Saturday, January 14, 2017

Seeking Sustainable Projects

Our work in Honduras was reduced by a day because our flight from Duluth to Chicago was cancelled when a wet snow and fog prevented landings. Instead, we drove an icy highway to Minneapolis and flew directly from there to Houston. When we arrived in Santa Barbara, the local Rotarians were eager to put us to work on the project in Aridita that we planned last year: installing a roof on an expanded multipurpose building in the mountain community of Aridita (14.98037°, -88.30410°) northwest of Santa Barbara in the municipality (like counties in the USA) of Nuevo Celiac. Members of the community and the parents' assocation already had installed new cconcrete block walls and new metal beams when we arrived to assist in putting on new sheets of metal on the roof.

There always are interesting "synchronicities" on mission trips. The same day we arrived in San Pedro Sula, two missionaries supported by the United Church of Christ's One Great Hour of Sharing also were returning from a trip to Panama and Columbia. Don and Maryjane Westra are natives of Fergus Falls, MN who have been working to make a vocational school program more sustainable in Yoro, Honduras. In rural Honduras, fifty perent of the population lives in extreme poverty. Access to education beyond the elementary grades is very limited, and, therefore, most people lack the skills required for good-paying jobs. Last year one of the Santa Barbara Rotarians asked our group to assist with improving a vocational school in Santa Barbara, and the Westra's have the knowledge and experience to help us understand what approaches might be successful.

Another Santa Barbara Rotarian met with us during our first evening in the city and asked our group to be a partner in attracting funding from the Rotary Foundation to implement a multi-faceted program to improve rural sanitation and to reduce water-borne disease by enhancing sanitary facilities and practices in area schools. We also came this year with the intention to develop a program of enhanced communications between children in the community of Las Brisas del Pinal (14.94582°, -88.23488°) and children in the Chequamegon Bay area. When we attended the Santa Barbara Rotary Club meeting on Friday evening, a young woman, who is president of the Santa Barbara Rotaract club (young professionals engaged in community service), said that their club would like to collaborate with us in developing this project.

There is no shortage of important projects where help is needed. One person who is a great help in all these endeavors this year is Allison Radke, the youth minister at the United Presbyterian-Congregational Church in Ashland. Allison's fluency in Spanish and good humor have made her a hit with every group we encounter and a real benefit in our communications.

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