Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Other Side of the Mountain

On our second full day we drove to the other side of the mountain from Santa Barbara to the little village of Las Quebradas (N 14⁰56.209’, W 088⁰04.780’).  The mountain is another national park: Parque Nacional Santa Barbara, which protects Mt. Santa Barbara.

Each day since Monday we have been checking with our bank in Santa Barbara to see if the funds we wired from our bank in the USA last week have been deposited to the Latin American Rotary Aid (LARA) account here.  As of Wednesday they had not yet arrived, and we have been trying to track down the source of the problem.  Our LARA directors Chris and Steve, anticipating the inevitable challenges of banking in Honduras, held some Honduran lempiras from last year’s contributions so that we could buy some materials for projects as soon as we arrived.  We hope that this year’s funds will arrive soon.

The financial problems we experience in getting funds from the USA to the western mountains of Honduras are miniscule in comparison to the financial challenges of the families with whom we work.  Of Honduras’ 8 million people, half live in rural areas.  Approximately 2.7 million of the rural population live in poverty, and  2 million of these are “extremely poor.”

Most rural families are subsistence farmers who grow corn and coffee on small plots of highly erodible soil on steep hillsides.  They feed their families the corn and use the income from selling coffee to buy  such other basic necessities as rice and beans.  Usually the family plot is not sufficient to support an entire family, and farmers are forced to seek employment elsewhere to survive.  That lack of income-producing work in rural Honduras is a driving force behind the country’s high level of emigration.
Lake Yojoa seen from the road to Las Quebradas 

In order to get to Las Quebradas, we drove south from Santa Barbara to the southern tip of Lake Yojoa a large (32 square miles) lake on the east side of Mt. Santa Barbara.  Then we drove north along the eastern shore to the city of Peña Blanca.  From there we drove up the eastern face of Mt. Santa Barbara on winding dirt roads to the village.

The relatively short drive from Peña Blanca to Las Quebradas provided a stark contrast between mountain and lowland farms.  Farmers in the lowlands grew dense crops of sugar, yuca, bananas, and other fruits, while the highland farms produced mostly corn and coffee.  On Thursday we will return to Las Quebradas to assist is families in repairing their kindergarten.
Students visit with us during recess
Parents show us needed school repairs

Leaks in the rusty corrugated steel roof are a big problem

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