From June 24-July 1, 16 professional educators from around the United States traveled to Honduras with Heifer International to visit various projects. Check the blog over the next few weeks for more posts from Study Tour participants to hear their perspective on seeing Heifer’s work in the field. Learn more about Heifer’s programs and resources for educators.
Honduras, Heifer and Hope By Karyn Watanabe
In June 2011, I had the opportunity to attend Heifer’s Educators’ Tour to Honduras, which was one of most fantastic trips I have ever taken! We spent six nights in Honduras. The first two days, we learned about poverty. We learned about what defines poverty and the psychology of it; which of course is not plain and simple. Heifer does not dwell on the politics and the causes. We focused on identifying needs and setting the cornerstones into place so that people can be empowered and work their way out of poverty.
On the third morning, we packed up the white van and would spend the next three days visiting villages that were in various stages of sustainability. Enthusiastic and grateful village leaders (and oftentimes much of the village) who were eager to share their successes greeted us at each village. Much of the time, they weren’t really sure who we were but knew that we were somehow a part of helping them gain the tools and knowledge for their success. Many would have tears in their eyes. “Thank you for helping us when even our government won’t,” one man said.
We ran overtime at one village because our leader had a long list of all the exciting things he wanted to show off! When he got to the cow with her calf, he talked about
how wonderful it is that they have milk.
Visiting these people’s plots was more like a Boy Scout Merit Badge hike. The villages that we visited were on the worst plots of discarded land you could imagine. If it were our back yard, we would put in a retaining wall and plant ground cover. These people have terraced the land and built zero grazing pens, tilapia farms and shelters in which they live—on slopes. There are no roads; they have no cars. The nearest paved road might be hours away and the nearest town might be more than a day’s journey in some cases.
One particularly endearing moment occurred when we were visiting a group of entrepreneurial women who had started a plantain chip business. We were all gathered around the entrance to their new building listening to a woman tell her story in Spanish, and then to Pat who translated it to us in English.
These women were resilient. They knew they needed to come up with a business plan so that they could make some money. They got chickens, they all died. They saved and saved for another project, they were robbed. Finally, they came up with the Plantain Chip idea and it was a success. They are probably in the process of moving in to their new and improved factory this month. It’s a low-tech but very effective operation. They cut the plantains with a mandolin contraption, deep fry and salt them, place them in plastic then heat-seal them.
They have no stickers or logos to affix to the packages as of yet, but are hoping to eventually do that and sell them in town. I wish them luck. They were the best chips I ate in Honduras.
People don’t want to be poor. They can’t always simply get a job. There are people all over the world who are marginalized and/or abandoned by governments who pretend they don’t exist. People want to be educated and to provide their families with the basic necessities that all who are reading this take for granted.
As a teacher, I’ve seen that spark and enthusiasm in my classroom. It was even more profound to see how education, some seeds, a cow and people who care can literally save lives and give a community hope for a brighter future.