Leading Lady for Literacy in El Pital

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Lourdes Ponce, an El Pital resident, believes in literacy access for all individuals, despite their age or capacity. She has been a leading advocator for literacy development in her community for years. She participated in the very first library trainings given by the Reicken Foundation in 2009; she helped launch the first ever bibliobandido visit back in 2010; and she has served as president and vice president of the board of directors of the library project for multiple years. With dreams of a real library still far on the horizon, Lourdes wanted to make literacy programming regularly available in her community by opening a temporary library space, where individuals can could receive literacy support and access resources during after-school hours. With the help of Un Mundo, Lourdes and other committed citizens have been volunteering their time since May 2014 to make this space available to the local community.

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In 2015, with support increasing for the library program, Lourdes has been hired as the first community librarian, and will be continuing to make literacy resources and tutoring available 5 days a week in the temporary library space. Additionally, Lourdes has three new literacy promoters who will be promoting literacy in 3 of the most remote schools in the region through our mobile library program bibliobandido during the 2015 academic year.

Quote: “The library program is strengthening capacity and behavior in local children. I myself, as the librarian have acquired knowledge and skills that I didn’t even know I had, which in itself has improved my own self-esteem.”

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Water is Life

In the Cangrejal Region, water is a precious resource, especially in communities like El Pital. While most community members in El Pital have faucets on their properties, the water quantity is often limited and quality is not adequate for drinking. The present water system was constructed in the early 90’s and designed for only 16 families. Currently there are over 90 households and only about half are connected to the current system.

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With such taxation on the existing system, Un Mundo, Engineers Without Borders (EWB), Duke Engineers for International Development (DEID) and the local water board have teamed up to develop a new water system, in addition to supporting the community with other methods for managing human and solid waste. In the past few months we have made advances in building capacity with the local water board by conducting regular community trash clean-up, recruiting new members, increasing the monthly water quote, and obtaining legal incorporation as a recognized local organization. Additionally, the full topography study was recently completed and data compiled by the water board, local community members and Un Mundo staff. With this information, EWB and DEID are currently in the process of developing the designs for the new water system which should be complete in the next few months.

Quote: “This project is the most important of all the projects we have embarked on as a community because it affects every single person in our community. Water is life. In order to survive we all need water for every element of our lives. Because we live in a water shed, we have never seen water as a scarce source. However, now with limitations on water, sicknesses, climate change, and a growing community we are beginning to learn the importance of investing to have quality water, which will in turn improve our own quality of life.”

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Integration & Inclusion Successes

fotos para la eleccion de la junta directiva de ASEC 037Guillermo is one of the original children that formed part of the Cangrejal Special Education and Health Program (CSEHP) back in 2010. Son to a single mother, Guillermo has epilepsy and cerebral palsy, which cause physical disabilities particularly affecting mobility in his legs and feet. He has also demonstrated global delays and learning disabilities. With Un Mundo’s help, Guillermo received major surgery in 2012 on his foot and leg, elongating his Aquilles tendon which has helped him walk better and improve his body balance. He recently completed 5 years as a project participant, and has made significant improvements through his participation in the CSEHP, particularly this past year.

After 4 years studying at the school for special education, at age 13, Guillermo was integrated into the 1st grade in a traditional school in his community in 2014. This year he has mastered basic reading, writing, adding, subtraction, multiplication and division, well beyond the level of his fellow students. Being in a traditional school has transformed Guillermo’s social skills and drastically increased his self-esteem. He is more extroverted and relates better with others. In fact he has become very popular with other students, especially due to his advanced intelligence and maturity, and is often called upon to tutor and help other classmates. In return other students help him mobilize himself around the school grounds, help him when he falls, or accompany him to his house. Guillermo has also discovered he has many artistic talents, learning to draw and paint very well. He had the opportunity to take a music class with Un Mundo in 2013, which was a special experience, given his passion for singing. With this new level of acceptance in his community and excelling academically, Guillermo has gained a new level of independence as he moves into his teenage years, walking himself to school, running errands for his mother and making new friends.

