Alabama Honduras Medical Educational Network
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Friday, July 27, 2012

Ambassadors of the Church and Democracy

When UMVIM's Paulette West trained me to serve as AHMEN's Team Leader Trainer, she told me something that will always stick with me wherever I go. Paulette reminded me, as missionaries, we represent not only the United Methodist Church but also the United States of America. With our UMVIM affiliation and passports we set forth as humanitarians, but what we represent may be more important than what we aim to foster … I know the last sentence seems quite odd coming from someone trying to raise a substantial amount of money for AHMEN's Community Empowerment Programand the SIFAT-AHMEN Initiative, but I mean it.

U.S. President Obama and Honduran President Lobo

 AHMEN is, of course, a 501 © 3 non-profit, a soon-to-be NGO in Honduras, and an UMVIM Advanced Special Mission. The first two titles do amount to a hill of beans in this world, but the final one is what may rise above the others. The official UMVIM motto is “Christian Love In Action.” As official representatives, we are obliged to practice it. AHMEN already gets down with love. I seem to recollect Nath Camp crouching like Howling Wolf on the porch in Limon and singing Just a little spoonful of your precious love to his teammates, and I know there are some Blessed Union of Souls fans out there who know that love is the answer.” My “Momma Dot” knew that Elvis asked you to Love Me Tender.” And I wish I could attribute my knowledge of 1 Corinthians 13 to Slade Rhodes at Woodland UMC or Buckwheat Hilton at Christ UMC, but I have to give credit to Georgia's own Alan Jackson. In his 2001 therapeutic ballad WhereWere You (When The World Stopped Turning), Jackson comforted listeners crushed by the events of September 11 with the biblical refrain:

Faith, hope and love are some good things God gave us
And the greatest is love

As representatives of UMVIM, AHMEN must always strive to live up to the love embodied by Jesus of Nazareth. Love guides us. Love learns from mistakes as it plans for the future. Love thoughtfully seeks to end suffering, and love will be the term Hondurans use to describe AHMEN when we are all dead and gone. As loving extensions of UMVIM, AHMEN represents the interests of all Hondurans.

The future of Honduras
As United States citizens we represent the self-determination held forth in our country's founding documents. In a nutshell, our democratic foundations inform our volunteership. With conviction, and not without hair loss, AHMEN volunteers to help Honduran families better access their government's democracy.

Going into my Senior year at Millsaps College, I remember Matthew Casteel (now of Stop Hunger Now) and I discussing whether education or healthcare were better investments in democracy. In this chicken/egg scenario, I argued that we can't expect anyone to be able to learn while fighting off dysentery and malaria. Matt, on the other hand, said that we can't wait for everyone to get well before fully investing in education. We were talking about the United States government, but the same principles serve well to guide our efforts to further vulnerable Hondurans' self-determination. As such, AHMEN works toward a future where all Hondurans freely choose the course of their own futures.

Lepaterique Water Team
Lack of access to a clean water supply is the number one killer of babies worldwide. The “De La Montaña Al Mar” team attempts to address the immediate water needs of communities around La Esperanza and the Utila public school. Our team puts on a demonstration to discuss the importance of clean water and the benefits of using the Sawyer 0.1 micron water filter. We then ask female school leaders to volunteer as trustees of the water filters. These leaders sign a contract agreeing to only use the filter as directed, and if the filters have been used properly when we return in a year, we will give each school the filters free of charge. By working to eliminate the avalanche of health issues associated with unclean drinking water, De La Montaña Al Mar and other teams hope to help Honduran communities get that much closer to being healthy enough to chart their own courses forward.

Representatives of many of AHMEN's affiliate organizations come together each August to hold an International Medical Seminar in Ciriboya. Medical professionals from the United States, Honduras, Cuba, and elsewhere gather along Honduras' Garifuna Coast to share and plan ways to better serve the Honduran people. By building meaningful relationships with like-minded volunteers, we aim to provide the highest-quality medical care to the most underserved communities. Through continuing education programs for our volunteers and colleagues, AHMEN's medical brigades help Hondurans forgo worries about individual survival in order to place greater attention on the future of their country by becoming active in its democracy.

