Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Back home in Honduras, November

After 12 days in Iowa, I’m back home and already in the midst of many projects.

Yesterday, Tuesday, November 11, I was with 28 catechists in the remotest zone of the parish, facilitating the last workshop of the year.

It’s almost always fun to be with the catechists who pass on the faith to young people in their villages. It’s been encouraging to see them grow – especially as we are learning together new ways to work with young people.

Here in Honduras most of the education is very content oriented. The professor gives out the information; the students write in their notebooks, because there are few textbooks; the students regurgitate the information memorized for the exams.

No wonder the twelve year old at the workshop with his mother had dropped out after the fourth grade. I spent about ten minutes talking with him, asking him about his work in the fields, and even attempting to give him a biology lesson based on his experience in the fields. He seemed to be a good observer of his work. I asked him if his teacher had ever tried to explain the biology of plants as we did together. The sad answer was “No.” Now there may be some teachers who do this, but my experience is that the norm is pure rote memorization – what Paolo Freire calls “the banking method of education.”

What we are trying to do in the parish is to use popular methodology to help people learn by doing, to learn by connecting with their daily life, to learn not only material but critical thinking. It’s a challenge but I saw some results.

Part of the workshop was beginning to help the catechists develop their own lessons and not depend on material from outside. After eliciting from them some of the elements needed, I divided them into four groups, each with a different theme.

One group had as its theme “Abraham.” What impressed me was how they started by asking about fathers.

We’ll continue working on this next year. Meanwhile I have another catechist workshop this week and two more next week.

I am also in the final stages of getting the house in Plan Grande finished. Lots of details has meant three visits there already this week.

Monday the kids in the school were playing in the road.

One group was playing hopscotch, another marbles. What a delight to see them playing.

The windows are in the house; the doors will be hung this Thursday and Friday; painting will begin next week. I have hopes that I will be able to move in the beginning of December.

The upstairs
The oratory
Then I’ll be able to be closer to the people and visit communities more frequently. This will be important next year as our parish, Dulce Nombre de María, will be planning a series of training sessions for catechists, base community leaders, delegates of the Word, communion ministers, and youth group leaders.

I am also in the midst of two projects that our sister parish in Ames, Iowa – St. Thomas Aquinas – is working on.

The first is accompanying a small coffee cooperative in El Zapote de Santa Rosa  which hopes to be able to export high-quality coffee to the US.
The coffee harvest is just starting and there are hopes that they might be able to sell a small shipment (1500 pounds) this year to roasters in Kansas City and Ames.

The other project is the third year of a scholarship program for poor participants in the Maestro en Casa alternative education project. Students – mostly in the equivalents of middle school and high school – listen to radio programs, fill out a workbook, and meet for about 4 or 5 hours on the weekend with a teacher. When schools are not close, this is often the only way the poor can study beyond grade school.

I have to revise the scholarship application, get them printed and distributed to the six centers before the end of the month.

And then there's parish council this Saturday, a parish celebration on the feast of Christ the King, the entry of about 50 people in the catechumenate on November 30, and parish planning on December 5 and 6. Though I'm not the person responsible for all of these, I will be present and working with Padre German as well as the parish council.

I’ve got work to do.

I am grateful for that.

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