Thursday, November 27, 2014

Give Thanks+Solidarity

Okay, a Thanksgiving post was just a must have right? And that’s all I want to do here – give thanks. Because there is a TON to give thanks for, I’m just going to let my stream of consciousness run free for this one….

I’m thankful for my family. For my family in the States – Mom, Dad, Allen, Louisa, Grandparents, Karin, Cousins, Uncles, Aunts, pets – all the people who I am missing like crazy today and can’t wait to see in a month. For my family in Honduras, for welcoming me into their homes and into their lives as if I were one of their own, family I have come to love in Trinidad, Tela, or right here in Trascerros with our unconventional family of coworkers, kids, and nanny during the weekdays. Also for the Siembra theatre group, who might as well be family too! And finally, for my host family in Ecuador, especially for mi ecuamadre Magi, who I think of often and don’t talk to nearly enough as I should. Really hoping to visit her soon!

I’m thankful for Bridgewater College. For all that it taught me, for the people I met there and for the experiences we shared. For the opportunities it gave me, expanding my horizons, and transforming me as a person. For my professors and my mentors and, most of all, my friends!

I am thankful for my friends. Yes, I said it twice. Friends from babyhood (Katie, I’m looking at you chica! YJDEK). Friends that I still have from highschool that remain in touch because we’re worth it to one another (Smelliot George you earn a special note here for most likely to keep in touch with me despite being at another university, or in another country for that matter!). For housemates (Kristi and Corlita I can’t wait to see you for New Years!!!! Counting down the days :D ) for soulmates (Stina, mi media mandarina, eres irremplazable! No puedo esperar estar contigo de nuevo, gracias a Dios tenemos todas nuestras vidas para tener adventuras juntas! tkm) and for the friends that have inspired me, that I have treasured, and who are far too numerous to all be listed here (and yet must be mentioned as best as possible…Loganne, Matt, Alicia, Rim, Kelly, Bethany, Aislinn, Jesse, Nick, Jules, Lindsay, Nathaniel, JJ, Elizabeth, Emiliano, everyone at NCP in Hburg, Cory, Carolyn, Jen, Emily…and everyone else, you know who you are!).

I’m thankful for music. For the joy that it brings me, for the way it has allowed me to connect to others, for the ability to both listen to and share it!

I’m thankful for my church families (maybe that should have gone in the first paragraph, but oh well!). For St. Philip and for the Thanksgiving feast that they share with the Roanoke community each year, spreading the love of Christ beyond our church doors! For Muhlenberg, who also does amazing work in the community, especially I want to give thanks today for its ministry with Second Home – I pray for that program often and the kids and families remain on my heart daily! For LCM, for the best friends one could ask for in that group. I wish I had spent more time with them during my college years, but am so thankful for the time we did share! Thankful also for the VA Synod and the ELCA, I am so proud to be a Lutheran and give thanks for this church that wants to make the world a better place. Special thanks especially to Dave Delaney.

I’m thankful for all the opportunities that I have had in this life, especially for traveling. For my incredible, life changing experience in Ecuador. For BCA and Daniel Bryan, the best study abroad director there ever was! For Nepal, and for the New Community Project learning tour that opened my eyes to a whole other side of the world, an entirely new extreme of poverty, and a beautiful people and culture, and a fight for women’s justice more than worth fighting for! Also I give thanks for the New Community Project for giving me the opportunity to be here in Honduras to work with CASM, an experience that has impacted me and continued to help me to grow, and without a doubt is preparing me for the next two years I will be spending in El Salvador with the Peace Corps. 

I also give thanks for my country, the United States, for all of the opportunities that it gives to young people. Because despite all of the mess that our government is, I am thankful for the freedoms that we have, the protection we enjoy, and the fact that I feel I can participate and speak my mind about what needs to change without fear.

I’m thankful for the people I have met here in the communities. For teaching me so much through their faith, humbleness, and generosity. For our conversations in the charlas, for inspiring me to continue working for women’s equality in the world…we have a long ways to go still, but I’m thankful to be part of progress!

Thankful for CASM and for all of the ways in which it helps these people, for the work and dedication of my coworkers, and for all that the institution has taught me about community development work. Also for Don Tatlock and CWS, who helped make it possible for me to be here, and for all of the support that they give to CASM and other organizations around the world.

