Friday, January 07, 2011

Among the people

Late on Monday, January 3, a group arrived – late and without baggage – to work with the Dubuque Franciscan Sisters “Sister Water” project.

The Sisters have made a commitment to support water programs in poor countries and have sent funding and three work teams. This year they are working with a water project in the municipality of San Juan, Intibucá, Honduras.

I joined them for a few days, helping a bit with the orientation and working a few days. Since we were delayed I only worked on Thursday since I had to go to a Catholic Social Teaching deanery workshop in Erandique, Lempira, which was – gratefully – nearby.

In Cosire, Sister Pat Farrell on the far left and Johnny from COCEPRADII on the far right.

A local non-profit organization, COCEPRADII, is overseeing the project. Catholic Relief Services helped form the organization and has helped them find funding. I was very impressed by the workers, especially the coordinator of the project we worked in. One thing that most impressed me was the organization’s policy that the workers had to live in the communities where they were working.

This project is quite large covering seven villages when it is finished, including the two villages we worked in – Cosire and Cataulaca. It is an ambitious project. For example the water source is on a mountain about 30 kilometers away, way up on a mountain. They finished digging the trenches (in a few places 4 or 5 meters deep) and laying the pipe in about a year.

The people have to work on the project. Last year a tragedy struck when three people from Cataulaca were killed in transit. But this did not discourage the people, but brought them closed together to work on the project. Johnny, the coordinator of the project, helps them preserve their memory and even wrote a song in their memory.


Each family has to work on a determined number of digging project – each about 10 meters. The villages are divided into different teams so that they don’t have to work every day. It’s hard work, as we learned the first day we worked with members of the communities.

I am impressed with the hard work and the commitment of the people. Three people especially struck me.

Johnny from the organization is really competent (“completo,” as they say here) and committed. As we went from the town of San Juan to the villages, he spoke a little of his life. His family was very poor and he went to school, through high school, barefooted. But he has managed to study, just now finishing university studies, and to work in social promotion for more than 11 years.

We met another woman whom I’ll call “María” who was cleaning up one of the places where we were staying in Cosire. She is the mother of six children, but her husband left her and took the two oldest children – a boy of 15 years and a girl of 13 (most probably to help him work and to keep house for him). She volunteers with the kindergarten (since there is no kindergarten teacher) and gets about $15 a month. She also has been helping in the coffee harvest and has earned some cash that way. I couldn’t help think of the hunger and poverty that she and her children experience and how she tries to survive with so little. But she spent time cleaning for us.

Some women leaders in the water project.
Filomena is the second from the right.

Filomena and three other women leaders of the water project spoke with us. It was great to see the leadership of women. Someone mentioned this and she responded, “Nosostras podemos” – “ We women can!”

Such a combination of capability and poverty. How many people with great potential and a strong sense of commitment are stunted.

I’m now at the workshop for Catholic Social Teaching. I got here in two pick-ups. The first was in a pickup of Eva, a woman who owns a small coffee plantation of about 8 acres and is helping with the water project. She’s an impressive woman and one of her brothers, Edin, is one of the workers in the water project. Both are models of the extremely capable and committed Hondurans whom I have met.

The second ride was with some leaders of the parish of Erandique. Chepito told me about two of the parish’s goals for the year: each of the 134 base communities will plant twenty trees and each of the 36 village church councils will provide a poor child with what they need to go to school – uniforms, school supplies, and shoes.

What a great effort of the poor to help each other and what a message to us who have much. This is what real religion is about –
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
James 1: 27

I’ll be here in Erandique until Saturday noon helping with the workshop which is being facilitated by local church workers who went to the diocesan training session. It has been, so far, a most interesting session as we treat two important problems which are priorities for the diocese: the destruction of the environment and generalized corruption.

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More Sister Water 2011 photos can be found in my Sister Water Project set in Flickr.
The Dubuque, Iowa, Sisters of St. Francis website is here.

1 comment:

Border Explorer said...

Hi John & Happy New Year. My goddaughter (Anna) and her dad, my brother-in-law with the greatest seniority, were in that group. Anna says on Facebook that it was "lifechanging." I haven't talked to her yet. I'll send her the link to your Flickr site. Keep up the good work!