Village Partners Project Honduras – Mission
The Village Partners Project works to create sustainable, healthy change in specific Honduran communities through cross-cultural experience, community participation, and empowerment through partnerships. Current partners are William Jewell College, UNAH-CURLA (a national University on the north coast of Honduras), Honduran NGO’s, and villages throughout the country. The specific tasks of building ecological latrines, micro enterprising initiatives, improving home ventilation, and improving agricultural distribution directly and immediately improve the economic state of families. These projects also position families for healthier economic states in coming generations.
The Village Partners Project in Honduras (VPP) engages impoverished communities for the purpose of healthy, sustainable change through partnering, planning and practicing. Sustainable change occurs through community education, dialogue and leadership development. VPP created a position for a Honduran intern who serves as a liaison between the various partners and the villages. Sarahi Zeron, a recent graduate of UNAH-CURLA (degree in Agricultural Economics), is the Honduran intern. Sarahi utilizes the resources provided through William Jewell College to create additional resources in the partnering communities.
Since 2005 more than 300 William Jewell College students, faculty and alumni have traveled to do community development work in north central Honduras. Students may support themselves with Jewell’s Journey Grant, awarded to students seeking opportunities in experiential learning. Each group raises funds for a specific project they will work on while they are in Honduras. Past projects include: building homes, roofing a church, and health education. Projects in in our first village included building “Sanitario Secos” (dry composting latrines), high efficiency stoves that vent outside the home, water quality assessment, and opening a small store in the village which proved to be a successful micro-enterprise. As a result of these projects the people of the village brought electricity to their village and started a small fishing cooperative to supplement their Palm growing income. Plans for improving each community come from within the village. As a liberal arts college we network our various disciplines to find ways to empower the village reach its goals.
These goals are accomplished by creating a reciprocal relationship that benefits and strengthens the Honduran and William Jewell communities. In 2013 we are in the “relationship-building” phase of our work with a new village in the mountains of Central Honduras. Matagua, a small village of about 300 people, is located about five miles from the larger town of Yoro, Honduras.
Each partnership with a village moves through three intentional phases.
Phase 1: Relationship Building
During this phase students and community members get to know one another and we begin the process of listening to the community’s goals and determining the assets and resources available to achieve those goals. In our first village, we learned that pit latrines were polluting the local water supply. We introduced an alternative that was both healthier and sustainable. In our current village, we learned that the community needed help organizing their local groups such as the community leadership team, called a “Patranato” and their women’s group. This is where Sarahi is focusing her work.
Phase 2: Collaboration
A key principle for the Village Partners Project is that Hondurans create and implement Honduran solutions. Local residents include Jewell staff and students in considering which available resources can be used to help them move closer to their goals. In Embarcadero a partnership with the agriculture and eco-tourism students at UNAH-CURLA has proven to be a very helpful partnership. Honduran Intern, Sarahi Zeron has conducted training workshops leading the group toward a more unified approach to solving the challenges they face as a community.
Phase 3: Multiplication
The multiplication phase focuses on disseminating this model to other communities in the surrounding area. As improvements are made in a village, men and women are trained to share the value of these improvements with residents in neighboring communities. In Embarcadero, the nearby town of Esparta has expressed interest in the technology related to both the Sanitario Secos and the Lorena stoves.
While there are several benefits to the local community involved in a Village Partners Project, we also believe there are significant benefits for William Jewell College and for our students. Learning to be global citizens and applying values learned from other cultures enriches our campus experience. In this way the Village Partners Project improves each community involved in the effort. Reciprocity is essential for the success of the program.
Finally in reference to our partnership with students and faculty at UNAH-CURLA, the William Jewell and UNAH-CURLA objectives closely model the United Nations’ millennium development goals. The Secretary-General lists eight areas of focus necessary for global improvement: ending poverty and hunger, universal access to education, gender equality, child health, maternal health, combating HIV/AIDS, environmental sustainability and global partnerships. The global partnership formed by William Jewell and UNAH-CURLA is having an impact on each of these core goals and a significant impact on the areas of poverty, child and maternal health, gender equality, and environmental sustainability. The global priorities endorsed by the United Nations provide affirmation of the objectives, processes and methods that VPP employs.