Alabama Honduras Medical Educational Network
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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Walker County Part of Solution in Honduras

ASI instructor Byron Morales explaining to graduating Community Agents at ASI-Cusuna that the real work has just begun.  They will now return home to replicate what they have learned in their communities.

I want to extend my sincerest thanks to Jennifer Cohron and the entire Daily Mountain Eagle staff for their continuing coverage of AHMEN over the years.  We are truly a special group offering life-changing opportunities to both our volunteers here in the United States and partners in Honduras.  

ASI-Jutiapa CAs discussing identity and individuality

Jennifer, thank you for an extremely well-written article.  You very poignantly expressed the ideology behind AHMEN's Community Empowerment Program, the AHMEN-SIFAT Initiative.  Without friends like you the transformation we work to achieve in Honduras would not be possible.

Las Mujeres Bisuteras de Dios have joined ASI!
AHMEN is an organization based in Walker County, Alabama.  The basis of our donations and volunteership come out of Walker County.  There are many other groups from our area who volunteer in or donate to Honduras.  We invite them to support ASI also.  With their help, we can very assuredly say that when every citizen in Honduras has regular access to clean water, healthcare, sustenance, and is free from violence and disease, it will be in part because of a relationship with a little corner of the Southeast hidden away between rolling, grassy, carbon-filled hills and a meandering Black Warrior river.

Donate what you can.  Help me to raise the $16,000 we need to keep the current project going and expand into two new areas starving for opportunity and education. 

From Left to Right: Michael Franklin - AHMEN Director of Community Relations, Lane Turbeville - RN at UAB's MICU, Dr. Tom Camp - AHMEN General Coordinator

Join one of our many teams and be a part of a solution to the many issues confronting the world today with AHMEN.  Begin your monthly donation to the AHMEN-SIFAT Initiative today, and please feel free to contact me for more information.

Together, we are the difference.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Solving Immigration Through Empowerment

All ages, sexes, genders, and backgrounds gather quarterly to problem solve.

AHMEN's Río de Agua Viva team is a teaching team. Every successful teaching session, however, is not a one-sided lecture, but an open discussion. Successful teachers listen.

While listening to members of ASI-Jutiapa talk about what is going on in their lives this past June, I heard something that broke my heart. Two bright, young, and enthusiastic members of the program expressed their hopelessness over their future in Honduras. Each expressed befuddlement at the likelihood of ever earning enough money to lift their families out of poverty. One said he was fifteen minutes away from joining the gangs, and the other said he plans to leave for the United States next year. The waves crashing against the beaches of Limon from my first team to Honduras over sixteen years earlier were the only sounds I could hear as I vainly searched for the right words to tell these two young men to “stick it out.”

An investment in ASI is an investment in these kids' futures as prosperous Honduran citizens.

But then, they don't need the right words; they still have hope. Instead of already joining the gangs or departing for the U.S., these two joined Byron Morales' CommunityEmpowerment Program, the AHMEN-SIFAT Initiative, in Jutiapa. They just need encouragement to continue, and this is exactly what ASI does. ASI is a community level partnership with Honduran leaders that reinforces the mantra that “YOU can be the change your community deserves.”

Respect of difference and attentive to others' opinions form the basis of ASI's initial paths toward empowerment.
There are macro issues at work. The United States must resolve its immigration dilemmas so that Honduran immigration to the United States is less of a solution. We then must invest in the Honduran infrastructure so that the daily struggles to ward of disease and malnutrition are not greater battles than dismantling the government corruption and gang life leading so many to emigrate from their country in the first place.

In the meantime, ASI is a solution, and it develops the capacity in its community agents to know that they are the solution too. While bureaucracies, congresses, and presidents delay decision, AHMEN is taking charge. While the International Monetary Fund enables the rich to get richer off of the poor, ASI empowers families to be their country's most-prized resources. You can too! To learn more about what Byron Morales does in Honduras, or to make a donation, don't hesitate to contact me.

The way forward is not continuing to permit an exodus of Honduran youth but to empower neighborhoods to transform their country. Join us today.

