Students build international relationships with Village Partners Project

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William Jewell is currently partnered with a University on the north coast of Honduras (UNAH-CURLA) and other villages throughout the country to make sustainable living a reality through an intentional three part community building process.

The Village Partners Project (VPP) is an opportunity for students, faculty and alumni to travel to north central Honduras and work to develop healthy change in the lives of families and communities. Since 2005 more than 300 people have participated. Students can even access their Journey Grant for the experience. William Jewell is currently partnered with a university on the north coast of Honduras, El Centro Universitario Regional del Litoral Atlántico (UNAH-CURLA) and other villages throughout the country to make sustainable living a reality.

Joe Buhlig, senior, went on the 10-day journey in January 2013. He aided in community development projects that included analyzing the efficiency and health effects of home appliances in 10-15 individual homes. The group was made up of “people that did not know each other, so older people who had children and a tight knit community but it was cool to be a part of. They really opened up to us and we really bonded,” said Buhlig.

Each group has the chance to fundraise and raise money for the project they plan to work on while in Honduras. Projects in the past have been building homes, roofing churches, health education and more. In the very first village, a Sanitario Secos, a dry composting latrine, was built, stoves that vent outside the home were installed, a water quality assessment was performed, and a small store was opened that proved to be a successful micro-enterprise. These projects allowed the village to start a small fishing cooperative, which supplements its palm-growing income.

Buhlig reports that he learned that material possessions are not what will bring us happiness.

“It does not matter the size of your house or how much stuff you have, material possessions are never going to give you as much internal satisfaction as having good strong friendships,” Buhlig said.

Tasks that result in immediate improvement of the families economic state include building ecological latrines, micro-enterprising initiatives, improving ventilation in homes, improving agricultural distribution and replacing home appliances with a more sustainable and healthy model. VPP created a leadership role to utilize the resources provided by William Jewell to create even more resources in partnering communities. Sarahi Zeron, who has an Agricultural Economics Degree from UNAH-CURLA, currently fills the position.

There are three intentional phases groups go through in order to build the reciprocal relationship that are necessary for strengthening and benefiting Honduran and Jewell communities: relationship building, collaboration and multiplication. During the “relationship-building” phase in 2013, the group worked with a village, Matagua, in the mountains of Central Honduras. Matagua is about five miles from Yoro, a larger Honduras town. To build relationships, the students and community members mingled and discussed the community’s goals. The resources available were evaluated to determine how to achieve new goals. In the first village, the group learned that pit latrines polluted the local water supply, so a healthier and more sustainable alternative was introduced. In another village, the community was interested in organizing their local groups, the community leadership team “Patranato” and their women’s group.

Collaboration is the second phase and includes the implementation of the healthier, more sustainable solutions. An important factor for VPP is that Hondurans create and implement their own solutions to problems. A partnership in Embarcadero with agriculture and eco-tourism students at UNAH-CURLA has been an important for the development in plans. Zeron has conducted training workshops that aim for a unified approach to problem solving in the community.

Sharing this model with surrounding communities is the multiplication phase. The men and women in a village with new changes are trained to share the value of the improvements with neighboring villages.

Being homesick was not an issue for Buhlig and valuable lessons were learned. “I really didn’t miss anything. I missed my parents and family but not the luxuries we often take for granted.”

This is an opportunity available to all Jewell students. Interested students should contact Jeff Buscher at buscherj@william.jewell.edu.

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