Thankful for Ann Zeigler, for sharing with me her BVS work at the Hogar and for the kids who live there and are given so many opportunities for a better life as a result! Also for Ann’s practically host family who shared a weekend with me, they were absolutely lovely and welcoming and even if I never see them again I am grateful for the moments we shared playing Kims, letting our minds run free between English and Spanish languages, impromptu dance parties, Nutella and other delicious foods, and just kicking back and enjoying one another’s company!

I’m thankful for the fact that I’m here and alive today. That I am healthy, safe, and that no harm has come to me in my travels.

Oh! I’m also thankful for CENIT and my volunteer experience in Ecuador, for all of the volunteers that I was able to meet through that organization and for all the kids that we worked with, their hugs and laughter are unforgettable.

I’m thankful for art and for the people who protect cultural traditions. For good books, for lyrics that carry important messages, for actors and actresses who hope to transform others through their performance (Louisa Britt I know you do this and it inspires me!!!), for photography like Humans of New York that show us a little bit more of humanity each day.

For running, even though I haven’t been able to do it hardly at all in Honduras, it is both a challenge and a therapy to me, and I’m thankful that I still have the health and the knees to do it. And thankful for all of my running counterparts who inspire me to hit the pavement time and time again, especially Katie, Grandpa, and Chum.

For nature, even though we mistreat and destroy it. For all the natural wonders of this world, the ones that I have seen and the ones that I will see, and the ones I will only ever know in pictures. But just thankful that they exist. And praying that we can preserve what’s left. Thankful for the Amazon and for its secrets, for its people and their traditions, and for its supporters trying to protect the land and everything that inhabits it.  Thankful for mountains, especially the Blue Ridge which may not be as big as the Andes or the Himalayas, but will always be the most beautiful and most treasured to me.

For good food, for all the deliciousness I have been able to try here, and for the food that I will get to enjoy again when I go back home. Thankful that I don’t worry about going hungry, and praying praying praying for the people in this world who don’t know where their next meal is coming from, or if it will come at all. I give thanks for the Drumstick Dash in Roanoke and for the Rescue Mission’s work. Wishing I could be there dashing along with everyone this morning, moving our feet so others can eat!

I’m thankful for technology. For the way that it helps me to keep in touch with others. For free promotional minutes to call the United States from my Tigo phone company here. For the wonders of skype and fb messaging. For email. For blogs, that allow me to share my experiences as well as read up on others’. For all the ways that technology brings this globalized world and the people in it together for GOOD CAUSES and creates solidarity despite lines of cultural, social, and political differences.

I’m sure there is more that I haven’t mentioned here, but these are the things I am most thankful for today.

Happy Thanksgiving! Feliz Dia de Gracias!

In Solidarity,


P.S. - You might be wondering how I'm celebrating Turkey Day here, the truth is not much other than expressing gratitude to the people around me. Things are also a bit crazy here this weekend as me and my CASM counterparts are traveling to a national conference for all of the CASM employees, but I am hoping to share a belated turkey dinner with my host family the following weekend! 

Thursday, November 13, 2014


Just a short post for today, but worth sharing.

Yesterday I visited a community called the Cedral to accompany an agriculture workshop on organic composting and insecticides. 

BOTH men and women were present at the workshop, and equally invested in learning the process of making these useful materials. It was awesome seeing the entrepreneurial spirit of one woman, who wanted to know if the organic insecticide was something that they could potentially sell! 

Likewise, the community members helping to lead the workshop (they had received the training previously and were now passing it along to others) explained how making these organic composts didn't have to be an individual effort, and that it was better if at least two if not more people got together to make a whole bunch of the material all at once. Yay for collective organization and action!

Finally, there were also several kids present at the workshop, either young ones brought by their families, or curious students returning back home from school for the afternoon. It's cool to see the younger generation taking interest in the workshop, and the hope is that their families will pass down this knowledge to them for a better, more eco-friendly tomorrow! 

Education doesn't being or end in the school classroom. Everyone, women and men, kids and the elderly, took something away from this workshop yesterday. In just a couple of hours, these families learned something both simple and valuable that can help them as they continue to develop their home gardens and farms, promoting better soil conservation and alternatives to chemical products. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014


I sometimes worry when I write these posts that I’m being too positive, or too optimistic. I’ve written about good and bad things that have happened here in Honduras, but most of the time it’s not too hard to find the silver lining.

