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The following piece was written by Peace Corps Veteran Janet Espinosa. Janet helped to get ASI-Yorito off the ground, and we thank her for the immense amount of support she continues to extend from her big heart to "Little Yoro."
#11 Pleasant Surprise
I went to Honduras to be part of the graduation of “Community Agents of Integral Health,” and to present a symbolic check representing the grant recently received from Returned Peace Corps Volunteers in Northern California. I also wanted to help establish a construction schedule for the coming year and give them a gentle push, since efficiency and time management are not strengths in most developing tropical countries. What a pleasant surprise I received: they had already begun!
A little history: In fall of 2010, I traveled for 14 hours to the northern coast of Honduras with nine young adults from Yorito. We had been invited by AHMEN (Alabama Honduras Medical Educational Network) to join a leadership empowerment workshop given by SIFAT. A tropical storm (potential hurricane) cut our workshop short as Peace Corps ordered me to consolidate with other volunteers. In any case, the workshop was excellent but the travel, time and expense were prohibitive for a three year commitment. Two years later, after I had returned to the United States, the series of workshops was begun in Yorito. The local group was named ACSI (Agentes Comunitarios de Salud Integral) and met quarterly, workshops given by SIFAT personnel and by local professionals. I was pleased to participate in three of the workshops, and each time I went I could see the growth of confidence and empowerment in the individuals.
Last summer, knowing that graduation was to be only a stepping stone to action, I asked what they would want to do next. They developed a plan for beginning to improve the sanitation and thus the health of their communities. It resulted in the following grant:
“$2,000 to Community Agents for Integral Health (ACSI), a collective of extension workers in Yorito, Honduras. This project was recommended by NorCal member Janet Espinosa, who served there for her Peace Corps service, 2009-2010. ACSI identified four locations in the neighboring mountain communities where they will build and demonstrate latrines, water storage basins, roofed houses, cement floors and family gardens. The finished facilities are designed to inspire community involvement and replication in the future. The communities will provide materials and labor worth 30% of the total value of the project. NorCal's grant will purchase construction materials.”
The graduation was held in the same assembly hall where the high school had its graduation the night before. The community volunteers who were graduating were even able to wear caps and gowns, the first such graduation for many. Others had high school diplomas, including one who had received his from me last year. Through many speeches and even more photos the ceremony proceeded. What a privilege to participate with such wonderfully warm people. A pleasant surprise at the end was a whole grilled fish for each of us as part of a delicious lunch.
On Tuesday Fanny and Jovel, two of the leaders of ACSI, were ready right at nine to head into the mountains in the back of a 4wheel drive police pickup and show me what had already been done. They definitely didn’t need me to get them motivated. After receiving the grant and going to the Honduran Secretary of Health, they determined that the community most in need was Quebrada Vieja which was not on our list. They began anyhow.
The community needs to repair 10 latrines and construct 24 more to cover all the homes in the very distant (literally end of the road) and very poor community which has water to the community (not to individual homes) but no electricity. We were welcomed by an enthusiastic community leader and individual home owners and given two types of plantains and bananas. They showed us the six foot deep leach holes they had dug and were given instruction on placement of both the septic hole and toilet which will be installed in the coming weeks. What a pleasant surprise it was to see such progress. Why did I doubt the impact of this training and the enthusiasm of the volunteers?
We met later to revise the grant plan which will now do much more than anticipated. I will be returning in March to help them with the latrine, water, and floor to the children’s nutritional feeding facility in Yorito. Then in June we will work on another portion of the grant, hopefully at the same time AHMEN mission volunteers are there installing water filters in some of the same communities. Do you want to go with me?