NY/HELP August 2010 Trip Report
“One of the best trips ever!” This line was echoed more than once as the August NY/HELP group trickled back into the US this past week. We gelled very well as a group and accomplished all of our goals. New members, Mike Barnard, Cindy and Jamie Carestio, Shea King and Emily (Doc) Zachowski joined veterans Kelly (Doc) Beers, Doug Young, Dr. Gordon Comstock and Dave Makepeace on the adventure. Projects included a complete tear-off of the existing clinic roof and installation of new rafters and roofing, installation of a cyclone security fencearound a large portion of the clinic grounds, planting mango, avocado, orange and cashew trees within the new fence, a mobile clinic to El Calichal and the formation of a new clinic committee to reach out to organizations that can help bring medicines and doctors to the clinic (now a “Centro de Salud”).
Dave and wife Camille, a new potential linguist for future trips, celebrated their anniversary by going down a week early and visiting the village with our coordinator, Yovany Munguía to make sure everything was ready for the group’s arrival. We were able to solve some problems before they surfaced and guarantee volunteers, which helped ensure the success of the group.
The roofing project got off to a slow start as we waited for the roofing material to arrive. Our local lumberjack, Elio did have the boards cut (perfectly with a chainsaw) and, as tin arrived, the project went into full swing. One of the most gratifying elements of the trip was the tremendous outpouring of volunteers from all the tribal villages. We have never had this kind of cooperation from the communities. All participated except Kiloma. I’m not sure why since they benefited from the work of the February group.
The fence project also began slowly as we had to get 80 green oak posts out of the ravine two kilometers below the clinic. The volunteers, especially those who came from Calichal with Oscar (the new tribal council president), worked incredibly hard. Our own Jamie Carestio matched them step for step after I proved unable to carry even one out. I tried hard, but they were just too heavy and I was just too weak. Everyone got a good laugh, and humor and positive attitudes finally got the job done. Once again, we had to mine sand from the river and transport it by mule to mix cement for the posts. Doug Young and Mike Barnard did some great bonding down by the Manguito while piling up sand from the stream. Finally, Yovany made it up with the truck to finish the hauling.
Cindy Carestio and Rigo did a tremendous job planting fruit trees inside the new fence. Cindy learned a lot about planting techniques and even created an abonera (mulch pile) with Rigo to continue care for the orchard. I contacted Jenny at the school and asked that she keep an eye on the project with her students and make sure the trees were watered.
Our Centro Básico has 31 students presently and we discussed ways to get the numbers up. I discussed with the council the possibility that the teachers could visit houses and recruit. I also discussed the possibility that having computers at the school would attract more students. Sustainable Harvest has 2 solar panels in Santa Bárbara that they would give us along with wiring and mounts. This would give us about 80 kilowatts, enough for 4 computers and some light bulbs. Furthermore, I discussed with Eda and Delia encouraging people in La Laguna to house students from outlying villages. Of couse, nothing is for nothing with them and they would do this in exchange for some scholarship money for their children. We will need to discuss this with the group at the next meeting. Lastly, the people from Calichal would like to see the road opened up to Mataderos. More children would come if they had some bridges across the streams and the road was, in general, safer.
Celebration of Lempira Day
The group was treated to 2 Lempira Day celebrations. The first, put on by Jenny, the teacher from the La Laguna school, involved a series of performances by different grade levels in and out of costume. There were songs, poetry recitals and “bombas” (little scenes acted out in pairs. This performance was followed by a special lunch at the school which included a chicken cooked by Omar Martinez’ wife Toña and salsa dancing. Two days later we were invited to Mataderos and entertained at the Centro Básico by our teachers and Mauricia, the head of the school and her son Tony who teaches at the school in Mescali. We saw the crowning of the “India Bonita” and her escort, more songs and another feast which included hotdogs. I cried at both performances. Education is a wonderful thing, and I am very proud of our school in Mataderos.
Curanderas (Natural Healers)
I knew Dr. Lito Gutiérrez would want a report on the activities of the curanderas. I talked with the tribal council and was told that Yovany had not delivered the seeds and things we had promised. I have not yet confirmed this with him. The Catholic church seems to continue to be the prime mover with a woman from Yoro named María. I did see evidence of natural healing when Kelly, myself, Emily and Gordon did our mobile clinic in Calichal. The father of Oscar, our tribal council president, had a thyroid condition which Kelly and Emily very astutely diagnosed. They had been treating it with natural compounds and it had responded well.
Meeting with the Tribal Council
David Makepeace, NY/HELP, Oscar Sosa, president (El Calichal), Leonor Garmendia, vice president (Mataderos), Apolinario Ramírez, Secretary (Agua Blanca), Nectoly Vasquedario (?), treasurer (Kiloma), Ondina Domínguez, Fiscal (La Laguna), Nery Hernández, Vocal 1 (Mescali), Marvin Ramírez, Vocal 2 (La Misión), and Aurelio Cabrera, asesor (La Fortuna).
New clinic committee
Increase attendence at Centro Básico
Land grabbing by Yoro ladinos
We formed a provisional clinic committee. By August 20th all 10 villages must choose a representative for the committee. The new committee is charged with beginning to seek additional support for our clinic in the form of more frequent doctor visits, medicines, etc. This was a response to a proposal NY/HELP received and approved last spring from the tribal council.
In an effort to increase attendance, the council will canvass the closest villages for people willing to house students. NY/HELP, with Sustainable Harvest, will look into solar powered computers for the Centro Básico to attract students.
A land conflict has begun in an area called La Chancleta (near Mescali). Apparently, a few years ago the tribal land was marked with concrete markers. Someone from Yoro claimed to own a piece of land and sold it to a group of lawyers from Yoro who proceded to fence in a portion. When tribal members found the concrete survey markers within this parcel of land, they removed and burned the fence posts which led to two persons being caught and put in jail for a time (Laurito escaped but is afraid to go down the hill). The council asked for help, and, through Yovany, we are trying to get info on a group from Omoa working a indigenous rights.
23 August 2010
David's Full Report
Gordon's Report (with pictures)
Updated August 29,2010