Honduras Trip Report – November 2017
This trip had many purposes, among which were to:
- Witness the the first 12th grade graduation from ICSM and the fourth 9th grade graduation
- Attend the provincial wide SAT graduation in Yoro, in which we were participants
- Gauge the success of our new food delivery service to the poorest students
- Monitor the direct giving project
- Assess damage to number of homes damaged or destroyed by floods
- Evaluate increasing demand for solar lights
- Determine the strength of the oncoming 2018 classes, and concomitant transportation, book, and uniform costs going forward
- Assess the teaching at ICSM with the director of SAT
- Meet with the newly elected mayor of Yoro in order to consider scholarships
- Discuss with the mayor plans to deliver a container of medical supplies to Yoro from Partners for World Health
- Gauge the growth of the teak and mahogany forests, and cull the first ” cut” of coffee
- Assist in the hiring of a new librarian and lobby city hall for our librarians to be paid by the government
- Meet with graduating seniors to discuss future plans
Here are some highlights.
Finally! We graduated our first 12th grade class. We were able to retain 19 students through the six years, the highest number of any of the six SAT schools in the process. Two ceremonies took place, one in the capital (where Charlie was designated “Padrino” and asked to give the commencement speech), and another beautiful ceremony in El Rosario later that evening: a touching affair with a lot of tears, but mostly relief and joy. We cannot adequately describe what a pivotal and telling moment this was on the arc of El Rosario’s progress. Fortunately Caleb Bradford, our newest Board member, and Molly Halley, a professional photographer, were able to witness the events. A day earlier the 9th grade was graduated in another emotional ceremony.
We interviewed five students with the greatest likelihood of attaining scholarships and were impressed by their maturity and hopes. We were pleased that our first mother graduated. In a very patriarchal society it was without precedent that a young woman, pregnant, stayed in school, and graduated – as valedictorian of her class.
Because of drought, as many as 60 of our students were coming to school hungry. Our food program turned out to be a real success. Rather than hiring cooks the mothers of the students took it upon themselves to come to school and prepare food for their own kids. This saved us money, and created even greater good will in Guatamales and Chaquite. We believe that our food program will encourage more young people to attend school. We were impressed by the inventiveness of the cooking given the resources.
We are pleased to report that our $100 direct giving program has continued to produce a demonstrably higher quality of life for all parties. Molly an Caleb monitored the program, interviewed six recipients and will put together a visual report in the weeks ahead. Home owners were grateful for running water, a pilla, a clean stove, etc. We hope to be able to extend this program to other communities in the years ahead.
Drought caused lost crops, but flash flooding destroyed four homes. We were petitioned to help in the repair of these homes as part of the direct giving program; this will be a Board decision as it raises concerns about the depth of our ability to serve all needs.
We have distributed 385 solar lights, mostly to villages without electricity. But again we were asked for another 75 from outlying villages that had heard of our program. LuminAID subsidizes the lights somewhat (older models), and the villagers pay as they can. This program is not precisely aligned with our mission, but the TCI Board has agreed that the program is obviously important to those who live in the dark. We would like to continue this work.
2018 School Enrollment
We met with Dionisio to discuss the strength of the 2018 enrollment. It appears we will have between 120-128 students in class by start of school year. This puts us safely in the range of continued support from SAT. We will have the largest enrollment of any of the SAT schools, and a full complement of six teachers. Much of the increase comes from villages new to us: Tequan and La Renata. Like all our students these kids will need scholarships, book money, uniforms, and most costly, bus transportation. This need we hope to meet by Feb 1st and the start of the school year.
School Capacity Planning
We met with Blanca, Director of the SAT program twice and had substantive conversations about the teachers (most are very strong), community participation in paying for school costs such as lab equipment(etc), and scholarships. We have an excellent relationship with the administration, though we are cautioned not to do ” too much,” but rely on the PTA more.
We are MOST fortunate that the new mayor of Yoro ( think governor of the state) is an old friend: Diana Urbana. Diana invited us to her estate for a long cordial meeting. Most importantly she guaranteed a scholarship to a famous university, Catacamas, for Juan, Nelson’s son who graduated second in his class. As well, she promised us scholarships to the trade school in Yoro, and also promised to send her personal cosmetologist to El Rosario for a two day training session with high school girls. She also promised to continue her brother’s commitment to pay for our librarians. In the course of the conversation I promised to send a container of medical supplies to Yoro from Partners for World Health.
We spent considerable time in the lawyer’s office finalizing the transfer of all agricultural properties to TCI. We did have our first coffee “cut” of 625 pounds, about 40% of the potential total, which we took to market. The money transferred to the construction account. The new teak plantation looks terrific, the first mahogany field is strong, while the last three are underdeveloped because of drought and replanting. Nelson and Roni remarked a number of times how grateful the men from Chaquite and Carzalitos were for work picking coffee or trimming / planting / fertilizing the trees. Everyone knows that the trees and coffee are held in TCI’s name, but in fact belong to the valley.