This past Sunday I realized that I only have 50 days left in Honduras. It was a sad realization, and while 50 days is still a substantial amount (more than ¼ of my total time here) time is only passing faster and faster than before. I’ve started to obsess about how to make the most of my time here, while at the same time think about what I will do when I go back home, how I will readjust my life, prepare for my service in the Peace Corps, etc. These are things that I am even starting to stress over.

I’ve come to really love Honduras, and a piece of my heart is always going to remain here. It has been my home away from home. I can confidently say that I’ve become very comfortable here over time, I’ve grown accustomed, gotten acclimated. It has been a time filled with so many memories, moments I will never possibly forget.

But in the last hour I had a really big reality check.

Some women I have come to know through my work with CASM came by to visit the office today. We shared cups of coffee and cookies together, catching up with how things were going. We discussed the current coffee harvesting that is happening, the bad weather, how the women’s microbusinesses were functioning…And it was there that one of the woman told me that unfortunately the microbusiness wasn’t doing so well, and that she hadn’t been able to participate much in it recently because her son had died. “I am so very sorry for your loss,” I tell her.

 “They killed him.”

That’s when I realize that despite all of the beauty, all of the amazing people, all of the wonderful things I have come to learn and to know in this country – there is still this harsh reality. I don’t know how or in what circumstances her son was killed, I didn’t press for details. But I am overwhelmed by how terribly casual this conversation was…albeit tragic, it is not unusual. In fact, this Sunday, on the Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) I spent the afternoon in the cemetery, and there a man told me that he was visiting a friend who had been killed. 

But that is not to say at all that this mother didn’t feel less what any mother feels when a child is taken from her. I am certain that she is carrying an unimaginable pain and loss in her heart right now. I am also amazed by her strength, and her determination to offer the best she can for her three orphaned grandchildren she is now caring for full-time. And likewise, I am sure that that man is still mourning the loss of his friend a year ago. The higher probability of violence and death  doesn't mean people feel any less the hurt it causes them. The pain isn't dulled because it's felt more frequently, if anything, it's even more raw and more painful with each blow.

And then I started to think about all of the violence happening in our world right now, which hardly crosses my mind most days. The fighting and bloodshed in the Middle East, for instance. I’m embarrassed to say that I had never heard anything about ISIS until a friend mentioned it to me in an online message one day last month. But geez, with so much shit going down in the world, it’s easier to just block it all out, right?

Tell that to the people living in it.

I could say that the silverlining to all this is that at least there are awesome organizations like CASM and CWS and NCP and tons of other ONG’s like them doing good work, combatting the darkness in our world. Of course I believe this, and it does give me hope for the future.

Today was the second time I’ve cried since I arrived in Honduras (the first was my second weekend here, the expected homesickness finally kicking in).  I think this conversation just tipped the glass of emotions I have been filling and tucking away, because it’s hard to feel so much every day. I am blown away by how insignificant my problems are, how many my blessings, how much I have to be thankful for, and how little I actually give thanks for it. I am reminded that I need to pray less that God would help me figure out how I can best help people (aka Dear God, please send your best career and future life advice…thanks a million, Father!) and pray more for the people themselves I want to help and for peace itself. I also think I should try feeling more for these people, opening myself up to their pain even if it drains me emotionally too. Because frankly, that’s solidarity.

In other words, even when we are doing good work, let’s not forget the reality that there is still so much left to be done at the end of the day. People are killed. People are hungry. People are hurting. If I really want to be the change I want to see in the world, I need to keep reminding myself what state the world really is in. It’s just so easy to get complacent. To check my Facebook feed before the world news. To focus on these development projects before seriously reflecting upon the reality that makes them necessary in the first place. As well as how that reality came to be, and how I, as an individual with the power to make decisions every second of my life, can contribute to the continuation or the transformation of that reality.

I need to remember the people and their struggles.

I need to remember my human connection to those people and see their struggles as our struggles.

Because if I don’t remember, I’ll just forget. And nothing will change.

