Sunday, December 4, 2016

El Coyolar, Olancho with a group from New West

In the first week of November I was able to spend some time in a community called El Coyolar with with a church partnership group from New Westminster CRC (British Columbia). The community members and the group from "New West" were working on an addition to the education center in the community. This center allows high school aged youth to get an education without having to pay a lot of transportation fees to attend classes outside the community. Since there is still no electric power in El Coyolar, the computers of the education center are powered by solar panels and batteries.

Digging to set foundations for the new classroom (notice the existing classroom and solar panels in the background). I know it looks like we are doing a lot of leaning on shovels, but trust me we all worked hard and got plenty of blisters. Some youth from the community were the hardest workers of all. They will be able to say they built their classroom with their own two hands. 

Back in 2009 when I was volunteering with Diaconia Nacional (one of World Renew's partners in Honduras) I worked a fair amount in El Coyolar. It was motivating to return seven years later and see how the community had changed. Many of the houses had gone from having dirt floors and walls of adobe to having cement floors and plastered walls.
The leaders of the community also seem more organized. They have a documented community plan and are working toward meeting the goals they have established. They are busy trying to raise money by selling cattle as a contribution for the project of bringing electric power to the community.

 Back in 2009 I got to know Raul because he was one of our agriculture program promotors. He has a lot of good leadership skills, and he is still putting them to use. It was good to see a lot of the fruit trees we planted with Raul back in that time maturing and giving production. He has an experimental plot of corn using conservation agriculture principles that he learned from World-Renew / Diaconia Nacional. I was impressed at how much better this corn looked compared with a conventional plot just on the other side of the road.
The experimental plot of corn grown with plenty of compost and organic matter added to the soil

The corn right next door (50 feet away) looks stressed from lack of moisture

Raul is on the right with his daughter

It is clear that the partnership between El Coyolar and New West has made an impact on the people of El Coyolar and the people of New West over the past five years, and that the work Diaconia Nacional is doing in the community is helping people improve their livelihoods.

New West team cooking a special meal to share with the whole community (it was very good)

Landscape of the countryside of El Coyolar from a nearby hilltop

Pastor Andrew from New West was able to continue a Timothy leadership training for pastors during the trip. The pastors traveled from surrounding towns to El Coyolar to receive the training. Here he is with Arturo from Diaconia Nacional.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Project Management Training

One of the first things that I did when I started working for World Renew was to attend a week long project management training called PMD Pro (Project Management for Development Professionals).

It was a very intense training, held in Valle de Angeles, Honduras. Staff from many partner organizations around Central America attended including Nicaragua, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Honduras, and Guatemala.

It was a good exercise to get me thinking, reading, and writing in Spanish again. The manual was 173 pages and the course culminated in an exam with 75 questions which you needed to pass in order to be certified. My engineering friends will be glad to know that the training included work breakdown structures (WBS), network diagrams, the critical path method, gantt charts, and of course, earned value (etc).

Many of us stayed up late into the night, and got up early to study for the exam. This shared challenge made for a good environment to get to know colleagues. It felt like we were in University again.

I am happy to see that this level of professionalism and rigor is being applied to development projects and programs that World Renew is involved in. The training provided a good framework for carrying out my job as a program consultant, and also provided some special tools that apply specifically to the complexities of community development. I´m also happy that I passed the exam.