In 1991, while traveling through Central America, Ken Hutz stumbled upon the mountain village of El Pital, located along the Cangrejal River Valley some 15 kilometers from the northern Caribbean coast of Honduras. After quickly falling in love with the beautiful surroundings, Ken and some of the locals founded Finca Papagayo, a working guest ranch and cocoa plantation designed to benefit the people of El Pital while offering travelers a genuine encounter with the surroundings and culture of rural Honduras.
While developing Finca Papagayo, Ken became familiar with this village and its endemic problems of poverty, malnutrition and lack of education. Ken began to act as an informal middleman matching the volunteerism of visitors with the needs of locals. In October 1998, just as Finca Papagayo was gaining momentum and notoriety as an alternative tourism spot, tragedy struck in the form of Hurricane Mitch.
Hurricane Mitch devastated both Finca Papagayo and the community of El Pital. The vast majority of dwellings in the village, constructed of stick and mud, were destroyed. An entire season’s worth of crops was lost. Some families even lost all their land as the Cangrejal River overflowed its banks and wiped out parts of the village. In response to this tragedy, a committed community of donors familiar with Finca Papagayo and El Pital came together to help the village get back on its feet, realizing a handful of community-initiated projects, including building houses and a permanent health clinic. Read Ken's report.
Out of these hurricane Mitch relief efforts, Un Mundo formalized as an organization and incorporated as a California Public Benefit Corporation in 2001. In the early years, the organization was sustained by the hard work of dedicated volunteers from around the world partnering with the 28 communities of the Cangrejal River Valley region to facilitate community-lead projects. In 2007, Un Mundo hired its first permanent staff (two co-directors) Elly Goetz and Rob Tuebner, whom enabled more sustainable and community-based projects. Beginning in 2009, Un Mundo started to shift towards more local control – its staff shifted from foreign to local; projects began to be run completely by local volunteers as opposed to foreign volunteers. Now, the community itself carries out much of the work. The expectation is that in a few more years the Cangrejal community leaders will be ready to lead the effort to transform their communities, and also assist other regions, allowing Un Mundo to fully realize/achieve its vision.