overhead is covered by the directors and GAC. Also , we will send out a personalized hand made card to the person of your choice!

The Canadian dollar goes  a long way in our program areas. So, for the price of some chocolates you help someone build a smokeless stove. It is important to note that we do not just give items, our partners teach communities how to build and repair their own stoves and water systems as well as work to build capacity, gender equality, micro-lending opportunities, and improve maternal and child health.

An example of Material Costs:

$10 – Stovepipe for a smokeless stove (Honduras)

$25 – Materials for a family toilet (Nepal)

$50 – Treatment for one severely malnourished child (Burkina Faso)

$100 – Materials for one community market garden (Burkina Faso)

$100- One community faucet (Nepal)

$100 – Screening children in one village for malnutrition (Burkina Faso)

$300 – Training for a volunteer health monitor or mother guide (Honduras)

Thank you and have a wonderful holiday season!

How Does Gender Equity Work? World Neighbours Canada Localizes the Big Question

The following is an article written by Gurleen Grewal for the British Columbia Council for International Cooperation (BCCIC), featuring the work done by World Neighbours partners. This article and many others can be accessed on their website at https://www.bccic.ca/how-does-gender-equity-work-world-neighbours-canada-localizes-the-big-question/#

By: Gurleen Grewal 

The drive to work towards gender equity propels transformative action in communities all around the world. Taking a look at three places where gender equity has been introduced in initiatives dealing with water and sanitation systems, nutrition and food security, and maternal and child health, we want to talk about how this concept is relevant across a variety of contexts. The three examples that follow each share how the nuts and bolts of gender equity come together, and how transformative change begins with tangible steps.

Where are the Women? Connecting Gender Equity to Water and Sanitation Systems

In Nepal’s eastern Ramechhap District, the organization, Tamakoshi Sewa Samiti (TSS), provides materials and technical training to villagers who plan, build, and maintain water systems in their remote communities. Many villagers decide to extend the benefits of the water systems into sanitation, installing sealed toilets. The combined effect of water and sanitation systems is that villagers can easily access water that is safe to drink, and significantly lower the occurrence of gastrointestinal disease.

After committing to deepening their understanding of how gender impacts development work, TSS noted that women were often underrepresented in the committees that planned for water systems. To address this issue, a few years ago TSS introduced quotas to integrate women into decision-making spaces, supporting their participation in water-user committees that operate at the village level. Following this act, they later organized a training session to develop a more nuanced take on how gender relates to health, and conducted an analysis of how gender impacts the lived experiences of those in the eastern regions of Nepal. In the upcoming year, TSS plans to offer diversity and inclusion training within water-user committees. They hope to use the conversations this process brings about to explore gendered divisions of labour, getting down to the fine points of which tasks are important for an individual on a daily basis according to their gender. While expanding their focus on gender equity, TSS has kept pace with capacity building, anticipating future moments of potential and setting the stage to enact the solutions that emerged from their gendered analysis of the field of water and sanitation.

One of the outcomes of bringing women to the table in water-user committees at TSS was having the gendered impacts of water systems, their links to women’s reproductive and menstrual health, come to light. For instance, the installation of water systems in remote villages reduces the time women spend travelling to collect water by up to two-to-eight hours. This translates to an improvement in the physical and psychological health of women and girls, as they are tasked with collecting water. The positive health effects of water systems further support women during their pregnancy and postnatal periods, and lower child mortality. With water and sanitation systems it also becomes easier to maintain menstrual hygiene, an important consideration in communities where the stigma around menstruation is high. Recognizing that enabling women to be active agents in their communities is a fraught and ongoing endeavour that requires negotiating social practices, household resources, and other local barriers, TSS has still managed to make headway in integrating gender equity into their programs. In return, they have seen the positive effects of gender equity within their organization, and of course, across villages in Nepal.

“The Whole Family Wins”: Unpacking Gendered Divisions of Labour

The Association d’Appui à la Promotion du Développement Durable des Communautés (APDC) operates across eighteen villages in Fada, an eastern part of Burkina Faso. Their program encourages the prevention and treatment of childhood diseases, attends to family planning, improves food security, and boosts the participation of women in leadership roles in community organizations. By combining educational and practical activities, APDC fosters inter-generational growth that translates to positive outcomes in nutrition and health, but also in gender equity.

