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Archive for April, 2011

Back in Business

Somehow it’s been 2 weeks since our last post!  Semana Santa (Easter week) is a huge deal here and the country was literally shut down – meaning no office access and no internet cafe.  After our recent beach trip to Sambo Creek we decided to bunker down in Trinidad in an effort to avoid the notorious Semana Santa crowds.  (Read more about our Semana Santa experiences from last year here and here).

For a tiny bit of fun we had wanted to take a day trip to San Pedro just for something different but the modified bus schedule seemed a little unreliable.  Instead, we hitched a ride with Juan who was on his way to a day full of University classes and spent the day at the San Pedro mall.  We literally spent the entire day there.  Juan dropped us off around 8am and came back to get us around 6pm!  Believe it or not it was not as bad as it may sound.  By this point in our service we are experts at not being bored even when there is absolutely nothing to do.  So spending an entire day in an air conditioned building people watching, window shopping, and eating Baskin Robbins was actually rather exciting!  We even saw a movie, Just Go With It, which turned out to be way funnier than we thought.  We ended our stint as mall rats with a trip to the grocery store and stocked up on $1 a can Stella Artois, romaine lettuce (salad, oh how we’ve missed you!), cheese, and wine – can’t complain about that.

The rest of the week was pretty quiet as most of the businesses were closed and even the buses stopped running.  David took advantage of the quiet time to finish some projects he’d been working on.  I, on the other hand, read 4 books, made a bunch of crochet projects, cooked and baked.  To celebrate Easter we opened up our last pack of country ham  (brought home from our Christmas trip) and feasted on country ham biscuits and black eyed peas – a little taste of  home!

It’s almost time to turn the calendar page to May which is already shaping up to be another busy month for us.  Engineers Without Borders Lehigh is returning for their first official project visit to La Fragosa!  We will also be making a short trip to Marcala to meet with Fred & ADEC and propose another filters project.  Our first trip to the West of the country is also in the works to do a topo survey and some sight seeing.

Just to prove that I can make more than just blender dresses, here are some of my crochet projects from this past week…

Purses for the little neighbor girls

Collegiate cozies (2 for you, Kimbo!)

Tools of the trade

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After a busy start to 2011, all of a sudden it was April, and we hadn’t taken a break from our project work since Christmas.  Although we’ve traveled plenty in 2011 on work-related stuff, it was time to go relax somewhere and get recharged for the next few months.  With a change of clothes, our IPods, some sunscreen, and sandals we took off for the north coast of Honduras to a small pueblo outside of La Ceiba called Sambo Creek.

The pueblo of Sambo Creek

Beachfront, Sambo Creek

This being our first trip to the area we were unfamiliar with how to arrive at the hotel that we’d picked out and ended up getting off the bus a little prematurely.  We wandered around for a while before a local boy pointed us in the right direction.  He led us to a small river where we waded across to the beach.  From there the hotel was only a few hundred meters down.  It was the first time we’ve ever arrived at a hotel via the beach with sandy feet and rolled up pant legs.  Once at the hotel we pretty much kicked our feet up and lounged in the pool or strolled down the beach while taking a breather from ordinary volunteer life in Honduras.

The hotel, Helen’s, was one of the nicer places that we’ve stayed at.  Owned by Helena, a Honduran who lived many years in Canada, the place was staffed with an interesting mix of Garifuna locals and French-Canadian ex-pats.  The hotel included two pools (one open to the public and one for guests of the hotel only) a tasty restaurant (the only option around), nice rooms, and a well thought-out layout.  It was very secluded so if you’re looking for night-life you should get off the bus in La Ceiba, the major city in this region.  We enjoyed the rural setting that included horses and cattle roaming the beaches.

Taken from the beach facing inland

This region of the North Coast is popular among international tourist as a jumping off point for the Bay Islands.  During our stay we encountered several European and North American travelers; by far the most foreigners we’ve seen in one place so far in Honduras.

All browned and relaxed from a couple days of nothingness, I think we’re ready to get back to work – wrapping up old projects and starting some new ones…

Sunset from beach at Helen's

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Anyone who has traveled in developing countries has probably noticed the high instances of rotten and missing teeth, especially in young children; unfortunately, Honduras is no exception.  It is very common to see children with black spots on their teeth or teeth that look like they are broken off at the gums and black, especially in children from rural areas.  Many adults (as young as in their thirties)  also have partial bridges or full on dentures.  From the beginning of our time here we have been really affected by the dental issues here because they are 100% preventable!  Even the poorest family can afford a L.20 toothbrush – the issue seems to be lack of education.  So this week we delivered our monthly charla in La Fragosa with a focus on dental hygiene!

This week we were also hosting two PC Trainees during the H18 volunteer visit.  This time last year David and I traveled to La Esperanza for our own volunteer visit (read the post here).   The visit gives the PCTs a chance to see what volunteer life is really like and it is also their first time navigating bus travel alone!  We had one PCT from Health and one from Wat/San and it was a lot of fun taking them to see the La Fragosa project and of course putting them to work during the charla!

We began the charla with some basics about the importance of taking care of your teeth and a few tips for brushing.  In the March charla on potable water we discussed bacteria in the water that can make us sick, so this month we also touched on bacteria in our mouths that can ruin our teeth.  After the informational part we separated the class into four teams for a trivia game.  Side note, the teams came up with their own team names which were Olimpia, Motagua, Marathon, and Honduras (3 out of 4 are soccer teams).

