Alabama Honduras Medical Educational Network
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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Big News From Yorito

Shortly after our friend Janet Espinosa's Peace Corps assignment ended late last year a new volunteer, Nina Pfeiffer, took over to help coordinate local efforts.  One of the big issues Nina latched onto when she first arrived was that of malnutrition.  In one of the first email's she sent me Nina was disturbed by records indicating most children had not put on weight or grown taller since being measured a year earlier. Malnutrition and unsustainable development plague the world as one of the main hurdles we must overcome to realize a healthier, more homeostatic future. Yorito does not exist separately from this phenomenon, but both Nina's efforts and those of the AHMEN-SIFAT Initiative stand to transform Yorito into a beacon of hope for the rest of Honduras.

In order to overcome malnutrition, Nina has partnered with local women to help start a feeding kitchen.  The following is Nina's update on the beginning stages of the new sustainable community gardening/feeding kitchen in Yorito:

The school where food is being served

We began serving food at the kindergarten the last Thursday (bean and rice soup) and Friday (rice with milk)! We also have great news...for the next 40 days the kindergarten is going to be receiving rice, beans, soy, and milk as part of an alimentos (nutritional feeding) program. The principal there told us that we could use the supplies to cook with as long as the 15 kindergartners got the food too because they send way too much food for them to use up in 40 days. Also we met with Juan Carlos from La Escuela George Jackson and got the names of the children who are of utmost need right now.  It worries Juan Carlos that these children were only coming to school the days that snacks were being served so Fanny Aviles and I went to the children's homes and talked to their mothers.  Fanny and I talked to the moms, and they agreed to send their kids to the HCSK to eat AND we also told them that they had to send them to school every day. We are also saving money by having the children bring in their own plate, fork or spoon (this is what the principal at the kinder does with the kids, she gave us the idea) instead of buying the silverware for each child.

Local women preparing meals in Pacayal

Right now we have a great group of 4 mothers and one volunteer (an older woman who is a community volunteer) who are helping to cook. There is an outdoor wood burning stove that one of the neighbors donated to us, and we send the beans home with one of the women the day before to cook (because these take more time to cook) so that they are ready the next morning...we just heat them up! Our menu for the week is as follows:

Monday- Tamales with cabbage
Tuesday-Catrachas (kinds of like quesadillas with beans on the side)
Wednesday-Spaghetti with tomato sauce and guineas
Thursday-Bean and Rice soup
Friday-Rice with milk
Dinner Time!!

The only things that we are buying right now are cheese (about 50 lemps a week and tomatoes 30 lemps a week). We are also going to buy some pasta this week for the women in Pacayal to continue cooking three days a week (they have agreed to bring their veggies and sauce we just thought that they are probably tired of cooking soup everyday!)  We are going to meet with the women in Pacayal this Friday and they will be weighing the kids again (it will have been one month since they have been cooking together so hopefully the kids will be doing better!)

Word just arrived that community women have already begun planting seeds to provide for the feeding kitchen.  The idea is to supply the community kitchen with produce from community gardens. It will take time, but long-term development will eventually make short-term relief less vital. The organization of the community, the leadership of Fanny Aviles and her fellow community members who made the trek to Cusuna to attend the first leadership conference one year ago, and Nina's guidance are precisely the types of traits Byron Morales of the AHMEN-SIFAT Initiative is looking for in prospective communities. Please feel free to contact me regarding leading a team in, conducting an educational workshop on, or donating to the sustainable development of Yorito. Some subjects pertinent to appropriate development are:

-solar power
-max yield organic gardening
-water purification
-outdoor stove construction
-basic hygiene

With a little devotion we can be the change. In Jesus' name, Peace.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Shalom = Peace

When the first AHMEN team returned from its life-changing missions opportunity back in 1998 we all wanted to communicate with the new friends who had done so much for our lives. Those desires wane the less time we think about each other, but in the 21st Century they don't have to! 

Hello?  Honduras??

Back in 1998 Internet was not available to many folks in Honduras. Phone service wasn't either. In 2008 Internet became more widespread, but access was still limited. Cell phones became as popular there as they had become in the United States, but it still cost “un ojo de la cara” to call back and forth. By 2011 the gulf between Honduran and United States-based members of AHMEN got smaller than it had ever been before.....Jennifer Richards started an AHMEN Facebook Group

In planning our June trip to Honduras the Durr's – Christ Connection team aimed to help solve communication troubles between folks living in Honduras and folks living in the United States. More specifically, our efforts were directed toward helping the young women of Shalom learn to communicate better with their sponsors. Our elaborate plan was to discuss the “Who, What, When, Where, How, and Why” of communication. We wanted to teach Shalom to communicate beyond just courtesy to learn to build solid relationships for the future of AHMEN, Cruzadas, and Shalom. The part of the workshop we were most worried about was the “How,” but almost the first thing we learned that was that most of Shalom was already on Facebook! For those of the girls who did not already have accounts, James Iverson showed them how to register one..

James building relationships before workshop
 For our workshop we divided the whole dorm into five groups. Brian, Dr. Camp, James, Lauren, and I led discussions with three or four of the girls in each group, and after covering each section “Mariposa” came out to reaffirm each section's lesson with a short skit. The response of the girls was amazing! I was really impressed with some of the remarks in my group! Yaqui Sanchez said although she is blessed to have a sponsor, she would like to communicate more with her sponsor so that they have a relationship based on something beyond just money. And in response to the same question why she should communicate more with her sponsor Danelia Ulloa said “because it would be nice to get to know the person who would give up so much for a person so far away.” Grown-up statements like these truly show that not only are AHMEN and Cruzadas helping provide a place for young girls to grow into mature young women, but their dorm mother Suyapa is making it happen!

