When I got word last word last week that I had been selected as the National EducationAssociation’s Applegate-Dorros Peace and International Understanding Award winner, a wave of emotion came over me. While I consider myself a pretty awesome Spanish teacher I recognize that I am receiving this award in recognition of my work with AHMEN in Honduras. What legitimacy for projects and teams that we already knew were making a difference in everyday Hondurans’ lives!
In addition to the tears of pride and joy which coincided with grieving for the loss of one of Jasper, Alabama’s finest, Joe Earl Williams, intense motivation began to flow through my bloodstream “like a broken down dam, as Mr. John Prine would say. The validation I felt only heightened my sense of urgency to help more Hondurans live more just lives. I knew that this year’s Río de Agua Viva team had to be the most meaningful yet.
And after attending our virtual team meeting last night, I knew it would be. I mean, just look at this list of volunteers!
Ken Hanson – A retired USAF officer now dedicating his spare time to missions in La Moskitia, Ken recently also obtained a master of public health degree. He leads the “accountability program” for both the Río team and Bruce McFadden’s Jungle Team.
Etta Hanson – What a delight! Etta is a Registered Nurse exuding purely positive energy. She will be joining McFadden’s Jungle Team with her husband Ken in April as a water assistant and then join the Río team in similar fashion. She will also be teaching First Aid.
Autumn Tuoruton – Autumn is a high school student in Walker County, Alabama. When I listed “Women’s Empowerment” as one of the topics the community agents requested she asked “What’s that, I think I want to do that one.” You got it, Autumn!!
Anna Redmill – An expert in equine behavioral therapy, Reiki and Yoga, Anna is going to be a huge asset to this team. She will use her talents to teach community agents wellness and holistic healing to complement the teachings of the next volunteer mentioned.
Caden Camp – Already the most popular teacher in Raistá, Caden will go deeper into the specifics of acupressure. Her lessons from 2016 are still being used by community agents to provide relief for patients with a variety of ailments. She and Anna will work as a “holistic healing arts” team.
Gail Jenkins – Gail boasts an impressive resumé of global perspectives. A former Peace Corps volunteer and part-time missionary to several different countries around the world, Gail will bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to this team. She will be teaching the prevention of mosquito-borne illnesses (highlighting ZIKA) and working with the next volunteer in the area of women’s reproductive health.
Cindy Messer – Cindy is a midwife and has taught midwifery to everyone from high school graduates to PhDs and physicians. Her dynamic lessons will provide an extra layer of safety, security, and comfort to mothers living in and around Raista, permitting them to deliver near their homes instead of traveling afar to reach a trained health official.
Eric Peterson – Eric is a professional photographer in every sense of the word. Honduras is blessed to have his eye for detail, natural beauty, and compassionate heart. We are lucky to have him document the magic of this team.
Gregory Thompson – I believe fate led Greg to this team. He just so happened to run into AHMEN General Coordinator Dr. Tom Camp while in Honduras a year or two ago. Camp noticing the potential of wunderkind Greg insisted he pray about joining this team. Greg will be teaching and leading research conversations on how to help the community agents lead community-wide efforts in boosting the local economy.
Madison Lachney – I haven’t met Madison yet, but her work as an environmental studies major in Louisiana will mix well with Autumn’s lesson on women’s empowerment. I know from our brief communication that Madison is a positive, passionate, and excited volunteer..just what we like!
Dr. Ben Coplan – I don’t consider the Río team complete without our resident pediatrician and one of the most interesting and pleasant men I know. Dr. Coplan’s talk on the first minute of life trains community agents to better manage the crucial first moments after a baby delivers; he also inspires this team to make every moment count. This year Dr. Coplan is adding the sustainable appropriate technology of homemade splinting to his repertoire.
Dr. Tom Camp – What could be said about the jewel that is this man? He is the definition of congeniality and kind-heartedness. His passion for and tireless efforts helping people are a constant reminder to all those around him that we can all do more. Dr. Camp will be teaching ZIKA awareness and prevention, how to foster a community-wide mosquito prevention program, and working with Etta and Dr. Coplan in First Aid.
Our successes, our achievements, and our impact on the world are built on the backs of those who came before us. This is true for me and the reasons why I have been selected a prestigious award from the NEA; it is also applicable to this team. We have come a long way since our first Río team in 2013. The blessings upon this egalitarian, ecumenical team continue to amaze me. Favor is truly upon us, and in the words of my friend and Río team alumni King Tall T, “Go God.” However, I think God may be saying “Go Río!!”
This year’s team is pretty full. We have two more members making final decisions today to join our brigade. The limits of adding any more get quite tricky. Nonetheless, if you would like to serve on this team as a fundraiser, donor, or prayer warrior, contact me today! It is not just the traveling members who make this team what it is. It is all of us who play a part.
Together, wwe are the difference.