William Jewell College, in the eyes of many Jewell students, is full of opportunities. From the Critical Thought and Inquiry classes to Journey Grants, Jewell covers many interests. One of the distinctive programs offered at Jewell is the Village Partners Project. This program is focused on promoting a positive change through creating a sustainable environment in Honduras. It is, moreover, a community development program that provides opportunities for Jewell students to become involved in civic engagement while participating in ongoing community development.
Jewell partners with UNAH-CURLA University and villages in the Atlántida region in Honduras with the common goal of bettering living conditions in certain villages. Past projects have included building homes, roofing a church, health education, building “Sanitario Secos” and high efficiency Lorena stoves that vent outside the home, water quality assessment and micro-enterprise planning.
“We built community gardens in Matagua, in which we planted various vegetables to be able to nourish their families. When they tested the kids, they found that they do not get a lot of the vitamins and nutrients so much that they were almost malnourished. It is the hope that these gardens will grow and sustain so that they can nourish their families now and continue to do so in the future,” said Logan Antenen, senior nursing major.
Throughout the program, relationship building and collaboration take place. Participating students get to know the locals and listen to their problems, solutions and expectations. Students and the local residents then consider available resources to attain solutions. Finally, modeled solutions are spread to the communities in close areas.
The Honduras trip takes place in January and May, and participation in the program is open to all majors. However, a one hour, seven-week course, SVL 301, “International Community Development,” taught by Jeff Buscher, is required for participation. In this course, students learn about participating with cultural sensitivity in community development in Honduras. The course also emphasizes reflecting, reading and writing about the Honduras experience. Moreover, students need to apply at least six months in advance. If interested, students should contact Buscher or Dr. Lori Wetmore, who also directs part of the program.
The whole trip costs around $2000 and the Journey Grant may be used to cover the expenses of the 10-day program.
Below is a sample itinerary of the trip:
Day 1: Arrive in San Pedro Sula and drive to a city near our village partner.
Day 2: Travel to our village partner.
Day 3: Live in the village and participate in village life for six or seven days.
Day 7: Travel to La Ceiba to interact with our university partners and participate in partnership building activities.
Day 8: Travel to the hotel on the beach for debrief.
Day 9: Fun day activity.
Day 10: Travel back to Kansas City.
Shannon Carroll, senior education major, shared her program goals that achieved through the Village Partners Project.
“My goal for this trip was to experience a new country and to step out of my comfort zone. I wanted to form new relationships with the people from Jewell that were going as well as the Hondurans we traveled with. Most importantly, I wanted to form relationships with the kids that I knew we would be playing with each day,” she said.
Molly Cowdy, a senior nursing major, addressed the program’s positive influence on her.
“This trip benefited me in several ways. It introduced me to a whole new lifestyle and made me very appreciative and grateful for what I have. I would say it affected my future plans because it made me want to be a better person and do more for other people. It made me realize I need to be more grateful during times when I am struggling or complaining about the smallest of things,” she said.
Shelley Spohn, a senior psychology and ACT-In major with pre-med and business administration minors, told her favorite memory of the trip.
“My favorite part was either getting to spend time with my family in Honduras or getting to go real zip-lining and swimming in hot springs, and the most challenging aspect was either the language barrier or the fact that my malaria medicine made me more sensitive to light so I got very burned,” she said.
The program directors are trying to buy a truck for the Honduran director, Sarahi Zeron, who is responsible for organizing the trips to the third village partner because public transportation is limiting her ability to travel to their expanding partnerships. Zeron pairs Jewell students with host families in Honduras. She also hires interns to finish projects all year long, when Jewell students are not there.
Although Honduras is the where the program has had the most success, Village Partners also has some projects in other countries and cities including Thailand, India, Africa and Westside Kansas City. There is an upcoming Thailand trip in January of 2017.