In Solidarity,


Tuesday, October 21, 2014


This post isn’t like the others, but I feel obligated to help out my fellow travelers in Central America who happen upon this blog! I wasn’t able to find any recent, concrete information on visa renewals in Honduras online when I needed it, so here is my contribution to the cyber world. You're welcome!

When I arrived in Honduras I was given a 90 day visa, which ran out in September. I was told that I could request a “prórroga” (extension) in San Pedro Sula, which I did, however this extension only lasted another 30 days. At the migration office I was told that I would need to spend a minimum of at least 72 hours outside of Honduras in either Belize or Costa Rica. Most of the neighboring countries in Central America are part of the CA-4 agreement, which means you can travel around on the same visa in Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and El Salvador – but, on the other hand, crossing these boundaries does not help you to renew your visa.

However! The señora in the migration office told me that *sometimes* crossing the border with Guatemala could get me a new visa, because the migration offices there are not as strict as others. A Brethren Service Volunteer I met here also said that she was able to get a new visa this way, although she couldn't promise it would work every time.

My visa would run out the 26th of October, so I decided to give the Guatemala run a go at the beginning of the month. If it failed, I would still have time to hop over to Belize or Costa Rica. I took a Hedman Alas bus (super safe and foreign traveler friendly) from Copan Ruinas to Guatemala, passing through the migration office at El Florido. They were a little finicky there, and I had to tell them that I was planning on going to Belize and Costa Rica for my visa renewal at the end of the month (at that point, I didn’t think this plan was going to work anymore). I stayed in Guate City (GREAT experience, I couch surfed and met some awesome new friends in the few short days I was there), then 72 hours later I was back on a different bus with the Fuente del Norte company, which would take me on a different route back into Honduras, through the migration office at Corintos (my BVS friend told me crossing into a different part of Honduras might improve my chances of the new visa).

And sure enough, Corintos was a breeze! I got stamped out of Guatemala, and the Honduran migration office afterwards gave me a brand new 90 day visa without me even requesting it, no questions asked! I was very surprised that it actually worked, but it did! And now I can rest easy knowing that I am legally staying here till I leave in December, and won’t end up paying an outrageous fine.

So there you have it fellow travelers!  I don’t know if it will work for everyone, or even in the following years to come, but in October 2014 it couldn’t have been an easier loophole to the CA-4 agreement. Best of luck!

Friday, October 17, 2014


        I hear that in the States the stores are in full out Halloween mode…and that Christmas decorations are even starting to make appearances. Here it’s harder to tell the passing of time. While I am enjoying not being bombarded with the seasonal decorations wherever I go, I do miss the transition from summer to fall to winter. Since September we’ve been in the same rainy season, and I hear it will continue to rain daily till at least January.  It’s not that I don’t like the rain, it’s just a bit disorienting not having my four seasons to go by anymore!

I often find that the second half of any experience goes by the fastest; now past the halfway mark here in Honduras I keep reminding myself to make the most of my time here. With just a couple months left, it’s been important for me to plan ahead, so that time doesn’t fly right past me. In the past month, my priority has been the charlas in the communities regarding the topic of human rights.  Coordinating with my counterparts at CASM to their respective communities, I’ve managed to give 8 charlas since I last wrote.

The structure and organization of the human rights charla I designed has changed over time, as I’ve tweaked and perfected it, learning from my experiences with each new group. Many days have been spent in the CASM office replanning and modifying the charla, trying to make it more dynamic, interactive, and accessible for participants. As far as planning goes, I feel pretty confident in the charla as it stands now….

Women work together to write down 5 basic needs to live.
After introductions, a member of the community is asked to give a prayer to begin our session. This is followed by a devotional from 1 Corinthians 12:14-23, in which we discuss how, despite differences, all people are of the same worth and importance. (Likewise, everyone has the same basic human rights, regardless of sex, race, political opinion, gender, nationality, religion, etc.). Then, dividing into teams of 4-6 people, each group writes down 5 basic needs necessary in order to live, ordered from most to least importance, which we discuss afterwards together.  This is a good warm-up, since our basic human rights often overlap with our basic needs. The results from this warm-up have varied, but almost always the first thing people seem to think of is God (because “God gives us life in the first place”) followed by air, water, food, etc. Group work has proven to be very successful in the communities, as individuals who cannot read/write still have the opportunity to give their input and participate in the conversation.

