Thursday, September 06, 2007
hurricane felix and chickens...
First off I wanted to thank everyone for worrying about me during hurricane Felix. Truth is where I was it barely even rained. I was supposed to be in Tegus for my one year medical appointments on Tuesday but after many phone calls and text messages from other volunteers, I called my security boss to find out what I should do, leave the mountain on Monday or stay put. At about 10:30 he called me back and told me to come to Tegus, the only problem that late in the day is that there were no cars passing for me to get a ride with, so I paid someone to drive me down to Tiupa where I would catch the bus that goes to Tegus at 1:30. I got on the bus ok, it was packed and took forever to get to the bus station in Tegus, but I made it and went to the hotel where other volunteers in for 1 year meds were. It still wasn't raining Monday night or Tuesday morning when we got up so we continued with our medical appointments. Bascially the hurricane didn't amount to anything in the capital but I did call my site to make sure the mountain was still there and they said there had been a lot of rain and wind, but I guess I won't know the full damage until I get back to site tomorrow.
Where to begin…
The main reason why I have not written is because of the amount of time I have had to spend in my sight working with my projects and therefore have not had access to internet or electricity. Right now we have 6 chicken coops completed, hopefully tomorrow I will be building another one and the last 2 will be finished in late August (15 in total) when all of the new trainees come to my site for a day to learn about the project. But I think I am getting a little ahead here.
About the same time as we had our one year in county anniversary (!) my project received funding so instead of going off to the beaches of Tela I stayed in my site to plan our trips to get materials. What would one more week have been if I had gone? The reason why is because the women in the group were starting to think that the project was a sham and that we were never going to make the coops, we sent in our proposal in March (a week before Easter/ Semana Santa) and not until June did we have our money in the bank. I have realized this is a problem with Honduras and surely with developing nations worldwide. The people here are accustomed to officials, organizations, ect telling them that improvement will come and it never does. I am still waiting, with my whole community, for electricity to come to San Isidro, but the last I heard was someone lost a "very" important document and now nothing can be built, I think the truth is the money isn't there.
We started out a group of 20, but now we will only be building 15 chicken coops. The reasons the women dropped out of the group are varying but they also illuminate other problems of development. One woman left because her husband didn't want to make the mud bricks (called adobes) to build the coops (in the grant we applied for the community is required to give 25% of the total cost of the project, which would be the bricks, manual labor and a few other things). Another 2 left because their adobes fell apart once the rainy season started. My counterpart's wife quit because she said the project would never get the money. And another woman never came back to the meetings because no one ever sent her a note after the first and she was too embarrassed to just show up.
Maybe I should explain the process of which I went through with this. The truth is I made some mistakes: culturally, common sensically, lingually. But in my defense, I didn't know any better at the time. Everything I did was thinking of the best interest of the community and with the advice of the members of the group and community.
This whole project started one day in November, let's see I was almost 2 months in site and still struggling with my language skills. But we decided to go on with the project. The same week that I flew home for Christmas, we had an interest meeting and we elected leaders (key word here: ELECTED). When I got back from my trip home, we had another meeting, I asked questions, we planned dates for the workshops. One VERY important question I asked was how many chickens they thought they could manage? I said 10? 5? 15? 100? 15 they told me, we voted, everyone was in agreement. I wrote it on the chalk board. More time goes by, during this time I am doing research on chickens, I am talking to doctors, farmers, government workers, NGOs, and reading LOTS of books in Spanish, trying to get an idea for the very best way to do the project so its sustainable and effective. This work of mine I will not discredit but for future projects I will include this essential part of project building with a community counterpart because it was by far the hardest part. But the reality of this work is it would never have gotten done if I hadn't done it. Being the volunteer I was the one who was supposed to make the sacrifices for the group, spend the time in the buses and look for the contacts because these women are tied down, to their houses, to their kids and to their husbands. They do not leave the mountain. It is culturally unacceptable to be vagabonding all over El Paraiso like I was for this project. I know there are smaller ways to incorporate people into this part of the work but because it is so important and NO ONE wants to do it either because it costs too much money to travel, they don't have the time because of other commitments or they don't want to for fear of what the community will say about them.
