We also touched on some legalities that help to empower local leaders. Coming along side of them in these processes leads to them to be in more control of their local development.
Fredy presented the CoHi 2020 ongoing challenge for this year- Project POETA (Planning, Organizing, Executing, Transforming, Advancing)! Fredy came up with this acronym and was his typical ecstatic-self presenting the opportunity to them. This will be similar to the Genesis project challenge throughout 2019 but with a few changes. We will explain more in the next trimester update.
Kaleb brought a detailed power point walking the CoHi leaders in a process to find their "Impact Zone." Encouraging them to look at multiple aspects before deciding on a community initiative specifically look for where local resources, demands and needs intersect.
COVID-19 and what it means for CoHI
The country of Honduras decided to close it's borders on March 15, 2020 due to the world-wide healthcare crisis Covid-19 and implement a "stay at home" order. While this does put a bit of a "pause" on the planned curriculum and agenda activities for CoHi 2020, we have not stopped out communication, connection and collaboration with these communities their leaders and their current critical needs. In the face of the global COVID-19 crisis, governments in developed countries like the United States, around the world have acted quickly and dramatically in order to slow the spread of the virus. Doing so has likely saved thousands, if not millions of lives. In short order they have also drafted enormous stimulus and relief packages designed to halt the accompanying economic freefall, like enormous social safety nets which might yet save thousands of jobs and keep food in the pantries of millions.
Far from the headlines, Honduras and other developing countries, have also acted quickly to halt their own dire versions of the outbreak, knowing that prevention would be their only option. The Honduran national health system is ill-equipped to treat COVID-19, and is still recovering from last year's dengue outbreak, which infected more than 100,000. Though Honduras may succeed in slowing the spread of the virus, its citizens will not fall into social safety nets. For the vast majority of Hondurans, there will be no unemployment benefits, stimulus checks, or bailed out industries.
Those that are now without income and in economic freefall might fall into meager savings, but most will fall to the ground with nothing at all to cushion their impact. National and local governments have ramped up emergency relief, and development nonprofits like Heart to Honduras are switching into emergency relief mode in order to sustain those that will be impacted first. Food shortages are expected to hit quickly in our area, and HTH and its allies are working to quickly coordinate efforts with local governments and other nonprofit allies. We have now finished the first wave of food distributions, are working on a sustainable food security initiative, and are preparing for a second wave of distributions.
Orlin, Fredy, and Henry from HTH have been accompanied by the national police and military as they distribute emergency food aid..
While the CoHi communities and our HtH staff may not meet together in person. We have been very thankful for the many years of building strong relationships and the advancement of technology to be able to stay closely connected even in times like these.
The never before-seen challenges that Covid-19 has brought provides opportunities for each CoHi community commission to lead like never before. Here are some stories of their response to the crisis and how they are protecting their village during this time.
Unloading provisions from the municipal government and HTH in Caliche.
The community of Caliche is one of the most marginalized and distant in the entire municipality of Santa Cruz de Yojoa - however, their spirit is far stronger than their geography might suggest. Throughout the past three years of the CoHI program, we have witnessed the community grow in its resolve to overcome local challenges in faith and unity. This hard work is bearing much fruit in the face of this crisis. In this particular case - part of that fruit is figurative, and part of it is literal - in the form of corn.
When confronting their own food crisis at home in Caliche, community members surprised us by putting what they have learned into practice by voluntarily offering to provide corn for redistribution. They recognized that they had an abundance of a resource that was suddenly in great demand and went to work with Heart to Honduras, contributing to the packets of food that were distributed throughout their town. Leaders in Caliche wanted to ensure that everyone in town had all of the corn that they needed. (Corn forms an important part of the rural Honduran diet in the form of tortillas eaten at every meal).
Las Lomitas is fortunate to be somewhat more accessible than the other two communities and as a result, has better access to aid in these moments. Since HTH was aware that the national government and local NGO Salt and Light would provide an early round of food aid to families in Las Lomitas, we were able to wait and fill in the gaps with those families (15 in this case) that did not receive support in this first wave. This helped ensure even coverage of every family throughout this process. This was possible thanks to the Community Development Commission that helped track the distribution of support throughout this process and keep us informed of who was still in need.
Local pastor Eduar Funez was on hand to help the CCD transport and distribute the packages.
Las Lomitas has also blocked off all roads to and from town. They have formed (compulsory) surveillance teams to monitor all of these roads and ensure that only necessary personnel or provisions pass through. Second-hand stories have relayed to us just how serious they are taking these protective measures - and the community's active role in protecting their most vulnerable members.
Lomas del Aguila
Always ahead of the curve in Lomas del Aguila, community members were sending photos of the roadblocks that they had set up on the entrances to town within hours of the national "toque de queda" (an enforced version of a stay-at-home order).
They quickly worked with Heart to Honduras, local police, and their local municipal government to coordinate the distribution of food throughout town. Community members contributed bananas and patastes (a nutritious vegetable) for inclusion in the food packet distribution. Community leaders have been in constant communication with HTH staff and are working hard to prevent the entrance of COVID to their community and respond to the economic hardships that are beginning to manifest there.
Lomas del Aguila sharing their local resource of bananas with those in need.
While this experience has been, and will be, very difficult for some time, we have been encouraged by the CoHI communities' proactive and appropriate responses to the myriad issues that they are facing at this time. As our Honduran director said, during this epidemic, the investment that we have made in social and spiritual capital in these communities is having a "multiplier effect." Many of the emergency plans have gone quickly into place due to the unity and solidarity that have been dramatically strengthened throughout the past three years.
One night recently, of Lomas del Aguila's community leaders, Dimas, sent an audio message to Otto. With the sound of quiet night insects chirping in the background, he said.
“Good evening brother, we are all frustrated with these problems - but we have been prepared for this. Here we are going to overcome these problems. We are prepared. We are thankful for all of the valuable teaching that you have provided to us. We are putting it into practice, I tell you this with all my heart.”
Throughout this moment of fear and uncertainty, the CoHI communities have continually relayed a sense of preparedness, peace, confidence, and faith. It has been humbling to see the hard work of this program pay dividends in these moments of crisis and see the stabilizing power of unity, humility, and faith in our good God. We are grateful to him for his provision, and grateful to the amazing people in the CoHI communities that remain unflappable in the face of crisis.
The biggest blessing in all of this has been seeing how even in crisis mode we can stay true to our HTH core values if we prioritize them. Integrity, transparency, healthy relationships, collaboration, asset-based community development, capacity creation, identity in Christ, and human dignity. We all have value and we all have something to give even in moments of crisis. Covid-19 and it's fallout is a living test case for our belief that healthy relationships and identity in Christ brings about poverty alleviation.
If you feel that you would like to make a special donation towards food relief for the communities in the Yojoa region of Honduras or towards the support of the Heart to Honduras employees that make this work possible, you can do so at one of the following links.
Thank you as always to our faithful partners. Your support means so much to each employee at HTH and each CoHI community. If you would like to catch up on previous updates from year 1 and 2, you can find them archived here.
Que Dios les bendiga. May God bless you.