General - Veterans David Makepeace and Doug Young along with new recruits, Keith Lyons , Phil Schedlbauer and Ryan Ferguson were met in San Pedro by NY/HELP in-country coordinator, Yovany Munguía and went immediately to Yoro where we stayed over and bought supplies for our stay in the villages. We visited the house we used to support in Yoro and had a nice talk with Petronila and José Feliciano and admired the progress in expanding the house capacity. We were excited to be working past La Laguna and down in the low villages of Mescales, El Chorro, Las Brisas and Los Cuchillos. As our supporters know, the tribal council directs where we work (with the agreement that we spread our efforts among all villages). This is the most remote area of the tribe, and they were happy to receive our visit.
Through our local part-time facilitator, Joel Ramírez, Yovany had done a fantastic job setting up our work projects. The trip began in La Laguna with a meeting with the Health Committee in the clinic. The meeting was productive, and the next day we headed to our work area. Yovany stayed with us for the first two days, and our accommodations were excellent in Mescales and later in El Chorro.
On Sunday, we took and break for a three team soccer tournament before which NY/HELP was welcomed with presentations and skits by students in the Centro Básico in Mataderos including a moving rendition of the Honduran National Anthem in Tol (the local indigenous language which is experiencing a comeback in the tribe). We heard speeches of gratitude, and David Makepeace gave a short talk expressing our gratitude for their efforts in hosting our visit and reinforcing our point goals and commitment. The soccer game was temporarily interrupted by a large bull which scattered the crowd and gave some anxious moments. It felt like the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona during the Sanfermines.
After the game we headed back to the clinic for one more night, craft buying and successful meetings with the Tribal Council and with Mauricia Castro at the Centro Básico. The next day we walked down the hill and headed to Copán for two well-earned days of rest.
Projects - We completed or contracted completion of 8 latrines. Salvador (our host in Mescales with his wife Ana) was our lead carpenter; however, when it became apparent that our group was replete with excellent carpenters in their own right, we were able to split into two groups and, thereby, be more productive. We also built a house from the ground up. It was originally scheduled as a new roof, but, upon arrival, we discovered that the holes for the horcones (uprights for the house) were still being dug. That did not deter us, and, by the end of the day, the house was standing and the roof was on.
Health Committee Meeting -
At the start of the trip I met with Seydy, the nurse at the Centro de Salud in La Habana. She has begun construction of what will be an analysis lab and a dental office. She is very energetic and is interested in cooperating with us as she needs support. I told her that any support would have to go through our health committee but that I envisioned a flow of health care that began in La Habana and extended through our clinic to trained personnel in each of the villages. It, of course, would be a benefit to the tribe to have an analysis lab and dental office there. I discussed the possibility of asking the health committee or tribal council to send workers to help with the construction, and she was very amenable. I also suggested that she and Mirtila could run capacitaciones (training sessions) for personnel from the villages in the Centro Básico in Mataderos. I discussed all this at the Health Committee meeting and they agreed that it would benefit the tribe to have these facilities nearby.
Other items at committee meeting -
1. We discussed the new form that Doug and Jeff created for Mirtila to report her hours, and they (including Mirtila) agreed that it would be great now that she is a full fledged 14 month employee. I left enough forms to last until August. Gordon should bring more. We agreed the hours would be from Monday to Friday, 8:00 to 3:00.
2. The committee wanted recognition for volunteering in the form of free services and some medicines. I mentioned that they deserved recognition, but, in light of the fact that we are trying to increase the income of the clinic and that the members are among the wealthier members of the community, that would look bad in front of the poorer people who we are trying to get to pay more. They agreed, and I said we would discuss other ways to recognize them including funding of expenses and opportunities to increase their knowledge about other centros de salud.
3. We discussed the need to have a contract for Mirtila and decided that NY/Help would suggest something in August.
4. We decided that members would receive 150,00 L. for transport and food for meetings of more than 4 hours.
5. We had some dispute about whether or not the money received by the clinic for services should be deposited in the new account for the Health Committee (which they opened by borrowing from Mirtila) and decided for the moment that Mirtila needed to control the money for purchase of new medicines but that she would continue strict accounting and that the committee would have access once a month to those figures.
6. We never got to a work plan from May to December but did discuss the importance of inventory of medicines in the pharmacy as we know Mirtila gives free medicines to her friends. The committee likes the idea of working with Seydy in La Habana and planned to discuss quid pro quo for tribal support of the project.
1. We distributed school supplies collected by Camille Makepeace’s International Club to schools in La Laguna, Mataderos, El Chorro, Mescales, and Las Brisas. We are sending her class pictures of the kids with the supplies.
2. I met with Mauricia and discussed increasing the utilization of the Centro Básico for adult ed. She said they have 33 students and have lost the 9th grade teacher. Because of computerized accounting by the government, we could not hide the numbers and keep the teacher. I agreed they could use the extra room temporarily for the kinder. She wants to take the lab and convert it into a kind of museum. I said that was great but that we should a tables and chairs also for conferences and adult educational activities. That is how we left it.
3. In Mescales I agreed that we would fund the scholarships of the two children who dropped out of the Maestro en Casa program because of an assault coming over the mountain for the Saturday meeting.
4. Apparently, the Maestro program in Mataderos is not taking students from the Centro Básico as only one student is studying Plan Básico and the rest are in carreras, and that one student would not go to the Centro anyway. I did discuss with the Tribal Council the possibility of beginning a group in Agua Blanca of Maestro en Casa offering the Plan Básico. This would be a way of opening junior high to the low villages and is exciting. A member from Agua Blanca said he had already been assured that if he could get 20 students, they would send a teacher. He said he could get that number easily. This would be for next year and needs to be encouraged in the tribal council meeting in August.
5. We took pictures of our scholarship students and got the data that Jeff requested.
6. We told them the new scholarship money would be released when they delivered receipts to Yovany for the first half. They said that would happen soon.
Tribal Council Meeting-
1. This group is similar to the Health Committee with María Antonia de Martínez presiding. We discussed the Centro Básico and that student numbers are going down in all of Honduras. We said we would try to increase the scholarship program as we have been having success raising money specifically for that. This fund raising should be discussed at a NY/HELP meeting.
2. We reported the results of the Health Committee meeting and emphasized the importance of initiating cooperation with La Habana.
3. We had a long discussion about the Junta de Agua, which is essentially dead. Doug, Keith and Phil took and interest in studying the issue and I had Yovany send me the study that was done recently there, which I will have to translate for them.
We were very excited to treat Joel, our local rep to his first trip to Copán. Interestingly enough the President of Honduras was visiting, and Joel and our own Ryan Ferguson met him and had pictures taken with them. I made Joel get copies and take them home. He was very excited.
New members, Keith Lyons, Phil Schedlbauer and Ryan Ferguson were absolutely invaluable and expressed to desire to make another trip.