By Jody Paterson
My boss was telling me on the long drive back from San Pedro Sula yesterday that there was some funding coming available soon out of Europe for projects targeted at building resilience.
I got a (quiet) chuckle out of that, because Hondurans could write the book on resilience. Like the song says: They get knocked down, but they get up again.
Resilience has been a popular topic among socially aware types for many years. I think it's a fascinating subject, and applaud all efforts to understand the intangible things that permit one person to hang in despite horrible life circumstance while another in a similar situation is totally destroyed.
But a lack of resilience is not the problem in Honduras. Life is incredibly hard here for the majority of people, and it's true that poverty and violence are worsening in Honduras even while neighbouring countries are seeing improvements. Almost 70 per cent of the country lives in poverty, and some 40 per cent live in extreme poverty.
None of that is because they're lacking in resilience, however.
In fact, they bounce back like you can't believe - from hurricanes, floods, terrible crop years, crippling accidents, illness, a chronic lack of money, death in the family. Many don't live well but they do live sustainably, feeding their families on corn and beans grown on the craziest of slopes and getting by with virtually no money.
And I've yet to see any of them wringing their hands about their tough lot in life. They just carry on.
So no, Hondurans aren't poor because they're missing what it takes to thrive. They're poor because they live in a country with a negligent and ineffective government, zero social supports, a lack of employment, impossibly low pay scales, and a broken, dysfunctional education system that offers no hope for better jobs and brighter futures for young Hondurans.
In theory, Hondurans are "free" to pursue their dreams. This ain't no Cuba, those who lean to the right are quick to point out. This is a country that has embraced capitalism, and the kind of libertarian freedoms that make the Wild West look tame.
But in reality, the only dream that's got much money attached to it is the long, hard slog north to try to sneak illegally into the United States. Unless you're a high-status, rich Honduran (and there are a surprising number of those, who really ought to be more worried for the future of their country), the only way you're going to find money for things like a decent house, basic health care or better schooling for your kids is if you work illegally in the States for a few years or get into the cocaine business.
But resilience? Oh, they've got plenty of that. Just to make that incredibly difficult journey into the U.S. takes more resilience than I hope I ever have to summon, and yet an estimated 100,000 Hondurans do it every year.
Those in the struggling "middle class" - my co-workers, for instance, who make $6,000 annually - frequently have to make wrenching decisions to leave their families behind to take jobs in distant towns. They've got the same dreams as any parent does of a better world for their children, but all they see when they look into the future is more of the same. They love their country, but they hate where it's going.
I'm sure my boss will come up with a clever project around resilience, of course. A Honduran non-profit would be crazy not to jump at any opportunity for funding. Maybe some people will get a free cow out of it, or a new vegetable garden.
But let's not go blaming this troubled country on the scrappy, resourceful people living poor in Honduras. They bounce, and it's a lucky thing.