Next, I explain that the content of the charla comes from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, signed by the United Nations in 1948 after WWII. It’s important that the participants know that these rights aren’t just something that I came up with, but rather have been written down and have authority. Likewise, since many people here don’t have much confianza (confidence) in the national government (one individual commented to me that every time there is a new president, they always change the constitution in some way or another) it helps for them to know that this is an international agreement. 

The goal of the charla is that the participants learn the rights they have according to the Declaration. Each person in the group(s) gets 1-2 cards, each containing a human right. Together in their groups they discuss how to organize the rights, according to three categories…Satisfy Needs, Enjoy Security, or Participate. Afterwards we reconvene as a whole group, discussing where and why we are placing the cards according to the categories, as well as what each different human right entails for us. I also use examples to stress the idea of equality between men and women in relation to their human rights, as women’s rights are more likely to be violated, not only in Honduras, but all over the world.

That is basically the meat of the charla. Afterwards, depending on time and if the group is still animated, we do another activity using brief stories I’ve written to identify human rights and determine whether or not they are being violated, by whom, and who has the responsibility to protect them, etc. But the conversations that result between people during the charlas are by far the most important part of the learning process.

A long and narrow walkway of a woman´s home
made conversation a bit of a challenge
As much as I’ve planned the charla, with each community it has ended up different, according to lots of different variables. In some groups, a few men have been in attendance, which can be a good thing (men need to hear that women have the same rights as them too!) but I also have to be careful and make sure that the men don’t also dominate the conversation. Even if they have good, egalitarian commentaries to offer, it doesn’t do the women any good to sit there passively (it’s a basic human right to have an opinion and participate, so I emphasize that we practice it in the charla!). Likewise, women bring their young children to the charla and this can cause natural distractions for the group as well. Then there´s the actual physical space we have available for the it a classroom? A church? Someone`s home? One time in a classroom a huge rainstorm came, and the sound of the rain on the tin roof was deafening - we had to take a break until it passed. While I cannot plan for these and other variables, with each charla I get better at managing them and rolling with the punches.

But - So what? How is this charla helping people in the communities?  What good does it do for people to know their basic human rights, especially if these rights are constantly being violated or not fulfilled?? These are questions I’ve wrestled with in this work. But the responses I’ve received from community members have reminded me that this topic is worth something in the long run.

In one community, a woman who barely spoke during the charla
told me afterwards in confidence that she was a victim
of domestic abuse. "Thank-you for this charla, I have
new strength now to press forward."

Men can serve as role models for other men attending the charlas. In La Cumbre a male participant (not pictured here) shared
how he enjoys cooking for his wife. Unfortunately, many men wouldn´t think twice about helping with familial responsibilities. This would be seen as being a "dundo" (unmanly) according to machismo culture.

When women receive knowledge of their basic human rights, it improves their self'-esteem and sense of self-worth. Maybe
they have never been told before that they are equal to men. Ultimately, the charlas are meant to generate a culture change, in which women are no longer treated or viewed as inferior.
Working together in groups in the charla promotes solidarity in the communities, as individuals collaborate to make sense of this topic. My hope is that after the charla they will support one another in the protection of their human rights, as well as the promotion of equality between men and women in their community.

In the charla we also talk about the right to participate in organized groups, which leads to a discussion on how many women are serving as representatives of different organizations (community boards, municipality committees, religious groups, etc.) But we also talk about how it´s not just necessary that there are women serving in these groups, but also important to evaluate which type of position they are filling….rarely is it a role with much power.

