Special Needs Project Obtains Land!








In 2011, after three years of sending students to a Special Needs school in nearby La Ceiba, the now very organized Association of Special Education and Health in the Cangrejal (formerly the Parents Committee) is pursuing their vision of a local center in the Cangrejal Valley to serve the specialized health, educational, and vocational needs of the region.

As the Cangrejal Special Education and Health Project and its vision have expanded, so has support throughout the Cangrejal Valley.  Local governing bodies and charitable groups in the valley have offered land and other resources to help the group realize their vision, bringing great motivation to Un Mundo and the parents.  After analyzing numerous land offers, this dream was further solidified in 2012 by joining efforts with Healing Place Church, which offered to donate land in the community of Las Mangas to support short- and long-term project goals and needs.

In addition to offering land, Healing Place Church has also offered support to the parents to renovate and furnish the dilapidated building on the property for use as a starter for the local Special Education School, targeted to open in 2014.

This project NEEDS YOUR sponsorship of $50-$100 for one Special Needs student to support their final year of attendance to the special needs school in La Ceiba. This is necessary to keep the kids in school before building their local school.  Click here to review student profiles and set-up your monthly sponsorship!!!

For more information on the Special Education and Health Project visit our website at: www.unmundo.org/projects/public-health/cangrejal-special-education.

Posted in Cangrejal Special Education & Health Project, Public Health | Leave a comment

Long Live the Midwives


After many years of investigation, and with the help of Un Mundo, Dar a Luz, and local clinics, the midwives of the region finally have begun working to meet their collective goals. They are organizing through monthly meetings; self-advocating in local communities and schools by giving talks about women’s health, pregnancy, and the advantages of home births; raising funds for birthing rooms through monthly activities; and increasing their capacity through quarterly training sessions.

Additionally, Midwife International, an organization that is working to bridge the global maternal health care gap by training the next generation of midwives, will be joining our collaborative efforts beginning in 2013 by sending midwifery students with a mentor to the region to learn and work with the Cangrejal midwives. This partnership aims to promote multiple levels of learning and resource-sharing to support both the students’ educational goals as well as the midwives’ long-term goals.

For more information on Un Mundo’s Midwife Project, Dar a Luz and the Midwife International Midwife Immersion Program please visit:


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WANTED: Bibliobandido!

The Bibliobandido (library bandit), his Biblioburro (library mule), and his troupe of Bibliobandiditos (mini-bandits/assistants) have continued to circulate in the Cangrejal Valley, bringing books and literacy activities to the most remote villages in the area throughout 2012.

Local witnesses claim that the Bibliobandido has now been sighted twice in most communities in the Valley, once in 2011 and again in 2012. Despite his growing presence in local schools, police have still not been able to catch him, reporting even greater difficulty recently because school children now seem to be conspiring with the Bibliobandido, writing and hiding books in anticipation of his return.

Local communities and police authorities await the construction of the regional public library in the community of El Pital, where all the stories of the region will be housed. Police suspect that once the library is in place, the Bibliobandido will be a frequent visitor, and therefore officers are working with the local library committee to ensure commencement of construction by the end of 2013. The recent donation of land by the local community will help achieve this goal.

For more information on the construction of the local regional library and the adventures of Bibliobandido visit:


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Mixed Feelings

The months of April and May of 2012 have given me mixed emotions. On one hand, I am very happy because the ASEC project has a lot of possibility of being supported by a donor that has worked in the region for many years, and because of the possibility that the Cangrejal Special Education Project will be in operation by the end of 2012.

On the other hand, the organization has entered into a very serious financial crisis, which has caused the first cuts of our staff and the discontinued monitoring of some projects, and there is a serious risk of closing the organization if we continue with this situation.

These months have been full of ups and downs, with good news and bad news, however, one of the things that motivates me to continue with optimism is the desire of the volunteers who want to reach their goals in each project despite the obstacles. I am surprised by the love of our organization’s people, and that attitude makes me reflect on the great work that our organization, Un Mundo, is doing in all of the communities.

It is not easy to maintain 100% motivation knowing that there is a risk that our efforts will not be completed entirely if the organization closes its operation, despite knowing that many volunteers are prepared to manage the different projects. It is a constant fight between my motivation, the financial crisis, and the questions about what will happen. However, I am convinced that with the strategies that have been designed we will get out of this situation.