Together, we are the difference

Friday, July 4, 2014

Freedom for Me Depends on Freedom for You

Happy Independence Day to the United States of America!  Some 238 years ago a small group of colonists decided to throw off the chains of a non-democratic system of government by the moneyed interests of England in favor of "a more perfect union."  That system has been under attack from forces outside and within our borders ever since, and it has been up to individual Americans to defend our original mission statement that all are "endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights."  I pray that we live up to the challenge Uncle Ben Franklin gave to Mrs. Powell of Philadelphia as he emerged from the Constitutional Convention in 1787.  After being asked what type of government the delegates had decided the country would have, Franklin responded "A republic, ma'am, if you can keep it."

Freedom isn't just a yearly celebration, however, and we cannot be reduced to the view that the United States is the delivery room where liberty is born.  Freedom from oppression, hunger, and disease are universal human aspirations which all people want and deserve.  In the picture above there are some 35 community agents who had the audacity to join a community development workshop in Jutiapa, Honduras led by a Colombian teacher named Byron Morales.  They have joined the 3-year long quarterly workshop to learn how to develop their capacity for freedom from malnutrition, waterborne illness, and abuse in their own households.  

The Río de Agua Viva team partnered with these AHMEN-SIFAT community agents and an organization called Water With Blessings to teach clean water.  Through donations from churches and individuals each female community agent trained on and got to take home their own Sawyer water filter.  Nonetheless, independence cannot be a gift to be owned individually.  Liberty is to be shared so that others demand it for themselves.  Not only will each individual family with a filter be able to claim clean water as their next step toward independence, but they will also share this life source with two other families.  

Liberty also means accountability.  Samford University's Ida V Moffett School of Nursing professor Elaine Marshall and graduate Lane Turbeville have set up a method for each filter holder to "check in" each month and report problems and successes with their filter.  With any luck, each family will see their rate of stomach illness decrease.  With any luck, they will save money from not having to buy clean water.  With any luck, over a hundred more families will not know the pain of losing a child to waterborne illness.  As a community of humans, when we lose one baby to preventable illness, our shared freedom diminishes.

If successful, these families' freedom from dirty water will not have been a result of our donating water filters.  It will have been from their decision to demand more from themselves by joining ASI-Jutiapa!

To sponsor a water project, begin donating to the AHMEN-SIFAT Initiative, or join the Río de Agua Viva team, contact me today.

Together, we are the difference.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Río de Agua Viva: A Teaching Team

Río de Agua Viva is a new concept.  Instead of building, evangelizing, or holding medical brigades, we hold educational discussion groups.  Last year's was a remarkable debut.  2014's was not the same team as last year. We have many new faces this go around. And with many new faces came many new talents! In the next coming blog posts I will feature short stories about our experiences in Honduras over the last month. First, however, I just want to introduce the team, a little about each person's background, and what we went down to accomplish.

(Young) Nathan Whitley (From Decatur, Alabama)

NathanWhitley is nothing short of an impressive person. He is a master of the french horn. He is a scholar and a gentleman. His faith in God is only surpassed by his unbreakable character. Nathan returns as an alumni from the innaugural Río team to teach about household water filtration devices (Ceramic, Hydraid, & Sawyer). What a smart choice for a future engineering student at Georgia Tech.

Dr. Ben Copelan

Dr. Coplan is a retired pediatrician and has lived in Northern California in  the East Bay for 38 years. He was employed at Kaiser Fremont for 36 years. He has 2 children, one of whom, Amelia, is a nurse and has been on several trips to Honduras with AHMEN. His family is orthodox Jewish by faith, and tries to keep kosher, but believes bringing care to people is more important than rigidly following the rules. He believes this is his 14th trip to honduras with AHMEN and CHIMES. Ben joins the Río team to teach the AHMEN-SIFAT Initiative workshop attendees in Jutiapa how to better care for newborns during the first two minutes of life, which he believes set the course for the years to come in a child's development.

Elaine Marshall

ElaineMarshall is the Community Healthcare professor at the Ida V. MoffettSchool of Nursing at Samford University. She joined the Río team as Lane Turbeville's mentor and Chief Assistant, and we were blessed by her membership. Her 30+ years experience as a missionary nurse in Mexico, community health researcher across the U.S., and selfless years working with Alabama's homeless population added a priceless aspect to our team. Elaine is a one of a kind type of person. I can't wait to tell you more about what all she accomplished, and I pray that her contribution to AHMEN and the people of Honduras does not stop with the baseline health study she and Lane Turbeville implemented through our team.