As I continue my work with the charlas, the current coffee harvesting season may prove to be a new challenge. The harvest is just beginning, and both men and women go to work in the counterparts have warned me that as the harvest really gets underway I may see fewer numbers of participants in the charlas as a result. Coffee harvesters earn approximately 30 lempiras ($1.50) per gallon of coffee beans picked. On average, a person will pick anywheres from 4-8 gallons in a day, meaning 120-240 lempiras in a day`s wage ($7-$12). This may not seem like a lot, and in reality, with the rising food prices (remember the beans) here it isn't that much. But families can make $12 stretch a good ways, and since agriculture is the main economy here, the coffee harvest is what many families depend on to make ends meet. 
When I visit communities, I also have a short 30 minute charla for the schools on children´s rights. Together, we learn a song I wrote called "My Human Rights". It's always a fun time!
Already I am working on the planning for another charla on the topic of gender . After receiving the human rights charla, I think communities are in a prime position to receive more education on gender norms, and how this can generate inequality between men and women. Working in these topics is super exiting for me. There is so much machismo (male superiority) in Latin America, and while I am certainly not ridding Honduras of it single-handedly, I do believe that I am making a small difference here in this corner of the world. I have already met strong women and men in the communities, whom, influenced by the work of CASM, have come to recognize machismo as a problem in society. Hopefully my contribution with these charlas will continue to promote gender equality amongst people here, improving the lives of both men and women.

Speaking of gender, this past Monday, after our usual weekly devotional, our CASM team had a meeting in order to do a “Gender Diagnostic Analysis”. CASM as an institution is analyzing indicators of gender inequality within the institution, that is to say, that all the regional CASM offices are doing the same analysis to be reviewed by the administration. Together as a group we reviewed whether or not CASM’s mission/vision statements, internal structure, project processes from start to finish, promotional materials, etc. were up to par with gender equality standards. I really have to applaud CASM for doing this analysis because it demonstrates a real commitment to ensuring gender equality among employees as well as in the work we do with the communities. In one of my earliest posts I mentioned the issue of homosexuality, and this was also a subject discussed within the analysis. Apparently, in years before, there was a case of a coordinator in a regional office who was supposedly dismissed for being homosexual. But times are changing, and now CASM is committed to promoting the equal rights of EVERYONE involved in its work, and that is HUGE! I think every organization should do an analysis akin to this…kudos to CASM for making it a priority!

I’ve already told you what I’ve been up to personally with the charlas, but our CASM office as a whole has been involved in so many different projects this past month I can scarcely keep track of it all!! Here are some snapshots/updates on our work….
At the end of September we celebrated the Day of No Violence in Trascerros. Women from all of the surrounding communities were invited to participate in the march that morning through  town.
Unfortunately, the rain we had early that morning made it impossible for most people to travel safely here.
Still, the women who were able to come proudly shared their messages with us.

"Education is the vaccine to counter violence. Say no to violence, yes to Educacion!"

Day of No Violence - We got crafty at CASM and made a
mural to share for the municipal demonstration. Each hand print
has a different human right written on it. When these rights
are respected we can achieve a "Culture of Peace".

Taly, our youngest CASM staff member, representing with
her fellow classmates in the march.
"For a non-violent person, the whole world is their family."

Eugenia proudly carries her sign "Beatings are not the only
violence...Words, Silence, Betrayal, Scorn, and Indifference
also HURT."

Dona Transito (far left) has been participating in the Day of No Violence marches year after year.
One day I had the opportunity to visit her home, where she showed me the many signs she had
saved from each demonstration.

Representatives from each community were invited to participate in a 3-day training workshop CASM sponsored
at an organic homestead  called Naranjochino. This month, trainees are passing on the knowledge they learned
in mini workshops held in their communities.

Micro-irrigation systems were one of the highlights of the training, which  CASM
will help communities implement into their home farming practices. 
CASM gave a business administration workshop to a women`s microbusiness.
Here, Maximina practices balancing a checkbook to keep record of the group`s earnings/spendings. 

Another Feria Gastronomica was held in La Reina at the end of September.

Students gave a presentation on the importance of eating one`s fruits and vegetables....

Women preparing the chaya and carrot fritters to share with those gathered for the festival.

CASM bought beans for beneficiaries in the communities to grow. Finding the beans was a challenge - the people prefer red beans, but due to the extremely dry summer we had, these were super hard to come by! We settled for black beans, but finding them at a reasonable price was still problematic. After much price checking, we were finally able to make the purchase, and this week the beans were distributed to the communities. 
CASM is currently in the process of finding and negotiating the purchase of young milking cows to deliver to families for our "Pasa de Cadena" (Passing Chain) program. Families who receive a cow promise to give the first offspring to CASM to benefit another family in their community. I`m no cow expert, but it's important that the cows are good for milking (versus meat), aren`t too big (many families have limited land space for the animals...the cow pictured here didn`t pass inspection), while at the same time are sturdy enough to make it up the steep roads to the communities.

