Following a recent Heifer Study Tour to Honduras, Virginia Tech students were given an assignment: Choose one photograph from the trip and explain why you chose it and which of Heifer’s 12 Cornerstones for Just and Sustainable Development it embodies. Over the course of this week, we’ll share these images and words to give you a look at how much of an impact seeing Heifer’s work in the field can have. Read other posts in the series here.
Laina Schneider, Crops Soils & Environmental Science, VA Tech: Historically water has brought people together. Water supports and enables life. Oases in the desert provide habitat and have been centers for trade and discourse for thousands of years. In the bible wells are a meeting or resting place in town centers. Lost access or destroyed wells could devastate entire cities. Throughout literature, wells are also a symbol for life. All over the world, water is a source of transportation, inspiration, utility and spirituality. People also seem to aggregate around water, in the formation of living spaces and as a place for shared community. Similarly in Copantle, this wash basin lies at the center of their cluster of homes. Throughout our days in Copantle, I observed women and children constantly gathered around this tub – washing dishes, washing clothes, washing hair or just congregating and chatting. I took this particular photo on the walk down to Angelina’s home in the morning of our last day of work. Beautiful mountains provide the backdrop, the ridges lined with fruit trees and cornfields. I feel that this wash tub is a symbol of unity within the Copantle community. It provides a space for sharing and a forum for conversation and story telling. It embodies the familial relationships built within this town and can be an avenue through which the word about Heifer’s projects can be spread. This symbolic place best suits the Heifer Cornerstone of Accountability. Dialogue transpiring during daily chores such as washing is informal, but comfortable, and can be a great way to share news of projects, invite others to come and learn, follow-up with friends, coordinate, or make plans to ultimately achieve common goals. This spot can provide an avenue for holding people accountable and an environment to share successes. Similarly, the CAFS cornerstone of Civic Engagement and Democratic Participation is relevant. By creating an space where dialogue can flow freely through daily routine, people may be more comfortable discussing community problems. Conversation here also requires no separate commitment or responsibility of trying to capture people’s interest in a more formal setting. It is meeting people where they are, and gauging interest in a place that makes the most sense. In this way, developing strategies to overcome community issues also becomes easier. This place of gathering can help to build trust and stronger relationships within Copantle, while making the Heifer projects at Angelina’s farm accessible to the community at large. With water as a symbol of life, it is natural that the wash basin be a place where people come together to foster life in their own community.
Amanda Karstetter, Humanities, Science, & Environ, VA Tech: There were countless moments on our trip that I wanted to use for my photovoice, but I picked this picture because words are simply not enough to express how welcomed I felt during our brief visit in Cerro Azul. The children there were so ecstatic to see us all, even though the majority of us were strangers to them. I felt like we were all old friends just stopping by for a visit, and this picture spoke to me because I took it right as we started to drive away. It hurt knowing that I will most likely never see those kids again, but I also knew at that moment that I had found my picture for my photovoice.
The Heifer Cornerstone that I feel that this picture speaks the most to is Sharing and Caring. The people of Cerro Azul shared their village with Virginia Tech twice and, while I cannot speak for the group that went last year, I felt incredibly welcomed. Everyone in that community seemed very kind and while we were there I could not help but wonder how much better off and further along civilization would be right now if everyone was like Cerro Azul in being open to working with each other to make their community significantly stronger.
The CAFS Cornerstone that I relate to this picture is Civic Engagement and Democratic Participation. One of the big factors of this cornerstone is trusting relationships, which really exemplifies Heifer’s relationship with the members of Cerro Azul. There is evidence of Civic Engagement and Democratic Participation in the background, where you can see a few of the new brick houses that most likely would not have been possible without Heifer’s knowledge and resources. Also, we were helping to create a stronger network between the members of that community and the students, faculty, and Heifer employees, to help encourage future projects with that community and to help us learn how to better help other communities like Cerro Azul in the future.