Monday, August 20, 2012

Every time I turn around, there's another worthy project

By Jody Paterson
Want a project? I've got a thousand of them. Something about being a gringa in a country for whom gringo-ness summons images of money just seems to bring people running with ideas for how you can help.
And they're great ideas. I visited Escuela Juan Ramon Cueva in Copan Ruinas the other day and had to agree with the teacher that the place really could use a little gringo attention. A thousand students attend the school every day, and all that wear and tear is taking its toll. The roof is falling in on a couple of classrooms, and the big tin techo that shelters the courtyard where the kids play is riddled with holes and broken bits.
Broken window at Copan's largest school
It would cost about $1,500 to put a new roof over the courtyard. That's nothing for a visiting group of Americans or Canadians looking to do a good deed, which is how much of the school got built in the first place. (A Rotary Club plaque hangs outside the bathrooms.)
But for the school, $1,500 is completely out of reach. There's just no place to get that money in Honduras - no government grants, no foundations, no culture of hitting up the wealthy for a big donation. I guess that's why a gringa can't go anywhere without someone hauling her off to see something in a terrible state of disrepair and then mentioning hey, if she knows anybody who might like to help....
After visiting the school I had this brilliant idea about a matchmaking service that connected volunteers from developed countries to small projects in places like Honduras. But then I went on Google and discovered that there are already several dozen such services, pitching equally worthy projects in all the hungry countries of the world.
Still, there's clearly more matchmaking to be done. If the biggest school in this region is reduced to pitching a passing stranger who's just there to admire the concrete work in the bathrooms, there still must be a lot of gaps in the process of connecting willing volunteers from developed countries with worthy projects in distant lands.
Read more here.

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