Our flights home were uneventful, and we enjoyed the easiest border crossing that I’ve ever experienced. Before spring quarter sweeps us away, I’m pausing to reflect on the trip and it’s broader impact.
Knowledge transfer is a key element in EWB’s model for development work. It was heartening to see that the municipality is incorporating lessons from our past projects into their current work. For example, they are designing a drainage system for our project site that uses many of the elements that we developed together for our last project. During our 2010 classroom construction project, confusion occurred between the municipality and the community regarding who would be providing labor for the project. This resulted in a labor strike. On our new project, the municipality has improved its internal and external communication processes to ensure that all project partners are “on the same page.” Finally, the municipality has recognized the value of requiring the community to make a significant investment in the project. In Luis Garcia (our last project site), community interest has waned. (They’re maintaining the projects on which we partnered, but they’re not “hungry” for more.) Rather than continuing to improve the infrastructure in Luis Garcia, the municipality recognized the value of moving to a new community (Nueva Suyapa) that was motivated and willing to make a substantial contribution. During our “town hall” meeting in Nueva Supaya, I was impressed to hear the municipality echoing the themes of partnership and shared responsibility for which we’ve advocated. Clearly, knowledge transfer is happening in both technical and project management areas.
We’re also learning from our partnership. While we’ve learned much about local materials and construction techniques, I’d like to focus on “soft skills.” We’re learning the art of hospitality and relationship-building from our Honduras hosts. The municipality has been very good to us on each of our visits to Honduras. This time, they provided lodging at Parque Eco-turistico (a private park a few miles from town). Our wonderful hosts (Felipe, Tania, and their mother) provided a luxurious cabin for our use. They also prepared and served us breakfast and dinner each day. It was the best food I’ve eaten in a very long time! Breakfasts began with a plate of fresh fruit (mango, kiwi, papaya, melon and banana), followed by flat cakes, omelets, or baleadas. We washed it down with fresh-squeezed juice (orange, mandarin, or melon, etc.) Wow – what a way to start each day! Dinners were just as memorable. I’ve lost track of all the wonderful dishes that we enjoyed. Here’s just a sampling: stuffed peppers, casamiento (literally translated “a marriage of rice and beans”), flan, and tres leches (a delectable cake drenched in cream). As much as we enjoyed the food, the conversation was even better. In Honduras, mealtime isn’t just about feeding one’s face. It’s about fellowship with family and friends. Felipe, Tania, and their mother welcomed us as family, and we shared many hours of laughter-filled conversation. The biggest lesson I learned on this trip was the importance of building relationships. Our relationships with the municipality, the community, and the Rotary Club will be essential when we return in September. And, for this lesson, we had wonderful teachers in Felipe and Tania.