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ADVENTURES IN HONDURAS

I have been in Honduras for only four days, but they have been a blur of activity. I arrived in San Pedro Sula on November 18 at 7: 00 AM after getting up at 2:30 AM to catch the flight. We then drove 3 hours to Comayagua, a town from the colonial days in the 1500s. I am lucky to be staying with my friend Fernando and his family just outside of the city in a quiet rural neighbourhood. I slept much of the day, and that evening we went to the Rotary Club meeting. The project I am here to work on was the main topic of conversation. Once the tasks had been gone over, the official meeting was over, and the rum came out. Real rum, the kind you can sip without coke or ice. This is a great active club with lots of experience with global grants and community projects.

On Saturday, we toured a school in the Barrio of Flores. I had an existing computer lab that was over 15 years old. The lab had been locked for 4 years due to government cutbacks and computers too old to update. However, the room was perfect for our local area network system. The RACHEL Digital Library does not need the internet to operate, and the server can support 15 computers. This would make 3 schools we were going to set up in one week. We are an optimistic bunch.

On Sunday, we piled into Nissan 4x4s and drove nearly 4 hours into the mountains. The road was unpaved and horrible, but the team had made the trip many times. Our goal was to visit a project I was involved in 2 years ago when I was the executive director of Disaster Aid Canada, an official Rotary organisation. The community water system had been destroyed by a landslide and we funded the reconstruction.

Fernando had been the project manager, and his son Jose the driver, trucked in all of the cement, pipes, and other materials required for the job. At the entrance to the village was a large sign celebrating the work of Rotary in the village. We were greeted by the entire community on the road and in the concrete block meeting hall. I can’t imagine the challenge of getting the materials there.

We were placed on an elevated stage, and the speeches began. Then we handed out a bag of treats for the kids and bags of used clothing for the women.

Once done, we were fed a local dish of rice, potatoes in a soup with a big piece of chicken. Likely much more food than the people usually ate. I was embarrassed to not be able to finish my meal.

We were then taken to the school to discuss opportunities for improvement. There were a lot. The three classrooms were dingy. The windows were screened and barred. It looked like a desperate jail. The town has no electricity, work is scarce, and money scarcer. We discussed the possibility of installing solar panels and a system for lights and power. We will look at this as a future potential project.

At the halfway mark, nearly 2 hours into the way back, we stopped in another small village on the top of a ridge between two valleys. A women’s cooperative wanted to start a business and wanted help on how to go ahead. They seem very organised and committed. Another opportunity for a future project. The rest of the ride home was pretty quiet, as we’re all pretty tired.

Some people even managed to sleep, but I have no idea how, as the road was so bad.

When we returned to Fernando’s home, we unpacked 20 of the 45 Chromebooks we had purchased for the project. Before bed, we unpacked and set up 20 units to get started charging. I went to bed at 11 and slept like a baby to the sound of a tropical storm.

Today I spent most of the day updating computers. The internet is not perfect here, and everything takes more time than desirable, but that’s not a surprise. I did get an opportunity to visit the beautiful heritage core of Comayagua today when we went into town to purchase some equipment. Lunch was in a traditional restaurant, and the food was delicious.

Tomorrow, Juan, the RACHEL support and training person from Mundo Posible, arrives from Guatemala. That is when the real work starts.

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