Alabama Honduras Medical Educational Network
How can you help?

Saturday, December 24, 2011

ASI - Yorito

Tonight somewhere in Honduras a baby will be born nearby a manger to a set of parents with little option but to settle down in their hometown. Present at her commencement ceremony will be the “Three Kings” of the 2/3 world: crippling poverty, malnutrition, and little social mobility. She may become a Queen of Queens, or she may be prevented from reaching her full potential as a human being due to the same inequalities against which Jesus spoke. She might unwillingly become a prisoner to human trafficking, or she could become the future Honduran leader capable of both liberating and ecumenical transformation in Honduras. 

One factor in determining the course of most individuals' lives revolves around the options available to them. About three years ago A.H.M.E.N. (Alabama Honduras Medical Educational Network) began investing in a partnership “option” with an organization called S.I.F.A.T. (Servants in Faith and Technology). What I have come to call the A.H.M.E.N. - S.I.F.A.T.Initiative, a partnership between both groups, seeks to train local community leaders across Honduras in appropriate technology and social productivity in order to help Honduran families shape their own futures.

Today, the AHMEN-SIFAT Initiative is going strong.  The health promoters in Cusuna graduated to their second year in the three-year program this past August, and they have already begun the next cycle of training. Additionally, a new workshop is opening in Belaire to serve our partners, nearer La Ceiba, who are unable to attend the Cusuna workshops. Additional workshops cast a wider net of accessibility to our united efforts, and the workshop opening in Yorito awaits an already united class of community health promoters.

As Byron Morales awaits the opening of his second community development workshop in Honduras (the first in Yorito), many strong and independent community leaders stand at the ready. Peace Corps volunteer, Nina Pfeiffer, whose position is in our prayers, has been working with a local community leader named Fanny Aviles to help start two area HCSKs – Health Center Soup Kitchens. During a recent Christmas dinner, the soup kitchens served around 160 children a bountiful and nutritious dinner featuring two HUGE turkeys, rice, lots of veggies, potatoes, juice, tortillas, and of course CAKE!! Now we know Byron loves his cake, but I imagine the type of energy encouraging volunteerism like this is what is REALLY on Byron's Christmas wish list...!

Who's been good for Santa???
Which one will end infanticide and femicide in Honduras?
What seems like a blessing, in the fact that the communities of Yorito and Pacayal enjoyed a much-deserved Christmas dinner, is truly a miracle in the united efforts of both communities weekly addressing the effects of malnutrition on young families' development. In Fanny and Nina's words “with some mothers bringing veggies, others tortillas, others cheese, etc AND helping to cook the meals ~ well, this is such a community effort!” 

Much-Needed Vegetables
Who needs meat when you have this??

Fanny was part of the Yorito-based contingent of fifteen students who attended the innagural AHMEN-SIFAT workshop in Cusuna. This January she, and many other local community agents seeking to lead their communities into a post-colonialist future, will become the first class in Byron's ASI – Yorito. What a cool Christmas present this is for everyone involved to consider where Fanny and her future health promoter colleagues may be a year....two year....three years from tonight! 

Please consider joining A.H.M.E.N. and S.I.F.A.T. as we work to build partnerships for prosperity across Honduras. Feel free to leave your questions and comments below. For extra info visit honduranmissions.com and sifat.org If you have questions, including how to donate, Dr. Tom Camp, Cristin Farrington, Mary Guffy, and I are waiting to hear from you at ahmen.info@gmail.com

I can't wait to join Fanny in the AHMEN-SIFAT Initiative!!

Happy Holidays To All!!

What do you mean you aren't going to donate to ASI??

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Will the REAL American Please Stand Up?

Almost a year ago several AHMEN members got together to talk about increasing our organization's web presence.  Since then, some of us have started a blogging campaign.  Others have joined ongoing email conversations.  The AHMEN web page is evolving into something more functional, and Facebook has helped centralize AHMEN's mission statement as a part of our daily consciousness.  With the Internet we are all starting to realize that working with AHMEN is not confined to a single yearly visit to Honduras.  With the communication tools available to us we can mobilize a perpetual conversation between everyone involved in building Honduras' stable bridge to the future.  As we begin talking, though, what we say counts.  As we spread the good news, we must consider our word choices.  Using some words can impede the development of the type of constructive relationships AHMEN seeks to build.  As missionaries we may need to be more careful using some of the following words and phrases:


On our final evening in Copan for the 2011 Project Honduras Conference, the AHMEN contingency and our new friend, Raquel, sat down to a delicious meal and a lively conversation.  In the midst of a monsoon of epic proportions, we visited one of the locally-run restaurants and ordered a "meat party" for the table.  This particular meat party came with grilled steak, pork, chicken, and sausage, but one would have thought it was full of lengua the way everyone began discussing their perception of the term “American.” With such an assorted group at the table (1 ex-military from the US, 1 ex-military who grew up in Honduras as a US citizen, 1 Honduran-born US citizen who worked for the World Bank, 1 doctor from US, 1 teacher from US, and 1 Brazillian volunteering in Honduras), we heard an array of opinions...and not a few strong feelings.

Will the REAL American Please Stand Up?