I want to make a reference to a thought by one of my favorite thinkers who speaks of this crisis:

“A crisis can be a real blessing to any person, to any nation. For all crises bring progress.
Creativity is born from anguish, just like the day is born form the dark night. It’s in crisis that inventive is born, as well as discoveries, and big strategies. Who overcomes crisis, overcomes himself, without getting overcome.”
~ Albert Einstein

With confidence I can affirm that by overcoming this crisis inside of our organization, things will be much better tomorrow. This situation will leave us with lessons that will make a positive mark on our actions and decision-making in a manner that is more balanced and sustainable in every way.

In particular I want to thank Ellyson Goetz, Executive Director of Un Mundo, for all of her effort and commitment to do what it takes to float our ship (the organization). Without her, it is possible that we would be sunk in the depths of the crisis. Her ability and attitude is an extra motivation for me, and learning from her has already left a positive mark on my life. I have met very few people in my life who give one thousand percent to their work.

Dear reader, if you are reading this humble blog, I want to give you the following invitation: If you want to “be the change you wish to see,” join our organization; help us complete our dreams that so many people need so much. Show no indifference to the needs of the most destitute. Do not forget that tomorrow any one of may be in a place of need, and need the help of the other.

Un Mundo… We do a lot with a little.

Donate to Un Mundo now!

Or learn about the other ways you can help Un Mundo by visiting: www.unmundo.org/join-us.

This post was originally written in Spanish by Denis Espinal, Un Mundo Program Director.

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What does grassroots organizing look like?

By Alicia Conte, Un Mundo Volunteer

“If you give me a fish you have fed me for a day. If you teach me to fish you have fed me until the river is contaminated or the shoreline is seized for development. But if you teach me to organize, than whatever the challenge I can join together with my peers and we will fashion our own solution.”

Ricardo Levins Morales, social justice artist

I share this quote with you, because for me it really illustrates the work of the INVST Community Leadership Program as well as the work of Un Mundo. As a graduate of the INVST program, and also as someone who has volunteered in Honduras with Un Mundo, I have the unique opportunity to share with you all the incredible importance that these organizations continue to have in my life and in the world.

Un Mundo is a non-profit with a radical approach to community organizing in rural Honduras. Un Mundo promotes dignity, community, and self-sufficiency for people in marginalized rural communities. But what does this mission really mean? What do these words “dignity” “community” and “self-sufficiency” really look like in practice? I had the amazing opportunity to see for myself, when I went to Honduras to volunteer with Un Mundo this past summer.

During my time in El Pital, Honduras I worked on a midwife project called  “Viva la Partera!”, or “Long-live the Midwife.” This incredible initiative is a support network intended to increase access to improved healthcare services for women and children, by strengthening natural healing practices in the region. Local midwifes practice an important tradition of guiding women through the birthing process, a process which is dangerous and risky in impoverished, rural areas. The midwives help women “dar a luz,” meaning give birth, but literally in Spanish it means “to give light,” which is such a beautiful way to explain one of the most precious and sacred moments in a woman’s life.

So what did grassroots organizing look and feel like for me, during my time working on the Midwife Project? It looked like waking up at 4 in the morning to walk through mountain villages, smelling the early morning smoke from tortillas dancing in flames, just to deliver one invitation to a midwife for a visioning meeting. It looked like finally arriving there– 5 long, steep, miles later—only to learn that this midwife has moved to another village.

It looked like living with Doña Tina, a local midwife whose strong yet gentle hands soothed me as she rubbed my stomach when I was so sick that I couldn’t move. It looked like sleeping under the same palm-branched roof with Doña Tina , staying up in the dark as her son did his homework by candle light. It looked like listening to her share stories about how she birthed each one of her 10 children all by herself in her own home.

What did grassroots organizing in rural Honduras look like? It looked like midwives who ranged from ages 40 to 90 years old, traveling from as far as 5 hours away, to attend a needs assessment meeting. It looked like these midwives overcoming barriers such as the lack of ability to read and write–and even to hear or see—in order to narrow down a list of 50 needs to 9 needs, prioritizing the most urgent needs of midwives in the region.

It also looked like the government choosing to turn off the power on the one day you need to show a power-point presentation, but adapting and improvising alternative, technology-less ways to deliver your presentation instead.

