TCI’s mission is to make strategic, long term, investments in community based projects and programs that serve children. Children can be served in ways that are not obvious. Although we focus on schools, and school-related initiatives, to serve children adequately we must look at the wider picture: food security, a sustainable income for families, support for the most marginalized families, health, a clean (and wholesome) home, and sanitation. These “rolling” initiatives incur recurring costs. Likewise, while we focus on specific village projects, TCI increasingly expands its footprint to include satellite villages connected to our “home” village through marriage, school enrollment, or shared labor.
We have distributed over 250 solar lights to homes, churches, civic centers. We cannot emphasize how important light is to these communities (for work, reading, cooking, and so on). Our plan is to distribute 1,000 more lights in the coming year. One light at wholesale from Luminaid costs $12.50
We have given $100 to families in our immediate reach through a direct giving program that has transformed the participating communities. It has allowed families to obtain essential home amenities such as latrines, showers, running water, outdoor wash basins (a huge improvement from using the river), cement floors, and clean stoves. We would like to expand this program to all communities that send children to our school.
In partnership with the Honduran government and the EU, we have been given 10,000 valuable mahogany seedlings to plant in the El Rosario valley. The positive ecological impact aside, the income generated by the clearing, planting, and maintaining of these trees will produce a secondary income to very poor farm families between the planting and harvesting seasons. While TCI has planted 3,000 trees on land owned by TCI co-founder Charlie Miller, the rest of the trees will be planted on privately owned plots, with the resulting harvest going directly to landowners.
The main economy of rural Honduras is subsistence farming, mostly in corn and beans. This year was the first year in memory that the rainy season didn’t arrive, putting many families at food risk. We are contemplating ways to store corn and beans against the hard times, but meanwhile we are encouraging farmers to plant coffee, cacao, and fruit trees as a hedge against an even more severe drought. In the past year, seven farmers have begun planting coffee/cacao. TCI co-founder Charlie Miller has also invested in a small coffee plantation which provides year around work for very poor families through clearing, trimming, fertilizing, fence maintenance. With a recently acquired truck, we’ll be able to get coffee to a much better market than what has been the case.
We have enrolled 120 students in the middle/high school. Each of these students receives the $40 scholarship that covers uniform, books, and school fees, as well as mandatory blood work, deworming, and a general health check up. As our programming matures, more demands will arrive for more sophisticated tools: a microscope, atlases, textbooks, and the like.
TCI built, along with the school, a large library that acts as a meeting hall, a civic center, a performance hall, a movie theater. We need $5,000 to bring the library into serviceable use: sound system, video equipment, printers, DVD players, DVDs, Encarta, and Wikipedia. We also pay our librarians $2,000 per annum. They have been a great success, but need more materials to work with. An English program run by a local teacher has attracted 24 students.
We have been fortunate enough to be able to bring musicians, story writers, and business people to El Rosario to work with students and children alike. These visits have been very important given the isolation of Locomapa Valley. A current project, and an expensive one, is getting more skilled people in education, the arts, the economy to visit and share their expertise.
Like in Honduras, there is no lending/banking structure to provide liquidity. At present we have 10 villagers with $250 loans to be paid back at 4% annum. We would like to quadruple this plan. All loans are collateralized by property, all loans administered by local government officials. We have a variety of successes to share: pig husbandry, carpentry tools, and lumber access, bamboo cutting machines, shrimp ponds, etc. We can not emphasize enough how a lending system revolutionizes the quality of life in villages like Catdang.
With an explosive growth rate, our commitment to scholarships ($50 a student per year) is taxing. Yet we will continue to provide scholarships to the poorest families, we will continue to deworm and give yearly health checkups to all students.
We will continue to work with the Women’s League of Vietnam to provide information to children regarding the dangers of alcohol, drugs, abuse, bullying, and such.
We are very excited about our newest elementary school library, and the ongoing work in our middle school. We plan to build programs more aggressively in the arts, education, social welfare, as well as providing a fun place for movies and storytelling.
Our partnerships with H2H and Choice have been huge successes. Having young people from all over the world teach English, swimming, volleyball, debate, track sports, and brain games has been a huge boost to the morale of teachers and students alike. Perhaps our most important current project in Vietnam is finding other organizations of young people, or professionals, who are looking for a stable, bucolic environment to “do good” with a very appreciative community.
Noah’s Ark, Our School
The success of our fledgling school is measured by the fact that twice the number of children want to enroll, swelling the student population from 45 to over 90. This is wonderful validation for our efforts, but presents us with a number of challenges.
We need to add two new teachers and one more cook. We need more food, more supplies, teaching materials, and more uniforms to accommodate the additional children.
We are planning for a new 3 classroom school building to alleviate overcrowding. In the meantime, we have to add temporary learning space.
Cooking is now conducted in the open air and subject to weather interruptions. We need to create a proper space and storage area for the cooks who provide this critical meal for the kids.
Sanitation and Health
The school latrines are inadequate for its current size, and we plan to upgrade to composting toilets. Almost half the village is without any sanitary facilities, relieving themselves in the fields, and we are spearheading a latrine and composting toilet for the village as well.
We are also launching a garden project at the school that will expand to the village at large. This includes teaching basic nutrition for healthy living.
In addition to caring for the medical needs of our students, we are coordinating a medical mission to the village in November. A team of Doctors, Nurses and Nurse Practitioners will provide a week-long clinic at which we anticipate treating over 1,000 villagers.