In the push to strengthen women’s social and economic positions, APDC looks at the links between gender equity and related issues like child nutrition and food security, by offering training sessions that teach women how to raise poultry and fatten sheep. According to Charles Tankoano, the Executive Director of APDC, the women who participate in these training sessions become like “business manager[s].” They take responsibility for overseeing the daily tasks of tending to the animals, manage all the expenses related to these tasks, and decide how to spend the financial resources that come from the animals. Tankoano shares that many men agree to help their wives succeed in these training sessions by collecting and storing fodder to feed the animals, constructing workshops for fattening, and selling the animals then returning the money to the women. By tying women to processes of food production and income-generation this activity elevates their social and economic positions. Some of the men who take part in these sessions come to see women more as co-partners, with the ability and authority to make decisions within the family and the village.

In addition to offering training sessions on food production methods, APDC invites men and women to attend gender sensitization sessions. Here, they explain what gender equity is and why it matters, develop communication skills between men and women, and look at human rights and reproductive health. These sessions make the abstract ideas of gender, and of gender equity, both personal and accessible. This is a key step in coordinating efforts for women’s empowerment and ensuring that men are on board. Across the eighteen villages that APDC works with, many of the men who took part in gender sensitization sessions shared their stories. Some men had started helping women with household chores that had been considered “exclusively” gendered forms of labour, such as childcare. Before, it was said that if a man “touches the spatula used to make le to (a Burkinabe dish), he becomes impotent.” But, the prejudices associated with gendered divisions of labour have been weakened by building awareness around the communal and financial benefits of gender equity. For instance, more men now realize that if they contribute to household work their wives will be able to participate in income-generating activities so that “the whole family wins.”

While APDC has worked in the Fada region of Burkina Faso since 2008, they still face a number of challenges in advocating for gender equity. As they work to bring about transformative changes that contradict the patriarchal power structures organizing entire households and villages, APDC has to think long-term. They think on the level of generations, looking to the future and the past as they strategize on how to address the local issues that call upon them today. They celebrate the small victories of men who understand the importance of validating their wives’ work, while acknowledging the struggles of altering deeply embedded social and cultural practices.

Tools for Trust: Building Community Capacity Through Gender Equity

Vecinos Honduras (VH) has a complementary approach to development. They work in the departments of Valle and El Paraíso, which are in the southern and eastern parts of Honduras. They tend to stay in an area between six to eight years. Initially, they integrate into communities by hosting educational initiatives on child nutrition or optimizing crop production. VH then slowly becomes involved in training local leaders so that they can organize these kinds of initiatives, learn the ins and outs of project-planning, and manage funds. For VH, the eventual goal is to cultivate communities with the capacity to take development projects from imagination to implementation.

Equipped with a toolkit of activities addressing topics such as water and agriculture, labour divisions, household relationships, and other parts of community capacity-building, VH embraces a holistic view of development. Under this umbrella, every time VH layers in a focus on gender equity, its effects amplify across the different components of community that they address. Attuned to the order in which conversations occur, they are careful to first introduce activities that cement trust with communities and only later implement programs that explore issues more guarded by social norms, such as gendered divisions of labour. VH pays attention to local contexts, adapting their communications to suit the specific needs of those they seek to work with, rather than using a top-down, one-size-fits-all approach. This strategy is crucial to nurturing connections with, and staying in communities long-term.

Similar to APDC in Burkina Faso, VH also tends to maternal and child health. They focus on lowering mortality and morbidity among mothers and infants using evidence-based initiatives such as weighing sessions. Here, mothers bring infants and young children in to be weighed, and community volunteers monitor body weight to gauge health and nutrition. Gathering together, the mothers create a space where they exchange stories on child-rearing, and learn how to harness available resources to best nourish their children. Within these spaces, community volunteers often facilitate discussion on methods of child-care that mothers can add to their toolkits. During a visit to Honduras, VH’s Canadian partner organization, World Neighbours Canada (WNC), noticed that men were not often present at weighing sessions. WNC wondered whether this was an impediment to gender equity. But, through the local insight of VH, they found that the social environment women fostered in the weighing sessions was vital to their identification as a collective. It was a space for them to connect with each other, and themselves, as they puzzled their way through the complexities of motherhood. Bringing men in to this space would disrupt that dynamic. So, as WNC realized the question of gender equity cannot always be reduced to a number, like the number of men and women in a room. Instead, it is equally important to take into account what the purpose of a space is, what happens there and for whom. Besides, one of the motivating markers for the men joining the agricultural training sessions VH does is the idea that diversifying crops will help serve their children’s nutritional needs. Thus, fathers care deeply for the wellbeing of their children, even if they do not come to weighing sessions.

