Thinking about what we have learned will need some soak time before we’re able to report many specifics. Each of us will have picked up concepts, impressions, and guidelines that need to be shared among our team to consolidate our thoughts. For tonight, I’ll just jot some thoughts that struck me as important. Some of them were confirmation of what I had thought previously, and some were new.
One overall bit of advice is that we need to remember we are not in Honduras simply to help Hondurans. We are there to help Hondurans help themselves. We’re in Honduras not to lead programs, but to support them. That’s a big difference in approach. We’re pretty good at deciding what problems they have and how we are going to fix them. The problem is that our fixes might not really be what the Hondurans want or need. A better way is to first ask the Hondurans what things they think would make their lives better, what stands in the way, and whether and how we might work with them to improve their situation. The fixes need to be theirs. We can offer support, but they need to own the solutions. That stands the best chance of imparting a new sense of accomplishment and overcoming a history of powerlessness and hopelessness.
When we can live with the families in their conditions, and work alongside them to help them make their lives better, we will begin to understand the meaning of a mission trips as a vocation rather than a vacation.
Changing the cultural norms of the society won’t happen any time soon. The adults generally are firmly entrenched in “the way things have always been.” As bad as we might think things are, these folks are survivors. They know how to get by. They have learned to accept things as they are. They know the familiar; they have learned to fear the unfamiliar. So why change?
Education of the children is probably the most promising way to impart a gradual shift of values and behavior. Often that requires that the children first have food so they can think about something other than constant hunger. They also need to be healthy–free of parasites and infections. There won’t be quick fixes; we’re looking at small improvements occurring over a period of several years, probably with many failures and disappointments as we go along. So we need to be alert for small victories in the lives of the people we work with. Here Karen and Arturo are discussing how we might do that.
The levels of violence, drug use, alcoholism, spousal and child abuse, and homicide have been on the increase in Honduras. Poverty is increasing with the general increase in food costs and other expenses. So hopelessness continues despite many years of intervention by hundreds of organizations who have sent thousands of people in teams to Honduras to help. If we are able to benefit from the partnering we can do through improved communication of recent years, maybe we can learn from each other’s successes and failures.
That’s a dump of thoughts in my head this evening. By morning maybe they will have taken some shape. Tomorrow we will drive back to Quimistan and begin the rest of our lives. During the week we will do several on-the-ground activities and compare notes to develop a coherent picture of some next steps.
We are hopeful that we’ll have internet access there; last week we were not able to establish a connection that was possible with our summer teams. If you don’t see entries on the blog, that will be the reason.