SAI Yorito
Concluding this year's International Medical Seminar will be the SIFAT-AHMEN community health promoters' graduation to their third and final year of Byron Morales' training program. The SIFAT-AHMEN Initiative currently trains community leaders from areas around Cusuna in appropriate technology and conflict resolution so that they may address serious issues in their communities. During the third year of the program, students actually begin to tackle a problem unique to their home community. Based on their success, health promoters will graduate next year. The SIFAT-AHMEN Initiative, one part of AHMEN's CommunityEmpowerment Program, will open two new workshops in Belaire and Yorito by the end of the year. Through long-term educational programs in community development, AHMEN invests in human capital in order to overcome the range of issues facing communities.

AHMEN and its volunteers further loving missions so that all Hondurans may fully join the democratic process. Whether they are medical clinics, educational workshops, or smiles-based missions, we represent the greatest ideals of UMVIM and the United States on behalf of all Hondurans. I am hopeful that the Honduran government will get things together over the next several years. Until then, AHMEN will serve alongside local communities building bridges to a more prosperous future for more Hondurans.

Contact me today to begin donating monthly to the SIFAT-AHMEN Initiative!

Together, we are the difference.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Mariposa's Miracle

Last year was my first time traveling with a clown in Honduras. When Dr. Tom Camp told me that Butterfly was coming to Honduras with us I have to admit to being a little shocked. I asked myself “What good is a clown going to provide when there are sick, hungry, and poor people all around us?” It wasn't long into last year's team that I got my answer. The smiles that follow Butterfly as we hold clinic or conduct educational talks may be the most valuable part of our team.
Until traveling with Butterfly, holding medical clinics had been one of the most stressful and rewarding parts of my year for 12 years!  Now it is just rewarding. Having Butterfly making balloon animals, painting faces, and doing tricks draws a positive energy around this team that would not be there otherwise. So thinking mostly of myself, I told Butterfly she had to come back this year. She didn't have the money or a good bill of health, but she made it. I have to tell you... selfishness and serendipity may twins in disguise. Butterfly didn't return this year because she made clinics run smoothly for the team leader. This was fate.

You see, about ten years ago a fellow named Ezekiel Nichols traveled to Honduras. And about a year ago, he began working on a project to solve a problem he had seen a decade earlier. In La Ceiba, AHMEN's jumping off point in Honduras, there is a city dump. And because 65% of Hondurans live below the poverty line, a great number of people have no other way to survive than to build a life inside this city dump.  
Remembering the feeling he had ten years ago, Zeke has come up with a plan to help this community work toward a better life through micro-loans. The only problem was that he needed our team to see if anyone from the dump would be interested in the idea of starting their own business.
So I arranged to meet with an American minister working there. He was going to arrange for us to do interviews, gather info, take pictures and video, but at the last minute, the minister had to go work with a group of 28 missionaries at a local soup kitchen. Determined, I packed my team in the van, and we went anyway.  With no plan, no way to communicate Zeke's plan to the 2,000 people living in the Dump, I hopped out of the van and began interviewing the nearest people I could find.
Butterfly and the rest of the crew followed behind me. So with half of my brain focused on interviewing the only group of guys hanging around the church where we parked and the other half of my brain watching the herd of children swarming around Butterfly, I was losing it! It was hot. I was sweating. I was trying to help someone else start a project when I've got too many projects of my own to worry about!
Then, all of a sudden, Dr. Delmer Montoya, our team's Honduran doctor, came to show me who he had met. Apparently, as the mountain of children flocked to Butterfly, their mothers followed. Delmer had met seven women ready to talk about Zeke's micro-business proposal. When they confirmed with Tom that they could find seven more women ready to begin talks, we organized a meeting for the following Thursday. With no way to spread the message God provided us with a clown at just the right moment. When the clown showed up, so did the children. When the children showed up, so did their mothers. And when mothers arrive, they bring the faith, hope, and love for a brighter future for their children. 

The following Thursday, 30 women showed up to our meeting ready to begin talking with Zeke to work their way out of poverty.  They have split into 6 groups, and each group leader will attend Byron Morales' SIFAT-AHMEN Initiative workshops in Belaire. Please contact us today to discuss joining the AHMEN's Community Empowerment Program fundraising team.

Butterfly always says “God gave me the clown.” I agree.

Together, we are the difference.