Nelly Fielding

A self-described Army brat whose parents are native Puerto Rican, Nelly Fielding is a remarkable person for so many other reasons. She is a devout lover and follower of Jesus Christ, Spanish teacher, “NerdClub” sponsor at Curry High School, and just as smart as a whip. Nelly joined this team after much prayer. After deciding that Jesus had called her to travel to Honduras on the Río team, she developed an awesome VBS for the kids at Los Laureles to follow up on that of last year's team. Nelly also served as George Wong-Chong's community gardening translator. I have many stories to come about Nelly's experiences in Honduras.  I believe her future role with AHMEN will be deep and long-lasting.

Circling From Top Left to Bottom Left: Lane Turbeville, Suyapa Turcios, Elaine Marshall, Marlen Lawrence, Nathan Whitley, Maribel Guevara, George Wong-Chong, Nelly Fielding, Mari-Lou Wong-Chong, Emilio Bustillo, Michael Franklin (Tom Camp taking picture)

Mari-Lou Wong-Chong

Mari-Lou is a retired microbiologist from the VA Hospital in Pittsburgh, PA. Upon retirement, Mari-Lou and her husband George moved to North Carolina. She now serves at the Chair of the Brunswick County InterculturalFestival, has served as the President on the Board of Directors of the Brunswick County Literacy Council, Multicultural division President of the Brunswick Arts Council. She is also a distinguished Toastmaster. Mari-Lou joined this team to put her microbiology skills to work by teaching all about the “worms and germs” in the Honduran water supply. This talk coupled with that of Young Nathan Whitley from Decatur, Alabama on water filtration and the Samford University water study Elaine Marshall and Lane Turbeville developed for this team.

Dr. George Wong-Chong

George is a retired Environmental Engineer in Water Pollution Control. He earned his PhD from Cornell University and his BS in Chemical Engineering from McGill University, Quebec Canada. When I asked George whether he was responding to our advertisement with UMVIM because we were a water team, he said “Nope!” George saw our request for a community gardening expert and decided it was time to put his Master Gardener credentials to work. He traveled with us to discuss the basics of plants, why we need them, what plants need, and how to start a community garden. George also developed an “Business Essentials” class for the Los Laureles jewelry school.  George's mind never stopped while we were in Honduras, and I hope neither will his volunteership.

Lane Turbeville

Lane is a 27 years old “Jill of All Trades.” She is from Birmingham Alabama, has a bachelor's in Studio Art from Sewanee: The Universityof the South, a bachelor's in nursing from Samford University, and served as an AmeriCorps alum. She just finished working in the Emergency Department at Children's of Alabama and will begin a new job as an ICU nurse in July at UAB!  She has been to Honduras one other time before last August with the AHMEN Jungle Team and had the experience of a lifetime providing direct patient care. She is joining this team to prove the effectiveness of outreach work in Honduras by leading a water project, baseline health survey, and study.

Caden Camp

No team is ever complete without the one and only Caden Camp. Caden is a trained and licensed massage therapist. She is also a Río veteran and looks forward to this year's team as a way to reconnect with friends, spend quality time with her loved ones, and share her special gift of loving touch by teaching massage therapy. I can't wait to share Caden's stories from this team!  (Call for a massage today at 205-300-7520)

Dr. Tom Camp (Assistant Team Leader)

Tom Camp is a retired General Practice doctor who now works with drug addiction. He has been traveling to Honduras on teams and helping develop projects since 1998. One thing people notice immediately about Tom is his bushy hair/beard and unbiased love for all those around him. He owns llamas, has many friends in Honduras, does not let his poor Spanish prevent him from building relationships with everyone he meets, and is joining the Río team for the second time. Camp believes this type of team “has the greatest potential to have positive long term results for families in Honduras.”

Michael Franklin (Team Leader)

I am a Spanish and Social Science teacher by trade and hold an MA in Women's Studies from Texas Woman's University (BA from Millsaps College).  My true full-time job, however, is mission work with AHMEN.  I have been working in Honduras for over 15 years and truly have an appreciation for the people and their culture.  This team is really special to me. I have never come back from Honduras more invigorated and re-energized about what we do than when I came back from this team last year. I built this year's Río team to redouble our efforts, concentrate on the most essential teaching areas for the ASI-Jutiapa Community Agents, and lay the lines of communication between our partners on the ground and volunteers back home.

We are all different, but we traveled to Honduras together to achieve common goals. Stay tuned to learn what we achieved. If you are already reading and feel like this team is right for you, contact me today to learn more about how to sign up for Río de Agua Viva – 2015!