When I volunteered with Un Mundo I learned that grassroots organizing in rural Honduras looks like asking a community of individuals, many of whom barely read and write what their needs are, and then engaging in dynamic processes that facilitate the community’s identification of their own needs, on their own terms, rather than telling them how you think their community should change. I learned that the words “self-sufficiency,” “dignity,” and “community,” mean developing local community leaders and empowering and supporting them to sustain their own communities on their own terms.

My two life-changing years in the INVST Community Leadership program pushed me to think about and engage critically with the world.  My experience in INVST, specifically with the International Summer Service Learning Experience and my second-year SOL project, both of which focused on immigrant rights and the effects that US policies such as NAFTA have on Central American countries, deepened my knowledge of these issues. In INVST, I stood on this side of the world looking at the issues of immigration and US foreign policy, and with Un Mundo, I had the opportunity to stand on the other side of the border, trying to see and live life as many Central Americans do.

INVST taught me the importance of reciprocity and community-based change, where you “work with communities, not for them.” INVST provided me with the skills and theory to engage in community-based change, and my experience with Un Mundo gave me the opportunity to put these skills and knowledge into practice. INVST also showed me that I learn the most when I push myself out of my comfort zone, and that might have been the most important nudge I could have felt, because it pushed me all the way to Honduras.

So what does community and grassroots organizing REALLY look like? It looks like Un Mundo, and it looks like INVST.

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Situations that Can Change the Path Taken

There are moments and experiences that have the ability impact life for better or for worse, or cause us to do a 360 degree turn, if we don’t carefully reflect on which decision to take. I’ll begin by sharing what happened to me in one of our meetings with the project volunteers…

In our organization, we have a signed agreement with each local community group we work with, saying that if there is a breach or violation of this agreement three times in one year, that Un Mundo will not be able to continue supporting the project.  In February, we had a meeting with the library group, in which the group reached their third breach of the our agreement by only a few members showing up to the meeting, and those that did, arriving on time.  Frustrated and disappoint, I brought this to the groups attention,  however, two members of the group felt disrespected by me and our Project Coordinator for this wake-up call.

After leaving that meeting I felt so upset that I thought of giving up my position as Program Director, not because I am not accustomed to facing difficulties, but because with this group of individuals, we had invested so many resources, efforts, ideas, knowledge … and I left they were not seeing, nor valuing the immense efforts of Un Mundo.

After thinking for three days I decided to demonstrate to myself that every problem has a solution, and I have begun planning ideas to lift the mood of the group and the Un Mundo team, in order to achieve our goals. What would have happened if I had decided to quit? What would the spirit of my team have been like?

This lesson helped me and will continue to help me to always be prepared for any adversity and to reflect on the importance of thinking and deciphering each problem with a cool head and balance before making any decision.

Originally written in Spanish by Denis Espinal, Un Mundo Program Director.

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Making Connections with Water

In 2011, the El Pital Water Board, in collaboration with Un Mundo and the Santa Clara, California, chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB) began investigating the quality of local water sources in the area to determine many of the challenges and causes of water contamination.  Results have shown high levels of contamination and serious strain on the El Pital water system, whose original capacity was for 16 homes, but which now provides potable water for close to 60 homes.

In response to these community struggles, Un Mundo and EWB are supporting the water board to design a comprehensive plan to clean up all water sources through improved black and gray water treatment systems and better solid waste management.  Once in place, these preventive measures will help the community reach its ultimate goal of access to clean drinking water through the construction of a new water system that will serve the 100-plus residents of El Pital, which is projected for 2017.

For more information about the Water Connections project visit:


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Marking my Life by Denis Espinal

The year 2011 will soon come to a close, but the experiences and memories acquired throughout this year working with Un Mundo have left an incredibly positive mark on my life. All of this time living and sharing with the people of the communities of the Cangrejal and those individuals from our different projects have allowed me to see the true reality and my own reality through another lens, a perspective to assume a more committed, united, understanding and helping other people.

The work that we do involves humble individuals who work with us on different projects, helping me to be even more aware that true change comes from within, and that we each individually are a part of that change within ourselves.

Working on such a wide range of projects this year has allowed me to discover many skills that I did not know I had.  One example is the monthly story-time activity and mobile library project have both showed me my talent to tell stories, act, play the part of a clown and be more creative… all of which I have appreciated so much because it has brought lots of laughter and fun to the work and to children, helping us all to forget the pressing problems and needs even for just a moment, planting the seed of hope… helping kids create the habit and desire to read.