Last month materials were delivered for the construction of latrines, pilas (water basins), and energy-efficient ovens.
While CASM provided cement, tubing, the toilet, and tin roofing, recipients were responsible for the construction of the
structure to hold the latrine. Here Lanilla stands proudly next to their beautiful new latrine protected by adobe clay walls, complete with a door/latch, and even a light inside! It`s great to see the enthusiasm and creativity that people contribute to these projects that we offer, it makes the investment feel all the more worthwhile. 

In order to do so many activities all at the same time, CASM definitely has to have a plan to carry them all out. Sometimes these plans don’t work as perfectly as we’d like. The rain pours, the beans we hope for just aren’t there, the prices are higher than we expected….but we press onward, readjusting and finding better solutions along the way!

There is a season for everything. My friends and family back home are busting out their Halloween décor, scoping out the candy prices, and planning parties and jack-o-lanterns to be ready for the 31st. While I do miss this part of home, I honestly wouldn’t want to be anywhere else right now but Honduras. Despite the challenges and changes in plans I have here, all in all, it’s a pretty great season of my life to be in right now!

In Solidarity,


Wednesday, September 17, 2014


The first Friday of September was the “Feria Gastronómica” (food festival), which I described as a “potluck” affair in my last post...yep, that was my preconception of the event. I anticipated that the women would gather again (although in greater numbers since several communities were invited), bring the food they had prepared, there would be a brief devotional/prayer, and maybe a short charla by a representative from the office of health (if they ended up accepting the invitation to come), and everyone would eat and chat and that would be it.

I love potlucks. Whether it’s with my church (Lutherans are infamous for their coffee hour…but their potlucks are just as good, if not better!), my family, or just friends, it’s a great way to get together with your community for conversation, and the best food around! But our gathering in the Cedral community – I don’t think it's fair to call it a potluck. The people from the communities went all out for the event, and it was quite the party! Here are some snapshots….

Lupe (El Cedral) preparing the nutritional soup. It smelled (and tasted) delicious!

Erasmo jamming out on his guitar
(he was really bummed I didn't know how to
sing any of his songs...)

"What was your favorite food that you learned in the workshop?"
- "Carrot Fritters!"
Women from El Profundo hard at work preparing soy milk and soy chorizo.

Maira and company (El Pino) preparing green tortillas

A band showed up to serenade the women while they cooked!

We began the festival program with a devotion by one of the community pastors.

Singing the National Anthem of Honduras

Presentations by the women on what they had learned from the workshop (Pictured here: El Profundo)

Members of El Cedral sharing the benefits of each ingredient in the nutritional soup.

Students shared poetry.... well as songs.

And the band continued to play!

"Buen Provecho!" (Bon apetit)

People of all ages came out for the fun

We expected 100 people total to attend the event….there were 190, and that's not including all the kids! I was worried that there wouldn't be enough food for everyone, we hadn't expected so many community members to show up! But it ended up being a real loaves and fishes experience - somehow there was plenty of food, and even leftovers! 

The best part of the feria was seeing how the nutrition workshop had given the women not only ideas for healthier eating, but also empowered them in other ways too! The presentations by the women, for example, were gave them a forum to share what they had learned and teach others who had gathered for the feria. In short, it provided them an opportunity to be LEADERS. The women from El Profundo were especially inspiring, after their workshop they organized themselves into a group called the "women who know how to cook" and it was powerful to see how something as simple as a food workshop could generate this kind of solidarity. They even shared with us a fantastic original song they wrote about who they were as a group, what they had learned, and expressed thanks for CASM's work in their community!

This Friday we will have another Feria with another group of communities who have also received the workshop in the past. It will be hard to top my first Feria experience, but I have high hopes!
Pastel de Zanahoria (Carrot cake)

This past week was also filled with celebrations for a very special someone's birthday - my Honduran brother! His "cumpleaños" (birthday) was somewhat of a week-long affair.... the weekend prior Delmis and I tested out baking my mom's carrot cake recipe (my brother specifically requested this for his birthday) - it was a delicious success! 

