Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Lights in Santa Bárbara, Honduras

Santa Bárbara, is the capital of the department of Santa Bárbara. I went to accompany a meeting of an environmental group there which the Democracy and Participation Project of Caritas is helping.

The group is called Movimiento Más – Movimiento Ambientalista Santabarbarense: the Santa Barbara Environmental Movement.

Santa Barbara has available a large number of concessions for mines (gold, antinomy, and more) as well as for use of rivers, and for damming of rivers. In addition, the Honduras Congress is near to passing a new mining law – which many consider worse than the current law.

This group is trying to reverse these trends and so they discussed issues of mining, climatic change, and use of water resources. In particular they are concerned about several proposed dams which would displace several communities and their lands and, in one case, a Lenca archeological site.

The president of the association had her two children with her. I was impressed by the commitment of the children. The eight-year old had raised 5,000 lempira ($250) for a school in Los Rigores, El Aguán, a community that has been displaced with its buildings destroyed several times. The struggle continues even among the young.

Before the meeting began, Simon took me to see a group working with disabled - Abriendo Puertas - Opening Doors. The director Reynaldo, who helped found the group in 2002, is himself blind. The association was founded by Catholic Church members but is now an independent government-recognized association, though Reynaldo considers it as an apostolate. Rosa, who lost one leg, is the president of the association and accompanied my visit.

Reynaldo and Rosa are full of life, with hope in the face of massive difficulties. Their “disabilities” do not keep them back. Their energy and work are impressive.

The association works in seven municipalities, dealing with a problem that is difficult in the US. Imagine how hard it is to be blind, lacking a limb, with other physical or mental disabilities in a poor country like Honduras.

The group functions with volunteers. They have a small office and space for a classroom for children – which they rent at a reduced cost from the Catholic Church.

They have about 35 children where they offer early-child stimulation as well as several therapies, including speech therapy. They offer also occupational therapy for older young people. But according to a recent census there are 400 children with disabilities in the municipality of Santa Barbara and 7,290, between 6 and 12 years old, in the 28 municipalities of the department of Santa Bárbara.

They also have a workshop for printing t-shirt designs but face a lot of competition – and also don’t have an embroidery machine. They had a carpentry workshop but they lack a place to set it up.

They have recently obtained some land and hope to begin. They hope to build there, having a five stage plan. The first stage alone will cost about $200,000.

I went back in the afternoon and watched as two volunteers (one was the daughter of Rosa) work with a little girl with Downs syndrome who was accompanied by her father. Their work impressed me – as well as the presence of a father with his daughter. 

Part of the classroom used by Abriendo Puertas

Here is a place with vision. They have asked for some government assistance, including one teacher who was promise. But…

There two groups are those who offer signs of life and hope, though the efforts are small. They face great odds, but still struggle forward.

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