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Summer Reflections by Suellen Li

This summer, I went to Honduras with a team of Duke Project HEAL volunteers and partnered with Un Mundo to tackle reproductive health issues in the Cangrejal Valley. We spent some time gathering information first, talking to local health professionals and other organizations in the area, and learned that far too many teenage mothers didn’t know how they got pregnant. For example, one girl had been told by her parents that babies came from helicopters, a modern twist on the age-old delivery stork myth. We tried to address these knowledge gaps by developing a curriculum on pregnancy, sexual health, and domestic violence—topics that are not commonly discussed in the community.

Our main goal this summer was to create a sustainable health education program. We recruited local volunteers and trained them so that they could serve as community health promoters. Working with these women turned out to be one of the most inspirational and humbling experiences of my life. We had set up health talks throughout the village for the women to present and raise awareness about these topics in their community. Our role was supposed to be as facilitators, helping out when our volunteers forgot information or got discouraged. Before our first session, I wasn’t sure what to expect—the women had been extremely nervous, telling me “I can’t do it, I’m not a good teacher. Why can’t you just teach them instead?”

However, I watched as the women grew increasingly confident with experience, empowered through their new role as community leaders. Many of them were single mothers or victims of domestic violence, dealing with oppressive economic or household situations. Yet, when they got in front of the audience to speak, they transformed. A former teen mother cautioned the girls in the audience against repeating her mistakes and jeopardizing their education by getting pregnant. Another woman shared the story of a relative who died of cervical cancer and left her children without a caretaker because she didn’t go for regular medical check-ups. Another day, I sat back with tears in my eyes when one woman stood up and gave a powerful speech about her experiences with domestic violence to inspire and support others suffering in similar situations.

These women humbled me in more ways than one. After just a week, the health promoters that I had trained were doing a much more effective job at impacting and educating everyone than I ever could. Nothing was more powerful than having someone from the community who had personally lived through an experience talk to others about it, and I realized that these women were teaching me far more than I had taught them. In addition, hearing their stories gave me even more respect for all that they had been through. One had lived in the U.S. for several years after being adopted by a local family there, but had her residency status suddenly revoked and was deported back to Honduras, abruptly separating her from her three children. My host mom had single-handedly raised and supported her 10 kids through school after her husband left them one day without any warning, or resources.

Living with my host family made me realize that poverty was a constant limiting factor and that for the poor, money almost always mattered more than merit. This shattered my conviction that success came to the deserving, and that everyone could make it as long as they worked hard enough. My host sisters always referred to their future schooling in hypothetical terms, “if we have the money for tuition,” they would say. Money was a constant consideration—bottled water was a luxury, the refrigerator was turned off at night to save energy, and everything possible was recycled or reused. As an environmental sciences & policy major, I realized the extent of my own hypocrisy when I compared my consumption habits to the low-impact lifestyle that my host family led.

Yet, in the face of so much inequality and structural violence, the people I met remained positive and kept persevering. They were grateful for what they had, and never once complained about what they did not. They were generous with what little they did have, sharing their home, food, and laughter with a complete stranger. They were fascinated by the outside world, looking with interest but not jealousy at the photos I had brought from my travels, at places they would never get the chance to visit. They were curious about other cultures, and listened attentively when I taught them how to write in Chinese, fold dumplings, and make origami. They were uncertain about whether or not they could continue to pay tuition, but they continued to study.

When I reflected on my own background, I saw all of the opportunities and privileges that I had failed to notice before in a new light. I didn’t realize how lucky I was that I never had to contribute to the family income and or have my educational future threatened by financial concerns. How difficult could my life had been if I could always count on having consistent running water, electricity, and food? How could I complain about having to study when I never had to fight for the privilege of going to college?

The people I met had overcome obstacles that I could not imagine ever facing in my own life, and had a wisdom and strength that years of college education could not have given me. While I would not have considered myself blind to disparities before, living and working so closely with the community this summer opened my eyes in a way that my teaching experiences in the past had not. These people inspired me every day with their strength, and made me even more passionate about fighting against the inequalities they faced, health-related or otherwise.

 

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Proyecto De Biblioteca-Bibliobandido… Cambiando La Vida de Muchos Niños!

Elias ScrollLa lectura una mágica aventura…

Bibliobandido se ha convertido en una tradición y en un personaje querido en las comunidades de la cuenca del Cangrejal. Su forma peculiar de promover la lectura en todos los rincones de esta región le hacen ser como el Ángel de la guarda.

