History of the Peace Corps in Honduras
Times have changed since the first lady of Honduras, Doña Alejandra Bermudez de Villeda Morales, accompanied the first training class of Peace Corps Volunteers to Honduras in 1962. Over the past 43 years, more than 5,000 Volunteers have served in Honduras in a wide range of project areas, including health, fisheries, beekeeping, animal husbandry, special education, vocational education, small business, and agriculture. Project areas and numbers of Volunteers have changed in response to the changing needs of the country. Projects such as fisheries, beekeeping, and education were phased out as Honduran people and institutions developed the capacity to continue the work on their own. Other projects, such as municipal development, HIV/AIDS prevention, and business development, have been initiated or have evolved with technological advances, increased globalization of world markets, and other developments.
In response to the crisis caused by Hurricane Mitch in 1998, the number of Volunteers in Honduras increased dramatically. Today an average of 200 Volunteers work in the western, eastern, and southern regions of Honduras. In 2003 Peace Corps/Honduras expanded its program to the north coast of Honduras.
History and Future of Peace Corps Programming in Honduras
The Peace Corps/Honduras program has six primary projects: business, child survival and HIV/AIDS prevention, water and sanitation, protected areas management, youth development, and municipal development. We collaborate with the government of Honduras, Honduran and international nongovernmental organizations, and communities throughout the
country. Our program is very much in concert with the poverty reduction strategy developed by Honduras and the international donor community. This type of integrated community development program makes Peace Corps/Honduras a very traditional post in many ways. Community development and integrated rural development have been around conceptually for at least 40 years and were especially popular from the mid-1960s until about the late 1970s. We all have learned a lot since then about human capital, social capital, dependency and empowerment, and sustainability. We know that development takes a long time, with consistent work in an auspicious setting, which we do our best to provide through excellent site selection. Despite the traditional appearance, Peace Corps/Honduras’ approach to and work in HIV/AIDS prevention, municipal development, business and information technology, protected areas management, and youth development put us very much in the vanguard of Peace Corps programming worldwide. Our objective as community development facilitators is not to teach the people of Honduras “American” values, but to help them help themselves within their own cultural framework.
The health project focuses on HIV/AIDS education and prevention, child survival, and reproductive health. The water and sanitation project provides technical assistance for constructing water supply and waste-management systems, while at the same time empowering communities to manage their water systems and protect their watersheds through the development of water boards and in conjunction with municipal environment committees. The protected areas management project focuses on agroforestry and natural resource management in buffer-zone communities. Business Volunteers apply basic business skills to help organizations and entrepreneurs better utilize local resources to increase income and opportunity. Municipal development Volunteers work with municipal employees and community leaders to improve public services, increase citizen participation, and enhance civic education. Finally, the youth development project builds on existing cross-project efforts, focusing on youth at risk, leadership development, gender equality, and increasing all types of opportunities for Honduran youth.
Peace Corps/Honduras emphasizes cross-project collaboration. Volunteers are likely to find themselves sharing or coordinating projects with Volunteers from other sectors. Additionally, Peace Corps/Honduras has taken a number of initiatives to enrich projects and allow for increased opportunity in community development. These initiatives include gender inclusion and development, environmental education, cross-project youth development, HIV/AIDS prevention, and information and communication technology.