OK, everyone with me still? After I consulted a number of sources, including the women in the group, but mostly the leaders, I began to write the proposal, in Spanish. A lot of the questions from the grant were a different way of thinking than Hondurans are use to, and this basically is because it was writing by the US government. So when I asked people what they thought about a sustainability plan they had no idea what I was talking about. I explained and explained things to the president of the group but ultimately what she told me I used in my own words, I was afraid that a poorly written document would get us no funding. I have no idea if I poorly written grant proposal would get funding from PC or no and I'm not sure from other sources either, but I have a good feeling that the answer is no.
I think the proposal would have been more rewarding for the group if they personally had sat down pen in hand and wrote it. But I don't think it ever would have gotten done. The people of Honduras have become very accustomed as well to waiting till things come to them. This is not a "go-getter" society, and for this reason I would show up at women's houses to personally invite them to the meetings, but I drew the line at dragging them out of the house to get them to show up, but that's what they are waiting for. But nor do they have a lot of patience.
So with the proposal in the works, my boss calls me one day and says there are other proposals already in the office and if I don't hurry up I might not get funding (remember I said that USDA and the Honduran equivalent SAG were giving a 8 million Lps grant to PC?) So in two days I wrote the entire grant in Spanish (after thinking about it for 3 months) and off it went to Tegus. I never got a phone call about corrections to the grant the only phone call I got was to say the project had been approved and the money would be ready in 2 weeks (which was really 8). Now, supposedly, my project is the model for all other chicken projects, at least this is what other volunteers tell me. And for that aspect I do not regret doing the proposal myself!
So money shows up in the bank. We call the place in Tiupa to see of they have the supplies. The lady tells me no, but they can bring them from Tegus they have a guy there now buying materials. Great we tell her, call us back later to let us know. She never called back. Early that morning we decided, while waiting for the bus, that we'll go to Danli instead of buying in Tiupa. So we get to Tiupa and go looking for a large truck that can bring all the materials to the mountain.
(Since I started this email a while ago I don't really remember where I was going with this and it's turning into a long story).
After getting Danli we went to the hardware store that told me the orginal prices and said that they didn't have all the chicken wire we needed so we went looking for other stores. After covering almost every single hardware store in Danli we ended back up where we started and they tell us prices higher than what they quoted me in the middle of all this it started to pour, it had been raining almost the whole day. Around 6 we finally get things settled and end up buying fewer materials than planned. On a steeper part of the road on the way back the roofing panels slide out of the truck bed and took the rolls of chicken wire with them so we ended up having to reload the truck in the dark and rain. We ended up making it back to San Isidro at 11:00 at night.
Once we had everything in site I started with one coops to see how it would turn out and exactly how many yards, nails, post staples would need. The actual construction took about 2 days but just to get the actually structure built. And another few days of work to put up the perch, the nests, and to whitewash the adobe bricks.
And since we over budgeted a little too much, ok a lot, we will hopefully have enough money left over from the project to make pilas (which are cement water storage containers that have a wash board on top of them) because 35 of the 95 houses in my community do not have a large storage container for water. What exactly would they really need one of these for? Well if a family does not have a large water storage system they tend to waste more water washing clothes or dishes, bathing, ect. But unfortunately we will not enough have enough money to construct one for all of the homes that need one. On Friday I am planning on solicting the mayor's office for help at least with thr trips to bring supplies but maybe they will be willing to add some money to the project. If not, once we finish the 10 or so from the women in my group we will look for money to make more. But I've found that money is a large barrier that I am encountering now; the people in my community and especially one counterpart organization have great ideas, but costly ones.
Not that I'm solicting money from you all (yet) but if anyone has any ideas on a place where I could find a large sum of money for training events please send the info my way. Basically what this project would include would be training events for all the water boards in the association of boards, because a lot of them do not even know the basic knowledge of maintaining their systems and therefore will not last as long and the quality of water that the village receives is very poor. Another idea that this board has is to start a water bottling business to make themselves sustainable which they are more than willing to do with a loan but I have yet to see the business plan but the idea is on the right track (as far as sustainability).
And more projects I am working on, which are still very much in process, are an environmental video with the high school students as well as a tree farm of fruit trees. When we make more headway on the video I will post it on uTube or something, but I am really excited about this project. We have another tree farm with the water board to plant near the water source to further protect and manage it.
