I have been in Honduras for over 2 weeks now and have managed to find a space for myself here in a new way of life, with a new set of people. Following an eventful training week in Ojojona, we have now moved to the west of Honduras to a town called Marcala, in which we will remain for the rest of our stay. Having settled into our team houses, made ourselves at home by decorating the walls with ‘family portraits’, and becoming acquainted with the locals, I have had a chance to embrace some of the culture here and get a taste of the development programme that I have become a part of.
In the past couple of weeks I have come to appreciate the stress Progressio have placed on “people powered development”, as these words have literally come to life and I have been privileged enough to see this concept in action. I have sat and thought for hours about how to fit in all that has happened in the past week that relates to this concept, and have come to the conclusion that I can’t! So the best I can do is outline some moments and experiences that have stood out to me and that have touched me and my team.
Upon arriving in Marcala, we were taken to the offices of the partner organisations that we will be working with for the outstanding 8 weeks. The 10 of us working together in training week have been divided into two groups, one group working with each partner organisation. My team, ‘The senoritas’, have been appointed to work alongside an organisation called COMUCAP. On the second day of being in Marcala we were taken to the COMUCAP offices and were welcomed with hugs and smiling faces as we introduced ourselves. We were then enlightened on some of COMUCAP’s aims and achievements and I quickly came to realise that the support the women had for one another, and for the community, was definitely something to aspire to.
COMUCAP (Peasant women coordination from La Paz) is a women’s organisation that works with four communities in Marcala to promote women’s rights and integrate them into the world of production. The main roles of the group are to provide technical assistance and training to help develop business activities that improve the life conditions of the women in Marcala.
Since our introductions with COMUCAP, we have got the opportunity to work with a community of women that have been assisted by, and who are part of the COMUCAP family. For a couple of days we helped Lorena and her family prepare a parcel of land for the production of crops that are going to provide a sustainable source of food for her and her family. We spent two days cutting down what felt like an entire rainforest, turning the land to expose the soil, and planting the seeds that in three months would become corn, beans and vegetables.
Regardless of the cuts, bruises and bites that we received in the process, we got to learn a lot about the women and their work. Lorena literally soldiered through the whole day, using heavy tools like pick axes and chopping down bushes with a machete without hardly any breaks. Whilst watching Lorena and her Mum work, I was truly inspired by their dedication to their families and the intensity of the work they do. Especially when bearing in mind that a proportion of the work, or in some cases the majority of the work, that these women do is unpaid and carried out to feed their families.
Unity and dedication
This dedication was reinforced later on in the week when our group prepared a training session for the women in the community. We were asked to train the women in some basic areas of maths to help them with situations such as loan repayments and working out profit and cost in the setting of a microenterprise.
This experience was one of my favourite experiences so far. Looking around the room I could see the women working together, supporting each other and helping each other solve maths problems. They were there to learn, and we were there to share our knowledge. The unity of these women was touching and proved just how effective working with others can be for the progression of a whole community. I think that this unity radiates throughout the organisation and it is clear that the women dedicate their lives to making a lasting difference for themselves and their communities.
The best day by far
We are now at the end of this week and I am almost certain that this ‘people powered development’ is contagious. Literally every member of both teams have been inspired and we have all come to realise just how much we want to help during our stay. On top of this, we have worked together to produce some really good work and have developed some good, funny and slightly crazy relationships with each other. Everybody has contributed and put effort into their roles whilst managing to make time for each other and have fun along the way. I think a nice way to describe how we all feel right now is in the words of Kamara:
“Today was the best day by far.... went to a school and had to teach 60 children, got into the role so quick and had so much fun. I played games with them and taught them colours in English and even though there was a language barrier you could see how much fun they were having. Seeing the smiles on their faces made me realise just how much this experience means to me and why I am here. I felt so happy I was able to teach the children and their parents something that they will be able to use in their daily lives. That feeling is PRICELESS...”
Progressio ICS volunteer Sharna Allen reflects on her first 2 weeks in Honduras.
Photo: Progressio ICS volunteers working hard to help Lorena and her family prepare land for crops. Photo by Progressio ICS volunteer Charlotte Barker.