I challenge everyone to begin doing two things:

Begin contacting one of the ladies of Shalom and build a relationship with her. Get to know her and let her know it is okay to talk to you about her life. Get to know her so that you know it is okay to talk to her about your life too! Help the ladies of Shalom and yourself learn to communicate better in both English and Spanish. Building these relationships lets an entire community know the values of the our faiths, our countries, and AHMEN. Join the AHMEN Facebook group today to join in a nurturing friendship!

I invite you all to make a visit with Shalom a part of your regular plans in Honduras. Sure, these young women depend on us for our donations, but they also depend on us for the love and strength our relationships can provide. Set aside a day to play soccer with the girls, but be careful...the Shalom Team, including my own sister Ana Argueta, just won a local tournament! Plan to talk to the girls about what you do for living and how you got there. Take them out for a movie. Go to the beach, play in the sand, and eat pizza! Make a movie. Put on a show. Whatever you decide to do with the ladies of Shalom, let them know they are loved.

Strong, educated women will change Honduras, and communication is the key to unlock that door to the future! Shalom = Peace

Sunday, July 10, 2011

A Clown on Every Team!

When I was a little kid one of my favorite things to do was open up the silverware drawer and find the old plastic clown faces that had adorned the previous years' birthday cakes. Over my bed a painting of four adults with bright red and white smiles painted on their faces protected me from the boogey man, trolls, and other creatures of the night. When my brother and I used to go to the circus the lion tamer, strong man, and tight-rope walker were all fascinating to watch, but the clowns were what made the “Greatest Show on Earth” fun for everyone. It has been many years since I spent any amount of time up-close watching a clown work tirelessly to entertain crowds. It has been even longer since I actually had any desire to watch a clown be a clown. Unfortunately, for whatever reasons, when I grew up my interest in clowns disappeared from my life much as did collections of X-Men cards and Star Wars toys. After going to Honduras in June, however, I know it is time to welcome clowns back into my life. Why? Honduran missions are my life, and I want to see a clown on every team!

Seeing a clown for the first time

I have to admit I was a little confused when I heard Mary “Butterfly” Capps was joining our June mission team. “Holding medical clinics is such a confusing process as it is” I thought to myself, “why would we try to throw a wrench into the gears by adding a clown into the mix?” Boy was I wrong! I have never seen a series of clinics run so smoothly in thirteen years of mission work as I did with Mariposa, butterfly in Spanish, around to provide holistic cures alongside our team's doctors. It was absolutely amazing to watch the positive energy surrounding this team's ability to hold a clinic with zero frustration. I can attribute our success to an enthusiastic and well-organized team, but the lion's share of credit belongs to AHMEN's own clown-in-residence, Mariposa!

Final medical station...save the best for last!

Part of the majesty of Mariposa's role on the team was that she did not want to serve separately from the team itself. The day Mariposa made her first appearance we held a clinic at the local public school in Lepaterique, outside of La Esperanza. We held a clinic the day before. Mary's clowning supplies had not yet arrived, and it was one of those “how many more patients??” kind of days! Enter Mariposa into the rotation, and instantly everything ran more smoothly. We set our clinic up in five sections: registration, doctor visits, pharmacy, vitamins and parasite medicine, and Payasa (clown in Spanish). Registration, the doctors, and the pharmacy all operated from separate rooms throughout the school, but because vitamins, parasite medicine, and smiles contribute to overall wellness, Mariposa worked alongside vitamin and parasite volunteer Mirsha Monterroso administering doses of healthy living to a community where nutrition and laughter come at a premium. Witnessing the value community members placed on both types of medicine, and how this value prevented the “backlog” that occasionally occurs with clinics of this type, is something I have never seen before. . . but I know it is this combination of love and medical science that stands to change the face of mission work in Honduras.

Mariposa and her Payaso protege Manuel Vargas

For those of you who might not have looked into the solemn eyes of mothers and children waiting in line for a “cure” for their health problems I don't know if I can describe the way I feel. All I know is the contrast of an environment with ambivalently hopeful sadness lurking in the air to that of 100 children with painted faces walking balloon dogs and fencing with balloon swords changed the way I think about mission work. To walk out of the pharmacy for just a minute to see the look on the faces of children and parents confident in the fact that both their school and the medical clinics it hosts contribute to the community's well-being is uncannily comforting. To witness a miracle unfold before your eyes is much more..for what are the 200 patients seen and 600 prescriptions filled without the accompanying thousand smiles?

Safe and Sound -  courtesy of a clown : )

It was a pleasure working with Mariposa as a medical professional, but she was impressive on her own too! In Utila our team did not hold medical clinics. We came specifically to build relationships for future educational development there. In this capacity, the doctor stepped back as the clown took center stage. As an ambassador of good hope Mariposa led her band of assistants through the impoverished sections of the island to donate leftover medication to Dr. Mayorkin at the Centro de Salud and stock the local public school's library full of books – all the while raising a growing herd of balloon animals. Lips parted from teeth to accompany that most beautiful and contagious of involuntary human reactions, and the sight and sound of this particular brand of joy is one I don't want future mission teams to have to work without.

Mariposa and company

I don't ever want to travel to Honduras again without a smiles-based missions component, and I would hate for you not to experience the possibilities of a clown like Mariposa on your teams. I invite you to explore clown ministry as part of your team planning. Contact Mary “Butterfly” Capps to find clown contacts. Contact your local circus, fair, carnival, theater, or performance group because in Honduras la payasa es la compaƱera de la paz!