I think thats it for right now. Lista is doing great, I'll attach a picture of her playing with a pinata at a quincera that we had when my family was down. Horse is ok, a couple of weeks ago he bit a girl that was shadowing me from Zamorano on a study abroad program in the neck, which I found to be rather funny, but I don't think she did and once we got the blood all cleared up everything was ok, she didn't die but will now have a nice story from Honduras. Anyway, I was a little worried as to why he bit someone so I lent him to someone to work but it turns out he really just didn't like this girl because he's still the exactly the same as before, very tame. And also I got him shoes, but I'm tempted to take them off so I can hang them in my house and have lucky horse shoes.
Other pic that is included is one of the chicken coops, the first one we did, its not quite yet finished, but just so you can have an idea.
Bridget Kathleen French
Friday, April 27, 2007
Bridget Kathleen French
lista y caballo mio
Its been awhile again I suppose. I'm the capital right now, came in to check on my proposal for my chicken coop project. The money will be deposited in our account next week, ojala. It's crazy to think that we really will be doing a project. I'm glad that this got off the ground, but at the same time I do have some reservations. For those of you spanishisly inclined I will attach the proposal, but for those of you not so spanishly (if that's even a word) I will explain a little more in detail the objectives and goals of this project.
But before I begin to explain, I want to share a few things. There is a picture of me holding a rather large rooster during training with a very scared and shocked looked on my face, I don't I had ever held a chicken as large in my life (maybe I've never even held a chicken ever, mom?). Needless to say I was not enthusiastic about a chicken project that involved the slaughter and delivery of fresh chicken meat. But from the very beginning I told myself that whatever they wanted to do in my site I would offer the best help and support I could. Keeping in mind that because I am the first volunteer in my site I am there more to introduce the idea, feel out the community and access the needs and abilities. Today I was told that first site volunteers are not really expected to get projects off the ground. This is not acceptable to me, I came to offer support and if I didn't get busy I might have gone mad sitting in my hut with out light. I know if I didn't begin somwhere there would have been a chance that we never would have begun, and now that this has started and my spanish has improved 10 folds I hope to do things more proactive for the people's lives (laterines, water storage, environmental education, ect.)
So low and behold, one of the first projects someone approached me about was pollos engordes, or chicken meat. OK I said, lets have a meeting and figure this out, see who else wants to join and move on with it. Shortly after I talked to my boss, and he suggested a different approach. The project that we learned about in training was done in an area that had access to a large market where they could sell their chicken meat without exhausting the market. In San Isidro the only market available is in the mountain surrounding us because of transportation and on top of that not that many families can afford to eat meat every day. So the project turned into an individual family project.
About 20 families, 20 women, will have their own chicken coops and will responsible for maintaining their chickens that they have right now in their patio. After we have constructed all of the coops we will grow baby chicks so each women will have 15 chickens (these will be of a different species, not the "indos" as they are known in the mountain).
The idea is that each family will then have enough eggs for the entire family to eat daily and more than enough to share to make a nice small profit (about 500 limpiras a month) and the meat will be better tasting and more for the families to kill every once in a while.
Two women will be raising chickens only to sell which will earn them more money but will not flood the market. At one of the introductory meetings I asked all of them women if anymore than 2 would like to participate in this aspect of the project. And none of them did, because it is true, more work, less money at the beginning.
And so, right now we have had 2 workshops that have gone fairly smoothly, especially considering my Spanish and my knowledge of chickens. May 5th we will have our 3rd and pretty soon after we will start constructing the coops.
In other news, I bought a horse. The name is still up for grabs. Right now the favorites in my site are Capitain or Caballo Bayo. But I've noticed when it comes to naming pets Hondurans lack creativity so I know if I name him either of these, I will find 30 more with the same name. Attached there is a picture of him.
Also attached is a picture of my puppy, who no longer is a pup. Lista is her name and she is almost 4 months old.
Going to cut this short, hopefully I will be able to write more about everything later. Going back to site tomorrow I think. Hope all is well in the states.
Bridget Kathleen French
Thursday, March 08, 2007
coffee season, and its aftermath
Bridget Kathleen French
Monday, January 22, 2007
thanksgiving and beyond
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
happy early thanksgiving
Bridget Kathleen French
Thursday, November 16, 2006
one more thing
Bridget Kathleen French
chicken brains, el salvador and rambo
Bridget Kathleen French
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
life in the campo
Bridget Kathleen French