Each of the three organizations we look at here works across three very different localities, and makes gender equity relevant to their needs through the seemingly unrelated notes of water and sanitations, food production, and child nutrition. The factor that unites TSS in Nepal, APDC in Burkina Faso, and VH in Honduras is World Neighbours Canada. WNC works with these three partner organizations to provide support with training local leaders and implementing grassroots programs. They work with the goal of promoting self-reliance by empowering TSS, APDC, and VH to identify and hone local resources to solve problems. In each of their encounters with partner organizations they are careful to listen to the needs of local communities, trusting their expertise in understanding the nuances around development. Establishing this trust is essential in working towards gender equity: a goal that extends across generations. If making transformative change means preparing the resources necessary to support that change, then WNC and its partners chart a promising course for the future as they look at what exists now and imagine what can be, empowering local people to size up the challenges they face and plan how to respond.

Mangoes serve two purposes

A mango nursery in the community of El Trapiche, Honduras. Mango plants serve two purposes. They help reforest the hills and they provide fruit for eating. The southern area is perfect for this species and the villagers love the fruit, especially the children. The fruit also provide many vitamins  and much needed nutrition.

The Current Reality of Honduras

Editor’s note: The following comes from a mid-term evaluation of our Infant-Maternal Health Project in Honduras. I was struck by the chapter that contextualized the situation in Honduras presently and thought it worthwhile to share with our members. This has been Google translated from Spanish so please keep that in mind.

The work of Vecinos Honduras (VH) is in rural zones of Honduras, in poor populations, marginal and excluded, who have to settle in remote hill areas, because they do not have another option to keep their families; who had to build with tenacity and sacrifice a social coexisting system with many limitations: they do not have public services, lack worthy income; high deterioration of the natural resources, low production and productivity; suffer contamination due to agro-chemicals and garbage; bad infrastructure.  The majority of the families do not have potable water; more or less half of them lack electricity, and in the majority of the cases the houses need to be improved.

Household plumbing.

This scenario of shortages contributes to the precarious life conditions of the population.  They basically depend of subsistence agriculture, mainly for consumption. The only factors that contribute to local economy and alleviate a little the crisis of family subsistence, are the remittances in the south and coffee in the eastern part of the country.

Vecino Honduras teaches families how to diversify their crops to not only grow coffee but also more food for their family.

There is a very deficient education service: pre-school and elementary school with many limitations, and a poor public health service oriented to curing illnesses.

In research made by the World Health Organization to measure the performance, quality and coverage of the health services, Honduras occupies the 131 place of 191 countries.

The greatest potential for development in Honduras is agriculture.  However, investing in this sector implicates a very high risk with respect to the return of capital.  It is for this reason that neither the private companies, nor the financial system or the government support this sector, which could easily generate one million jobs at the national level (study from ANAFAE).

A well ordered farm.

Support is oriented towards large enterprises and crops for exporting such as: Coffee, Bananas, Cantaloupe, Seafood and Tilapia, among others.  The families, who live on the hills in a subsistence limbo, in which institutions with a sustainable development approach, such as Vecinos Honduras, play a very important role in their lives are in many ways lucky because, these type of development institutions are few, and those who would assume challenges in this context, are even less.

According to estimates from the government, for each ten Hondurans seven are poor, and of these seven almost five live in extreme poverty.  This has been this way for at least 100 years; which puts in evidence the erratic public policies applied, which base their dysfunctional neoliberal approaches that had and still have the economy of some developed countries in crisis; the last ones Spain, Greece and currently Argentina.

Neoliberalism does not even work for great powers who have been their promoters; and now USA embraces protectionism, that has generated a commercial war between the USA and the rest of the world, mainly with China and Russia.  Moreover, Honduras continues betting on the recipes of the IMF, when it has been proven that these only seek the mobility of resources to the great powers.