Con este programa no importan las distancias, los peligros… lo que importa es lograr una sonrisa en los niños… lo que importa es crear nuevas capacidades intelectuales de lectura, redacción, creación, imaginación…

BandidosEl 2013 ha sido un año de contrastes, el lado no tan bueno es la falta de fondos para la realización de esta actividad, y el lado positivo es que se realizó el bibliobandido en dos comunidades (El Paraíso y La Muralla). Pero la mayor satisfacción es conocer la necesidad que tienen estás comunidades sobre la presencia del bibliobandido en su comunidad, como la única oportunidad de trabajar en conjunto con su escuela en alfabetización.

No ha sido fácil para todo el equipo de voluntarios desarrollar este programa. Desde las escapadas de las vacas para no ser corneados, hasta las caídas en el río cruzándolo… cargar las chicas en el hombro para pasar por ríos crecidos por parte de los varones del equipo de voluntarios… las grandes distancias de las caminatas, el compartir de una misma comida para todos… pero lo importante al final es que este sacrificio tiene su recompensa en los niños.

Children WritingTestimonios que despiertan interés de seguir trabajando…

“Hacer el papel del Bibliobandido me ayuda a creer más en mis capacidades, en saber que estoy contribuyendo para la educación de los niños, una educación que en mi niñez fue negada por la falta de oportunidades.” ~ Jorge Alvarenga, personaje de Bibliobandido

“Este programa y este grupo de voluntarios traen alegrías a nuestras comunidades, son un ejemplo a seguir, ya que están ayudando en la enseñanza-aprendizaje de nuestros hijos.” ~ Alba Sánchez, Madre de familia de la comunidad de La Muralla.

On top of horse“Es lindo ver como personas de otras comunidades se preocupan por la educación de nuestros hijos. Sin duda que cada año esperamos con ansias la llegada del Bibliobandido y sus personajes a esta comunidad.” ~ Dolores Cárcamo, madre de familia de la comunidad de El Paraíso.

“La alegría de un niño por haber aprendido un nuevo conocimiento no tiene precio… esta es una de las grandes satisfacciones de nuestro trabajo.” ~Denis Espinal, Director de Un Mundo.

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Those who don’t feed him stories, BEWARE!

The Legend of El Bibliobandido from REV- on Vimeo.

The children of El Pital shudder as they hear the pounding beat of horse hooves galloping towards their rural community in the Cangrejal Valley, Honduras. They pause their games and perk their ears up – listening carefully to better hear what’s coming their way. As the leaves begin to rustle just up the road, children and adults alike exchange looks of concern, wondering who among them has been sure to prepare for the monthly visit from this mystical character.

As the pounding grows near, the children know all too well that those hooves hail from Bibliolandia, and that atop the swift horse rides a character who can only be satiated by one thing – stories. This masked character, who has “terrorized” the children of the region since 2010, is determined to consume books that contain the children’s own, creative, colorful and delightful stories.

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Through the thick green bushes lining the dusty road, the hat and bandana-clad character finally appears. Towering above them, El Bibliobandido halts his horse… and he looks positively ravenous! Small children run and hide behind their mothers, while the men stand outside to keep watch. El Bibliobandido’s grumpy horse stomps his hooves into the dirt and groans.

A small group of brave children know exactly what must be done. They make a dash for the community library, a small, brightly painted cinder-block room that is currently attached to the community’s newly built high school. The children feel safe inside the library – as it is where they go to listen to story hour, do their homework, and receive support with their reading and writing.

Their eyes dart around the room – passing over dozens of books and resources donated to their community – and finally land on the red satchel they’ve stashed in the corner. It’s heavy, overflowing with handmade books. These carefully crafted books contain the enchanting stories that all of the children in the community have worked so hard to create over the past month.

Hauling the satchel out of the library and onto the rocky dirt road, the children feel confident that El Bibliobandido will be pleased. This month, on top of dreaming up even more wild and adventurous stories, the children have learned to spell their words more correctly, scribe their letters more beautifully, and draw their pictures more carefully. They know this is the only way to keep El Bibliobandido’s voracious appetite at bay, and keep him from terrorizing them… at least until next month.

