Sunday, July 21, 2013

In the countryside - problems and hopes

These past ten days, I’ve been out in the parish of Dulce Nombre four times.

Responding to violence

I’ve already written in a post a week ago about my experience on Saturday, July 13, taking the woman assaulted by her husband to the hospital.  The woman had one of her lower arms amputated and was taken to a hospital in San Pedro Sula. The police have detained the man.

That event has deeply affected me. I know that domestic violence happens here all too often, but to see it first-hand in one of its more violent forms is hard. But it has stirred me to think about what we can do.

On Friday, we had the parish council meeting. Before the meeting I mentioned to Padre German that I’d like to spend some time talking about this and violence in general. He gave me the go ahead. I talked and shared some statistics and then asked those assembled for their thoughts.

The responses were varied – though people talked about the fears they have and possible causes.

One person shared about some young people from the cities who had come to his village. One of these young people talked about how his father never really cared for him and instead would all too often reprimand him; and the churches didn’t really do much for him. In many ways I think this sense of abandonment might be a factor in some young people seeking the companionship that a gang might offer.

Another shared how one person fled to his town to escape gangs in the city. The young person had relatives there and feared for his life if he would go to one of the big cities.

I’m hoping we can continue these discussions and begin to find ways to respond to violence and threats of violence. We probably especially need to do something about domestic abuse.

Providing hope with the young

One Wednesday, I had a different experience. I went out with Padre German to the village to Pasquingual which was celebrating, a day late, its feast day, Our Lady of Carmen. (Padre had gone on Tuesday to two other villages which had Our Lady of Mount Carmel as their patron.)

I know a good number of people there in this small village of between 16 and 20 families. One person I especially appreciate is Don Salatiel, the 89 year old father of Ovidio. When he saw me he hugged me excitedly. I later took this picture which captures his youthful spirit.

As Padre heard confessions, I walked around outside the small church and ran across five young guys, between 15 and 22. I was happy to see them coming to Mass and found out that they all had been confirmed. We talked a bit about a number of things. One had finished ninth grade; tow had gone to sixth grade, but one had only finished fifth grade and the other, the youngest of them, I think, had only finished third grade. I asked them what they thought they needed. A soccer field, of course. But one mentioned a possible youth group. I mentioned this is a friend and hope they’ll find some way to help the young people do this.

Educating the youth

Saturday I went out to Vega Redonda to visit the Maestro en Casa program, a program of distance learning with classes every Saturday. I spent a little time with the teachers and with the students. Those in Ciclo Segundo – the equivalent of the second year of junior high or eighth grade – were studying English. I proceeded to ask them simple questions in English which they found hard to answer. But I did spend about ten minutes with them trying to get them to understand some basic sentences and questions. 

I would love to find a way to get some people here who have studied linguistics and teaching English as a second language.  They could work with the teachers who really don’t know English and perhaps with the students.

I left Vega Redonda, but not before taking a picture of the First Communicants waiting under a tree for a Mass later that morning. 

I left Vega Redonda , for reasons explained below, but not before I saw Padre German arriving on motorcycle! (He is the only priest I know here who goes around on motorcycle.)

That afternoon I visited with a Honduran friend, Erlin, who is trying to do something like that. I met with him and a woman from Canada who are teaching English to kids in two schools here in Santa Rosa. They charge a little but it’s trying to give poor kids a chance to learn English, something which is only really available to kids in bilingual schools, which mostly cater to middle class families. I am proud to know a young Honduran - with an engineering university degree - who is trying to do something for the poor of his people

Car problems and more

Saturday, I had planned to visit two or three of the Maestro en Casa sites.

But when I got to Vega Redonda on Saturday morning I realize that my brakes weren’t working again. A young friend gave me some brake fluid since it had all drained out.

I started back to Dulce Nombre, where I planned to have someone look at the brakes. A few kilometers outside Vega Redonda I realized the brakes were out again. So I put the car in four-wheel drive and proceeded to drive in first gear in low four wheel drive.

I got to Dulce Nombre safely – my guardian angel is working overtime – and someone fixed it. There was a broken seal in the back right brake. It cost me all of $9.00, including buying an extra container of brake fluid.

Then I proceeded back to Santa Rosa but was having problems changing gears. I got the truck to my mechanic who will work on it. I hope it’s fixed by Monday morning since I have to go pick up a visitor in Copán Ruinas. (UPDATE: the car has to stay in the shop until Tuesday; so my friend has to use the bus to get here.)

I took a taxi back to my house. The driver was a young talkative guy who impressed me. He does have a high school degree from the best high school here in Santa Rosa, but he’s driving a taxi.

We talked a bit about migrating to the US. He told me about a relative who recently left. Though warned about the dangers, the relative basically told him that he doesn’t care if he dies on the way. Such desperation.

But the driver told me that he doesn’t want to go. He cannot see leaving his parents and family. For him those ties are so strong that he has put the idea of migration out of his mind. It does help that he has a job and that my mechanic had even offered him a job! But, despite the economic situation and the presence of violence, he is not tempted to leave. His family is so important for him.

My experiences this week have reinforced my ongoing concern that we work together, especially in the parish, to find ways for the young people to have a dignified life that helps them work to fulfill their potential. That way we may help prevent violence, help them develop their villages into communities where the young see feel at home, and begin to build up small signs of the presence of the Reign of God in the midst of poverty, injustice, and violence.

Surprisingly, I find hope.


Charles said...

I'm so sorry to hear that the woman lost her arm, John.

You laid up a great deal of treasure in heaven that day.

Jody Paterson said...

Loved this blog, John - a great reminder to stay hopeful.