His birthday was the 10th of September, the same day as El Dia del Niño (Children's Day), a holiday which all the kids celebrate in the schools here in Honduras with games, piñatas, cookies and other treats (think elementary school field days!). Unfortunately, I missed out on the Children's Day festivities here in the communities as I needed to make a trip to the city to request a visa extension (lame!). 

But at least I was able to enjoy my brother's birthday festivities, as the party continued over the following weekend in Tela with family and friends...

Knock the bottle over with the ball - didn't quite make the mark,
but great effort!

Balancing stick competition

Team races

Pinning the bow on the "Meekah" (aka Minnie Mouse)

I promise they had a good time! The kids were just way more
interested in the pinata than taking a picture!

Feliz cumple hermano!

Birthday boy gets the first bite of the cake...
Finally, yesterday was Independence Day for Honduras (as well as most of Central America). September 15th marks Honduras' (as well as Nicaragua, El Salvador, Costa Rica, and Guatemala's) independence from Spain in 1821, after which it became a part of the Central American Federation. However, this date is a bit of a misnomer, as the declaration of independence didn't actually declare independence - but rather postponed the decision for a Congress that would meet in March of 1822 (and never did). In short, the Bill of Independence of 1821 was just an aristocratic maneuver to prevent a full-blown revolution that was brewing...aristocrats wanted to maintain the colonial regime under the same authoritarian rule - just without being accountable to Spain! 

In 1822, Honduras was annexed by the Mexican Empire with the help of the aristocracy, which they arranged in order to maintain their privileges (which a true democratic and republic revolution threatened). Then, July 1st in 1823, Honduras won independence "again" from Mexico, and became part of the Federal Republic of Central America. The Republic was supposed to be a federation of states - similarly organized into a democracy like the United States. But, once again, it experienced strong opposition from elite conservatives who wanted to preserve the oppressive caste system of the Spanish colonization. This resulted in a civil war, and General Francisco Morazan, the head of the state of Honduras, before later becoming president of the Federal Republic, led the fight against the anti-democratic reaction . Still remembered as a national hero today, Morazan was executed by a firing squad in 1842, and the conservatives won (We'll be celebrating Morazanwith another national day, Soldier's Day, on October 3rd). What follows is a long history of repression, violence, neoliberalist subordination (for the benefit of United States banana companies), and, sadly, an utter lack in independence for Honduran people. Even today there continues to exist internal corruption in the government (remember the Golpe del Estado of 2009 from one of my earlier posts??), but bit by bit Honduran people are demanding transparency and the protection of their democratic freedoms.

Having learned more about this "day of independence" makes my human rights work with CASM in the communities all the more exciting. Sometimes it's challenging working with this issue; human rights is a pretty abstract concept...although they exist according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948 - United Nations), these rights are constantly violated all around the world. But my hope is that knowledge of our history can help us to make changes for a freer, more equal, and more just world in the future! 

So maybe September 15th wasn't really a day of liberation. But hey, we partied it up anyway! I celebrated in Trinidad - sadly, my camera battery was being finicky, so I'll apologize in advance for the lack of pictures! There were torch processions and fireworks the night before, and a huge march the morning of the 15th, involving all the schools, elementary to university levels (You will see pictured below the youngest groups)! La Siembra also participated in the march, dancing along on their stilts to the music of the high school bands that played in front of them. The march really brought me back to my high school days with the Cave Spring Marching Knights!

"We the children want peace for Honduras"
My counterparts at CASM have assured me that there will be many more festival days to come during my time in Honduras. In fact, today is "Teacher's Day" and all the teachers and students have the day off! Likewise, the women in the communities are already planning and preparing for the the "Day of No Violence," which will be celebrated locally here in the Nueva Frontera municipality next week.

A close friend of mine told me the other day that I have "one of the coolest jobs ever" and I couldn't agree more. My time in Honduras as a solidarity worker is truly a one of a kind opportunity, and I am super grateful for everything that I am learning, experiencing, sharing, and celebrating while here. I keep warning myself how difficult it is going to be when I have to leave come December! But I'm not even half way through yet, so instead of dreading the end of this chapter, I'm trying my best to just enjoy the present moment! 

Salud! (Cheers!) and thanks for joining me virtually for the party!  

In Solidarity,