For children who have a 42% chance of dropping out of school before the fifth grade, El Bibliobandido provides motivation to improve their literacy skills and progress farther through school. It is known that illiteracy is one of the factors that keeps individuals and communities in a cycle of poverty, yet in Honduras, 25% of the population still can not read or write. In rural areas of the country such as El Pital, where access to books is extremely limited, the number of people who lack these basic skills is typically much higher. Widespread illiteracy can keep these communities locked into the dangerous and stifling reverberations of poverty – their communities riddled with violence, poor health, and frustration. Yet where government cannot be relied upon for quality education and literacy support, creative solutions and community collaboration come to the rescue.

With the help of the brave children, El Bibliobandido hoists the red satchel filled with books onto his horse and pours it into his knapsack – like a giant burlap stomach, his knapsack grows fatter with each community he visits. The children of El Pital clamor with excitement as El Bibliobandido rides up the road to the next community that lies along the Cangrejal River. Luckily, teams of children from El Pital have done an excellent job of warning the children of the other communities in the Valley about the terror of El Bibliobandido. They’ve taught the other children to make their own books, and to fill them with magical, colorful stories as well. Safe this time, the children of El Pital can only hope that their fellow school children are just as prepared with their own brilliant creations.

Although El Bibliobandido is a mystical character who was created in partnership by Un Mundo, Rev- and the community to “terrorize” children as a creative way to motivate them, he has come to be loved by all. Children and adults alike know that this character provides them with a creative outlet and an educational resource that is otherwise unavailable to them – one that encourages them to advance skills that are critical to their future, while inviting them to tell their own stories of truth. In reality, El Bibliobandido’s hunger drives anything but terror – it inspires creativity, encourages critical thinking, builds literacy, and brings joy to the lives of thousands of people in this rural Honduran community.

And all it takes is a story...

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By Sierra Brashear

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Únete a Nosotros – Join Us

Yo quiero compartir la historia de nuestra organización Un Mundo donde la crisis económica que nos esta afectando pone en riesgo la felicidad de muchas personas que esperan hacer realidad sus metas con cada proyecto. Una realidad que cambiaría la vida si Tú y Yo unimos esfuerzos y juntos luchamos por sus sueños que esperan cumplir.

Este triste cuando escucho que una madre de una niña con problemas especiales me dice: “Y ahora que ustedes están pensando cerrar la organización que pasará con la salud y educación especial de mi hija?” ¿Cómo hago para cumplirle el sueño de caminar a mi hija? Estas preguntas me hieren el alma ya que no puedo dar una respuesta clara a la continuidad nuestra y hacer cumplir su promesa.

Amigo/a que lees este blog, únete a nosotros y se parte del cambio que queremos ver, recuerda que hoy es un niño de estas madres, mañana puede ser nuestro hijo, nuestro hermano o cualquier otro ser querido. Haz tus aportaciones a nuestra organización y recuerda que las grandes edificaciones se construyen de piedra en piedra, y que nada se transforma de la noche a la mañana, sin embargo una pequeña contribución puede hacer la diferencia en la vida de estas personas nobles que tanto lo necesitan.

El solo tener como idea el cierre de la organización me provoca una gran tristeza, no es porque no seguiré trabajando, porque puedo trabajar en otros sitios, es por la manera en que estamos contribuyendo a cambiar la vida de muchísimas personas en la cuenca del Cangrejal. Lo digo porque escuchar comentarios como el que dice Ramón Andino: “Un mundo nos ha ayudado tanto, que ahora somos personas capaces de pensar y actuar diferente, y cada día esperamos aprender más con la ayuda de la organización”.

Por favor no muestres indiferencia a la necesidad de los demás, y se parte de la red de amigos-patrocinadores de nuestra organización. Solo quiero asegurarle que: “Un Mundo hace mucho con poco… y que somos solo un vehículo que esta ayudando a las personas de esta región a cambiar sus vidas, un medio de transporte al cual tu puedes subir y ayudar a conducir.

Haz tu contribución hoy!