So what does it mean to be an "American?"  Well, the two most obvious ways to define the term are geographically and nationally.  First, any second grader can tell you that anyone living in the Western Hemisphere lives on one of the two American continents.  People living in North and South America are "Americans."  People from these two continents living elsewhere in the world are also still Americans.  On the other hand, people from the United States of America describe their nationality as American.  Many people throughout the Americas find this behavior offensive.  To many, claiming the title "American," to only signify a person from the United States revives a colonialist/imperialist mentality the 3/4 world would prefer relegated to the past.  For others, the term "American" symbolizes the freedom and opportunity for success specifically foundational to the United States.  It can be misleading for a person from the United States to speak in such a way as to suggest "Americans" are only from the United States; however, there is no other word in the English language to define a person from the United States.  People from Canada are called Canadians.  People from Mexico are called Mexicans (Mexicanos).  People from Honduras are Hondurans (HondureƱos). Nonetheless, Canadians, Mexicans, and Hondurans are all "Americans."  Perhaps it is time to coin a new term to refer to people from the United States.  Some vacationers we met in Copan suggested the term "United Statians."  I have started beta testing the term with mixed results...


During our missions experience this past summer in La Esperanza and Utila, our team took part in a discussion of cultural sensitivity.  One word that kept coming up during these conversations was the word "gringo."  After asking several Hondurans about the term, our team learned that the term refers to non-Spanish Speakers, people from the United States and Canada, and Europeans.  To make the subject a little more confusing, I have also been  told by several Mexican-Americans that the term "gringo" only refers to white people.  I don't know whether this is the case in Honduras, but I feel like the term is across the board more descriptive than derogatory.  Being called a "gringo," however, can be an entirely different situation altogether. In 1788 there was a difference between being labeled an “Anti-Federalist” and one using the term to describe one's own political leanings. In missiology there is a HUGE difference between viewing one's self a “heathen” and being called such by a missionary.  Our legendary friend and taxi driver in Copan, Daniel Quintanilla, says he does not use the term "gringo" because it's bad for business.  He says "United Statians" don't like being called gringos because it singles them out in a land where they are already obviously different. Whether using the term is also bad for mission work is up for debate.  In mission work, as in life, I guess we have to be aware of our audience.

....but it might help further our shared goals in Honduras


Two summers ago I traveled to Limon with Dr. Fran Kunda's team from CarolinaHonduras Health Foundation.  This particular visit changed the way I think about what is possible in Honduras.  Dr. Fran's team has built a special relationship with Sister Leonarda's Home of Hope, a home for children who have lost their parents and caretakers due to the tough living conditions in Honduras.  Some of the 50 or so kids living there lost their parents to violence, the economic necessity of a remittance lifestyle, and health problems such as HIV-AIDS.  I was aware of the situation before ever setting foot into Sister Leonarda's home, and to be honest, I did not expect a very positive experience.  As usual, however, I was waaaay off! As I walked across the sandy, beachfront patio through the dark, sea-bitten door into Sister Leonarda's, an immense positive energy hit me like a ton of bricks, and I immediately began to weep through an emotional overload.  In the middle of nowhere, in the midst of uncertain living conditions and dire odds, these children flourish in a home where their basic human needs for worldly and spiritual bread was/is being met. Taken aback does not explain the way I felt...

No Words Necessary

Toward the end of the week I met with Sister Leonarda to talk with her about the future AHMEN-SIFAT workshops coming to the area.  In my comically-beleaguered Spanish I opened with the phrase "Estoy impresionado con su orphanato."  As if I kicked her in the stomach, Sister Leonarda quickly corrected me by saying "Este no es un orfanato...Este es nuestro hogar!" (This is not an orphanage...This is our home!).  She went on to say that an orphanage is for people without a home, who do not have a family.  Sister Leonarda told me that none of the children living with her could be considered orphans because they have both a home and a family.  What she was telling me was that "orphan" and "orphanage" are terms used by onlookers and not by the people being judged.  In other words, "orphan" and "orphanage" are pessimistic terms; notwithstanding, the positive energy of the children, teenagers, and young adults living at Sister Leonarda's Home of Hope is anything but negative.  Their energy is an example of what a strong, caring leader and community can achieve.

Sister Leonarda and her family

The fact that these terms came to light at this year's Project Honduras Conference lets me know we need to pay attention.  On more than one occasion a speaker at the conference would use the words "orphan" or "orphanage" to describe a child or group of children living apart from one or more biological parents.  And as if in some "call and response" do-se-do, during the question and answer period an individual would stand up to say how the terms "orphan" and "orphanage" were misleading and offensive.  One of the most endearing responses came from Director of Legal Affairs with Amigos de Jesus, Suyapa Sabillon who said calling a child an orphan tears at his self-worth like the bacteria in Honduran drinking water devastates foreigners' GI tracts....WOW!  Hearing that taking offense to the terminology was not isolated to one children's home in Limon let me know that we should be very careful when using the terms "orphan" and "orphanage." AHMEN can't risk muffling a growing child's sense of self worth...

- - - - - - -

The three preceding terms are ones which have been brought to my attention.  What terms have you come across which we might need use with more discretion?  What terms should we use more freely?  AHMEN has built a special relationship with local communities across Honduras for over thirteen years now.  When we leave the United States and cross the border into Honduras we have to remember that people do pay attention to us....and it's not just the chartreuse green t-shirts!  Knowing this, we have to represent what is best about our country.  When we travel to Honduras with AHMEN we do so as ambassadors of the United States and AHMEN.  This is an issue less about political correctness than it is character. One word can make a difference when building relationships based on love, trust, and mutual respect....Let's make sure we use the most appropriate ones!