PCT Damarise leading the game and PCT Adam keeping score

Some of the questions were a review from the potable water charla and the rest were about dental hygiene.  The bonus question was how many teeth do humans have and I was shocked that 2 teams answered correctly!! Even I didn’t know the correct answer (which we deemed 32 to include wisdom teeth).

 

Team Olimpia....pondering

After the game I got to play Toothbrush Fairy as we provided each student with a new toothbrush, thanks to our generous friends and family who donated brushes at Christmas.  The kids were very excited to get a new toothbrush and we immediately put them to use by doing a brushing demonstration.

 

Good lil brushers

We also had enough brushes to give one to the teacher and the members of the community health committee – adults need to brush too!  Overall we had a really fun time with the kids and our visiting PCTs!

 

Thanks for our toothbrushes!

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In May, we’ll have been living in Trinidad, Santa Bárbara for one year.  There have been many work-related and personal highs and lows, but we both agree that this has been a highpoint in our lives that has helped us grow individually and as a couple.  While there are a lot of topics that we could discuss as we approach our one-year, in-site anniversary, this post will focus on the projects we have been and are continuing to work on as well as the counterparts (US and Honduran) that we are working with.

Before I get into our project work, I’d like to discuss a FAQ that many people have asked either us or our families.  Many people assume that Peace Corps gives volunteers funding to do projects.  This is a misconception.  There are a few grants that volunteers can apply for through PC, but they are highly competitive and typically for small amounts of money.  By and large, volunteers work on projects that are funded by government agencies (international and Honduran), local governments, NGOs, and other organizations like medical brigades.  PC more or less trains us to be community development workers but doesn’t really give us physical resources like money or transportation to do this type of work.  A volunteer must form relationships with entities like the ones listed above and support and strengthen the projects of those entities while encouraging those entities to support projects that interest the volunteer.

Here are the projects that Kristi and I have cooking as well as the organizations or agencies that we are working with:

Project: La Fragosa – Potable Water Filters and Combined Treatment Unit with Community Education

Counterpart(s): Agua y Desarrollo Comunitario; International Rural Water Association; Municipality of Petoa; Patronato, Junta Administrativa de Agua y Saneamiento, Comité de Salud of La Fragosa

Description: Ceramic water filters were sold by the JAAS to families for treating water for drinking and cooking.  CTU was installed at the community school so that the students would have access to potable water while at school.  PCVs are providing ongoing community education to students, community organizations, and community members about potable water, health, hygiene, sanitation, and maintenance of the filters and CTUs.

Status: Filters and CTU installed.  Community education and project monitoring are underway.

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Project: La Fragosa – Potable Water System, Pilas, and Latrines

Counterpart(s): Engineers without Borders (Lehigh University); Agua y Desarrollo Comunitario; Patronato, Junta Administrativa de Agua y Saneamiento, Comité de Salud of La Fragosa

Description: Project will bring a permanent potable water system to the community along with pilas (for in-home water storage) and latrines to improve the overall health and sanitation of the community.

Status: Project pending on approval by EWB-USA board.

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Project: Point-1 Water Filters for Community Schools

Counterpart(s): Honduran Red Cross; Episcopal Medical Brigade

Description: Micro-pore filters donated by the medical brigade are being implemented in community schools by Red Cross promoters.  Promoters are also providing an educational charla to the students about water and sanitation

Status: Several filters have been implemented.  Promoters continue to plan effective implementation strategies and charlas (prerequisite to being given a filter for implementation).

Red Cross Promoter (in red) with her community school

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Project: Tulito Water System Improvements

Counterpart(s): Water for People; Junta de Agua of Tulito

Description: Community has lost rights to tank and portion of their existing system.  PCVs are preparing studies, designs, and reports for WFP so that the organization can fund and implement the water system improvements.  The project also includes several upgrades to the existing system to increase its function.

Status: PCVs are preparing the design and report.

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Project: Training of Municipal Workers on Water Related Topics

Counterpart(s): Consejo Regional Abmiental (mancomunidad); Municipalities of Trinidad, Petoa, Concepcion Norte, San Marcos, Chinda, San Luis

Description: Technical workers within the various municipalities are being trained on topics such as chlorination, calculating potable water demands, and water system maintenance.

Status: First training has been delivered.

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Project: Sustainable Water Treatment Plants

Counterpart(s): Agua Para El Pueblo; Agua Clara (Cornell University); Municipalities of Atíma, Santa Bárbara and Gracias, Lempira

Description: PCV is providing assistance with topographic surveying and other technical needs as they arise during design and construction.

Status: Topographic site survey completed for Atíma.  Survey for Gracias scheduled for May.

Construction underway (typical APP water treatment plant)

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Project: Strengthening of the Municipal Women’s Group

Counterpart(s): Oficina Municipal de la Mujer; Municipality of Trinidad

Description: PCV is working with the women’s group to strengthen the function of the group by covering topics such as goal-setting, stress management, and community outreach.

Status: Ongoing

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These are the projects that we have underway.  Several are near completion or involve a diminished involvement by Kristi and me.  We have been incredibly busy with these projects since our trip back home over Christmas.  We’ll be taking a few days off for vacation this month and return ready to keep rolling with the above projects as well as beginning a few new projects!

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Los perdidos

We hope to have new posts up at the end of next week.  We’ve been out of town and/or busy and unable to post… Sorry!

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