Por Denis Espinal, Director de Programas

Join Us

I would like to share the history of our organization, Un Mundo, where the economic crisis that we are in is risking the happiness of many people who hope to reach the goals of every project we work on. However, that is a reality that would change if you and I join forces, and together we fight for the dreams they hope to reach.

It makes me sad when I hear the mother of a special need child say to me, “…and now that you are thinking of closing the organization, what will happen to the special health and education for my daughter? What will I do to reach my daughter’s dreams to walk?” These questions hurt my soul since I can no longer give a clear response regarding our continuation, and completing our promises.

Friends who read this blog, join with us and be part of the change we want to see. Remember that today they are the children of these mothers, but tomorrow it could be our son, our brother or any other loved one. Please make your contribution to our organization, and remember that large buildings are build stone by stone. Nothing changes overnight, but one small contribution can make the difference in the lives of these noble people who need it so much.

Just having the idea of closing the organization brings me a big sadness, not because I won’t continue working (because I can work at other sites), but its because of the way in which we are contributing to change in the lives of many people in the Cangrejal Valley. I say this because I hear comments like what Ramón Andino said: “Un Mundo has helped us so much… now we are capable people who think and act differently, and every day we hope to learn more with the help of the organization.”

Please don’t show indifference to the needs of the rest, and instead be part of the network of friends of our organization. I want to assure you that: “Un Mundo does much with little.” We are just a vehicle that is helping the people of this region to change their own lives… a means of transport that you can get in and help to drive.”

Visit “Viva Un Mundo” to donate any amount today!

By Denis Espinal, Program Director

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Facilitating the Path to Dignity, Community and Self-Sufficiency

Painting a mural of the world held up by two hands on the high school with Minke.For many in international development work, there exists a continuous dialogue in which we explore our place in cultures, communities and struggles that are not our own. We ask ourselves questions about our role in the lives of people who were born into places where clean water is a luxury that is out of reach for many, and where books are as rare as the opportunity to go to college. We ponder the impact we can really have on remote and impoverished areas of the world as we grapple with our own intentions to serve, build and nourish. Our challenge is to discover a way to set aside our own egos and agendas, show up with patience, and find a way to truly make a lasting difference.

Nestled in the emerald green hills of the Cangrejal Valley, Honduras, Un Mundo has found the sweet spot in development work. By facilitating the community’s own development process, Un Mundo has built a model in which the work lasts because it belongs to the community itself. Our model is built with three goals in mind – dignity, community, and self-sufficiency – and the projects are simply vehicles for drawing out the community’s potential to reach these long-term end goals. (Learn more or contribute to Un Mundo)

With 28 neighborhoods and a majestic river flowing through the center, the Cangrejal Valley is home to some ten thousand people. Families, which generally include at least 8 members, often live on less than $100 per month – an income squeezed from working the land, tending dairy cows, and dappling in the somewhat out-of-reach tourism industry. The extreme poverty is indicative of the 500 years of domination and oppression in Latin America – from Spanish conquest to the neo-liberal economics imposed by the United States. Then, in the aftermath of the immense destruction caused by Hurricane Mitch in 1998, well-intentioned aid organizations arrived with handouts by the helicopter-load. In the process, they created dynamics of inequality, silence and perceived helplessness that have since fused into the hearts and psyches of even the most capable Hondureños in the valley.

That’s why there is one seemingly simple task at the center of Un Mundo’s work: make sure everyone’s voice gets heard. We work with the intention to draw out collective community desires, and we do this by facilitating unique and creative processes in which everyone – even the pre-literate, the deaf, the young and the old – can participate. The path to dignity, community and self-sufficiency often involves reminding each person that their voice really matters, despite never having their voices heard before. Once all ideas and input are heard and a collective decision is made, a powerful force for change – backed by community initiative and capacity-building provided by Un Mundo – is set into motion.

The results are extraordinary. In the past five years, with the support of Un Mundo, community members have formed committees and tasked themselves with constructing the first public vocational high school in the valley (inaugurated by a community celebration on November 30, 2012), creating the first regional public library to improve literacy, providing health and education services to children with special needs, and organizing a network of midwives to improve maternal healthcare services in the valley. Additionally, with Un Mundo’s facilitation, a group of community members has begun working with Engineers Without Borders, and is currently designing a brand-new water system that will provide sufficient clean water to over 250 homes in the community of El Pital.

