As we enter our last week in Gracias, we’ve begun to finish off the projects in the communities and to say goodbye to the people there. So now is a good time to look back at the work we’ve done and to give you an idea what these communities are like.
Our day starts when our bus driver – Don Berto – picks us up from our house in Gracias. He then drives us to one of eight communities, five of which are profiled below. First up is the turn off for Los Altos Guanteque:
Los Altos Guanteque
As its name suggests, Los Altos Guanteque is located fairly high up in the mountains. This means it can be quite hard to reach by bus after a day or two of rain and can take close to an hour. On a clear day however, you can enjoy a rather nice view of Gracias on the approach to the community. Guanteque is one of the larger communities we work in and is home to a nursery, a school (grades 1-6), a church, and the houses of our National Volunteers Salomon and Teresa.
Population Approx.: 1132 people (158 houses)
Key Places: The Nursery ‘Amanecer’, school, football pitch, Don Justino’s house, Teresa’s house.
Key Faces: Salomon lives here with 14 family members, and Teresa lives with seven. Her brother lives next door with three daughters. Farmer Don Justino
Spare Time: Altos Guanteque is a very religious community so the single church catering for over 1000 inhabitants is an important focal point. Many of the young men of the community spend their free time playing football or pool.
Our Work: We hosted the ‘Día de la Naturaleza’ – Nature Day – on the football pitch to teach the children the importance of caring for the environment. We also painted a huge, colourful mural on the side of the nursery, designed by our very own artist, Ellen. We’ve also put in several days of work planting coffee on Don Justino’s finca.
Most of the communities are clustered together, about 30 minutes’ drive from Gracias. On the right, Don pulls up to the first community in the cluster – El Tablon.
The first sight of El Tablon that greets us is of the primary school at the end of the dirt road. Around 110 children attend the school which contains a playground built by the previous cycle. From there El Tablon ascends steeply up the hillside, with houses dotted around in an almost random fashion. Continuing along the impassable ‘roads’, we come to Keldin’s house – one of our national volunteers – the focus of much of our work in El Tablon.
Population Approx.: 1000 (250 houses)
Key Places: Keldin’s house, the primary school (6-14), the football field, 4 churches of different sects.
Key Faces: Keldin lives in El Tablon with his father – Amilcar – his stepmum and four brothers. Another national volunteer – Francis – lives in El Tablon with his parents, 4 brothers and 1 sister
Spare time: The football field is the main hangout spot for El Tablon’s youth. Keldin is part of the local football team which trains there every weekday bar Monday.
Our Work: We built a chicken coop for Keldin’s family and painted a mural on their house. We also planted coffee on their farm and made an allotment at the school.
Two minutes from El Tablon, we turn off the main road onto the bumpy, uphill path that leads to La Azomada and most of the communities we work in. Driving up this for five minutes we come to Catatao:
Description: Catatao consists of a deceptively large number of houses along a series of tracks that meander off the main one. Everyone you meet in Catatao is related to someone you’ve already met – through blood or marriage. The village has a very friendly, welcoming atmosphere and has hosted most of the British volunteers for homestays at some point!
Population Approx.: 400 (100 house)
Key Places: School (ages 6-12), 4 churches.
Key Faces: Volunteers Oscar Martinez and Norma Alvarado (cousins). Farmer Don Justo.
Spare Time: Catatao has a very young population, and more men than women. Therefore, social life revolves around hanging out on “street” (track) corners and the football field. Gossip is a major pastime.
Our Work: Volunteers have helped Don Justo to experiment with planting techniques for pineapples and have painted a mural on the side of a Red COMAL supported shop.
Past Catatao we come to the largest community, the ‘capital’ of the area – La Azomada
Description: La Azomada is the community where we’ve completed the bulk of our work and has been the hub of our stay in Honduras. The first noticeable construction along the bumpy dirt roads is the radio station. As you continue along the road, you finally reach the centre point of La Azomada where Milton’s house is located along with the football pitch and the salon – the classroom where we’ve planned our work.
Population approx.: 1500 people (180 houses)
Key places: Milton’s house, two schools, two shops, two farming business and two churches, evangelical and catholic.
Key faces: One of our national volunteers Milton Castañeda lives in La Azomada. Juan Martínez, one of the leaders of the community, is a key figure alongside Manuel Castañeda, Milton’s father. Our driver, Don Berto also lives in La Azomada with his family.
Spare time: The football field is where most of the children and teenagers spend their spare time. There is a match at five every weekday.
Our Work: In La Azomada, we have helped Milton’s close and extended family. We’ve done a lot of agricultural work including planting coffee in Milton’s finca, making organic fertiliser and helping to clean up farms. Two murals have been painted in La Azomada and our first event, Festival de las Semillas Del Futuro was held in La Azomada. We’ve also hosted four hour-long radio programmes about the environment on the local station – La Voz De Puca.
A ten-minute walk down the road from La Azomada – not to be done in flip flops, trust me – lies Rancho Grande. The last community profiled here:
Description: Rancho Grande is really an annexe of La Azomada. It is situated along the road between La Azomada and El Zapote. “Rancho” boasts some pretty impressive views from its perch on the side of the valley. You can see both the Puca, the mountain that dominates the skyline over most of the communities we work in, and the mountain range that contains Celaque (Honduras’ highest point) in the distance.
Population Approx.: 200 (50 houses)
Key Places: School (ages 6-12), church.
Key Faces: Volunteers Dauny Serrano and Ilda Ponce, farmer Don Antonio and his family.
Spare Time: There is not much to Rancho Grande, so spare time is spent at home with family or visiting neighbours. The church is very active, with a strong youth group that supports families in the surrounding area.
Our Work: Don Antonio and his family are Red COMAL’s local contacts. They function as a knowledge base; Red COMAL supports them to develop responsible agricultural techniques and to pass these techniques on to other members of the community. We have worked with the family to produce organic fertilisers and their house is the site of one of our murals.
Written by ICS volunteers: Daniel Fine, Jolyon Hedges, Ellen Shields and Lola Wilkie