My work, the orientation and learning I have acquired in my time working with Un Mundo has helped me to know my past better, understand more clearly my present and plan better for my future.  I am sure, without a doubt, that for these reasons the organization has put a significant mark on my life, just as with the lives of all the other people whom which I work, those that further commit and force me each day to be a better person, professional and friend.

Originally written in Spanish by Denis Espinal, Un Mundo Program Director.

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Clean Water Project Update (formerly dry/composting toilets)

Prior to the arrival of Engineers without Borders in August of 2011, the water committee of El Pital approached Un Mundo to discuss and make a formal solicitation to us to help achieve an improved and more sustainable potable water project.  Among the recommendations given to the water committee by Un Mundo was the need to meet with the community to first inform them of the idea of the new project, and assure that the entire community was willing to participate and commit their time to this project. In order to gauge the community’s interest, the water committee first held two community meetings to explain their ideas and interest.

After these two meetings, the second of which was highly attended and received positive approval from the community, the water committee put together an agreement requesting the participation and contribution of each household in the community.  Upon completion of this agreement, the water committee members visited all the households in El Pital and explained the project and requested the participation of each household.  Those that were in favor, signed and agreed to donate their time and ideas to the project as well pay a monthly quota for water service.

In efforts to improve water maintenance in El Pital, the water committee recently decided to increase the current quota of L4 to L10 as of 2012 and will continue to increase the quota by L5 each year until reaching L50.  Once L50 has been established, the quota will be evaluated every three years. To date, 48 households have agreed to their participation in the project and there are still a number of households who have not been.

This project idea spawned during the initial evaluation visit by Engineers Without Borders in 2010.  However, the tri-union of the community and water committee of El PItal, Un Mundo and Engineers Without Borders (EWB) was formed during this second EWB visit, which took place in August of 2011.  During the second visit EWB conducted evaluations and various analysis’s of the current water system in El Pital and the water quality in the El Pital and from the source. Additionally they evaluated the water source in the prospective water sources (Puerto Barrio and Luncinda) to analyze the capacity and water quality.  Finally, in regards to access of the Puerto Barrio source, they also evaluated the potential and impact of constructing a canasta (basket) or a bridge.

Taking advantage of us all being together during the month of August, a strategic planning session was conducted with Engineers Without Borders and the water committee, Un Mundo facilitating a SWOT analysis, mapping of the water sources, a timeline of the history of water issues, writing books with everyone’s visions of the community in 20 years and problems trees to identify the priorities and needs for the project.  Due to the EWB visit being so short, we were not able to complete all of the planning, however with the information that we have, we were able to create a short-term timeline to forward the investigation and foundation building stage over the next few months and delegated out the distinct roles of Un Mundo, EWB and the water committee over the next year.  We hope to have the initial planning complete by the end of 2011.  All three organizations will continue evaluation and investigation of the potential and feasibility of this project over the next year.  We hope to have solid decision about whether or not to go forward with this project by Summer of 2012.

One of the primary challenges and concerns that Un Mundo has is that the current water committee needs significant support to be able to manage a potential project, such as better organizing themselves and involving new members in the committee, people who perhaps are not already involved in other large projects. Presently there only 6 strong members involved in the water committee and the vice-president is not active: Pedro Crisolago (President), Durkis Acosta (Secretary), Carmindo Banegas (Treasurer), Adalid Banegas (Fiscal), Antonio Fúnez y Alba Lobo (Vocales).

Due to the apathy of the community and a number of members on the water committee regarding meeting attendance and project development, an agreement was created between the water committee and Un Mundo to ensure attendance and participation to all the planning meetings.

Posted in Organization, Programs and Projects, Public Health, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Midwife Project Update

Since our event in May with the midwives, we have not had any project activities.
Due to funding restrictions and insecurity of Un Mundo’s future, we have decided to limit activities for this project this year until we have more clarity on the organizations future and financial situation.  We will have a meeting with the group in October to explain our limitation and how we hope to continue supporting them, particularly discussing ways in which we can connect them with other potential groups/organizations to support their work.

Posted in Organization, Programs and Projects, Public Health, Viva la Partera Project | Leave a comment