El Pital, the community nestled on the forested banks of the Cangrejal River where Un Mundo is based, is ripe with a sense of pride and accomplishment. Children with special needs, who were once shamefully kept secluded in their homes, now smile and greet passers-by – eager to share about their recent classroom successes. Community members glow with pride at the mention of the largest building in town, the high school, to which students bus an hour from the nearby city of La Ceiba to attend. The women’s group speaks of their plans to open a cooperatively run restaurant, and the library committee shares about the success of their creative community fundraising initiatives (a $1 ticket for admission to a movie screening, as well as a small bag of popcorn).

Un Mundo’s model assumes that capacities are being built among community members such that, one day, we will be able to step away from the community and the development will continue. To facilitate this process, Un Mundo has implemented a work-study scholarship program that pays for students from the community to attend university in the town of La Ceiba while completing their practicum with Un Mundo. The students, who have all expressed a desire and commitment to uplift their communities, learn creative facilitation and resource mobilization among other skills as integral parts of their practicum.

For foreigners who share the desire and commitment to uplift resource-constrained communities around the world, Un Mundo offers a model that reminds us that our place is not to do the work. But it can be, perhaps, to facilitate the process for the communities to discover their own needs, wants and capabilities to turn their own dreams into successes.

We look forward to continuing this important work in 2013 and beyond, and we need your support! Join us by making a donation, purchasing a raffle ticket, offering your skills, or connecting with our community on Facebook. Our work would not be possible without the generosity of our growing community, and we hope you will do what you can to make next year a success!

Check out photos of the past year with Un Mundo!

By Sierra Brashear, Communications and Outreach Coordinator

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El Pital High School Nearing Completion

 

October 2012 marks five years since the communities of the Cangrejal Valley, Un Mundo, and the Minke Stichting Foundation broke ground for the first public high school in the region, now serving 200 students. The inauguration and completion celebration is scheduled for  November 30, coupled with the presentation of the school’s third graduating class. Un Mundo and Minke board members from all over the world plan to attend this event, which is momentous for both organizations, but even more so for the residents of the Cangrejal Valley.

For more information on the event and this project please visit:

www.unmundo.org/projects/arts-and-education/high-school

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First Weeks with Un Mundo

My name is Eldy Carcamo.  I am from the community of Toncontin, located in the upper Cangrejal Valley.  I am 19 years old and graduated from the first class of Institute Oficial Polivalente Elvira Pineda Madrid, the high school being built by Un Mundo, in November 2011.  I am a recipient of Un Mundo’s first university scholarship program, New Horizons and began my work in August of 2012. 

When I began as a work-study scholarship student at Un Mundo, I thought that I was never going to be able to accomplish the work that was given to me, and that they would not explain or teach me how to do the work required of me.  But to my surprise, I have learned so much in this short time with Un Mundo and I think that I will never stop learning because each day is a new learning experience. 

The first few weeks I began my orientation where they explained to me how to use the office equipment, how the organization operates and what are all the projects that Un Mundo manages.  After a few weeks, I was assigned to help out on a few projects such as the Bibliobandido and Viva La Partera (Midwife Project).  Even though I am not specifically working on this project, the project that interests me the most is the Special Education and Health Project because before working for Un Mundo, I had never had the opportunity to cross paths, plan or work with children with special needs because I was afraid.  But now I have learned that these children deserve the same treatment, respect and consideration that any other child does and just because they have a difficulty doesn’t mean they are any less of a human-being. 

In addition to this learning, I have also begun to develop my abilities to speak in front of other people that are not from my own community, or how to form relationships with different types of people despite their level of education or social situation. I have achieved things that I never thought could accomplish with  few difficulties due to the orientation and training that I have received.  One example is how to be a facilitator and speak with various types of people, has helped me to feel liberated.  There have been a few moments when I felt like I can’t do it anymore because I have never worked like this before, nor have I ever had so many responsibilities, but now that I am getting use to everything with Un Mundo, I am beginning to feel much better, realizing that I am doing something important for my life and for my community, and am developing a new level of independence for myself.
Posted in Arts & Education, New Horizons, Organization, Programs and Projects, Uncategorized | 1 Comment