Honduras is known in the world as the country of extreme: the most violent, the most corrupt, the poorest, the most inequitable and more recently, the one with more massive immigrations to the USA.  Complete unemployment and sub-employment has a direct relation with poverty, is because the people do not have access to economic income and are poor.  The development plans of the public sector are subject to national and foreign investment, which never arrives.  The problem is that the families have to eat today, they cannot continue waiting until investment arrives, and in the meantime, how do they feed their families?

Based on skills learned at a Vecinos Honduras workshop she started her own business selling plantain chips and can now feed her family and afford to send her children to school.

Because of the political instability characterized by disrespect to the judicial framework, disrespect of popular will, election frauds, corruption and impunity, as well as fiscal insecurity as the rules change as it is appropriate to the politician in turn, investors don’t know what to expect and prefer to invest their capitals in other countries.

The debt of Honduras is 12 billion Canadian dollars (SEFIM). The Gross Domestic Product (PIB), is approximately 22 billion dollars.  The general budget of the republic is 11 billion dollars for the year 2018 (less than the debt), of this budget, and each year 2 billion dollars are used to pay the debt (capital plus interests).  In the last 6 years, 9 billion dollars has been paid; and the worst part is that Hondurans do not know why we have this debt; how it is used; and if there is evidence of it reaching the country.

“The Honduran health system is deficient in: Doctors, nurses, equipment, supplies, medicines, health centers, beds and budget.  It also suffers from corruption and lack of social sensibility from the staff; therefore, it is considered to be in crisis.  All of the above is summarized in that the State provides the Hondurans a health service which is of a very bad quality.  The greater impact is suffered by the poor, and among these, we find the families who live on hills of the rural areas. “

Vecinos Honduras trains local Health Monitors to do regular health check-ups on the community’s children under the age of 5.

However, what we do see is that because of its payment, investment is reduced in social aspects such as: health, education, housing, community rural infrastructure, etc.  Instead of increasing the health and education budgets, increases go to the police and the army for weapons, equipment and war practices, in a country in which one third of the population is considered homeless. If this spending negatively impacts the living conditions of the urban populations, where there is more employment and more is invested in infrastructure; it affects the rural populations where there is no employment and investment is minimum even more. It is in this context, and with these families, that Vecinos Honduras works.

Cristina Margarita Alvarez’s success story

Cristina Alvarez

When Cristina Margarita Alvarez was a child she wanted to become a teacher. Unfortunately, because of a lack financial resources, she only attended primary school before leaving her community of La Batea, Honduras. She found work as domestic worker in the city of Danli in order to support her first daughter Berenice. She was sixteen at the time.

She lived in Danli for four years when she met Félix Donaldo Martínez.  They got married and decided to settle in the community of Flores #2 where Felix had grown coffee for 22 years.

They had three children; Darwin Donaldo, Josué Fernando and Josías Enoc. The first two have moved out and created their own homes and Josias studies at the Luis Landa Basic Education Center in the community of La Libertad.

Once settled in Las Flores # 2, she began to attend the Catholic Church, which motivated her to teach catechism to girls and children between 7 to 12 years of age. In a way, her dream of being a teacher of primary education was fulfilled with this task.

Christina teaching

When Vecinos Honduras began to support her community, she became interested in participating, especially in activities related to community health, drawing attention to the topic of food preparation based on local products. When the health monitors in her community were selected, she voluntarily offered to work with the children in Comprehensive Childhood Care in the Community and Early Stimulation. She mentioned that at the beginning of the AIN-C program she had not participated because her one-year-old granddaughter Tifany Mikeyla Salinas Martínez was in her care, which prevented her from attending the trainings. However, in the next phase of training for health monitors she managed to train and currently serves 15 girls and boys from the Las Uvas neighborhood.

“My wish is for children to be smarter so I treat them with all my love and affection. Now that I teach what I learned with mothers I feel good because I do not keep the knowledge, but I share it, taking into account that everyday I learn more.”

It is important to mention Cristina Margarita has the support of her husband and children, since they all share domestic chores, have common dreams and make efforts to improve their life situation. An evidence of the family effort is that based on their collective work they have managed to acquire other lands where they currently cultivate 15 acres of coffee, a space in which the whole family works collectively.

Cristina Margarita is a worthy example of struggle, perseverance and dedication to her family; her volunteer work and her desire to serve others is a permanent source of inspiration.

Prepared by: Michael Newman program facilitator team

Date: August 25, 2018

Photography: Manuel Castellanos