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May 13 , 2006
Santa Rosa de Copán, Honduras

OK, first off... HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY to those mothers who happen to be reading this update. It has been a beautiful day here and now at 5:00pm is starting to flash and crash with lightening and thunder as is normal for the months of May and June. As the picture at the right shows, this is my wife's first Mother's Day and the result is a bit of a difference in my efficiency in the mornings... I don't type quite a fast with one hand and the Spanish / English dictionary is almost impossible to searh without both hands. But absolutely nobody here is complaining about it!!! :)

The past month has given us some progress on some critical issues for APROCOLA, in particular with the Project Hope program. First of all, a couple of weeks ago we were finally able to get the import tax exoneration that will enable us to purchase an Isuzu 4x4 for almost 25% less than normal when combined with the sales tax exoneration we obtained in early April. We were able to collect all our documents and present them to the only Isuzu dealer in the country and finally on Thursday we were able to transfer funds to pay for the truck. Now all we need is the truck itself -- so far it hasn't cleared the customs process on their part due to our exonerations. Since I leave for Canada on Wednesday morning, it is possible that we won't have the truck until I get back in early June. Still, the crucial part is that we were able to save about US$5,000 and are now exempt for our purchases for building materials and equipment to launch Project Hope as well.

Speaking of Project Hope, we were also finally able on Thursday to sign a contract on the model farm. The yellow bars in the graph at the left shows the subsequent attendance from grads 1 - 6 in rural schools. The reality of the results are bluntly seen in the standard of life in rural Honduras and our project is aimed at changing it in our province.

The model farm is about 11 acres that is located 15 minutes from town. We were prepared to sign a deal back in March, but found that the title was in the name of Porfirio Rodriguez (whom many of you know) and his past wife who died shortly after we got involved in Honduras. The process to address this is complicated by the fact that he has adult sons living in the United States who must sign documents acceptable for the Honduran courts to transfer title. Since it is an honorable family that we have known for 7 years, we went ahead and signed a contract that gives us immediate possesion and pays 66% of the price up front. The remaining balance will be paid when the inheritance processes are completed and title can properly transfer to us. A blessing on that property is that recently a "gringo" moved in down the road and installed power lines along the road in front of this property. That will allow us to invest part of the budget that we had reserved for those lines into the program itself.

Secondly on Project Hope, we distributed a preview of the promotional brochure we put together for distribution in the rural schools. It only went to a committee of 4 people for comments and upgrades and on Wednesday evening we were able to meet with 2 of them. One is a lawyer who came from humble beginnnings and was provided an opportunity by a prominent local lawyer. Taking full advantage of the opportunity, this gentlemen is now a member of the Board of Directors for the 3rd largest bank in Honduras. Another member of the committee is the manager of the largest local employer -- the cigar factory. He also was taken in by a prominent local engineer who helped him to obtain his education and developed his skills to the point where he manages farms, the cigar factory and sits on the bank's board as well. In the case of these 2 gentlemen, our desire is for them to help us generate information that will attract and help to identify those students most likely to meet the objectives of the program. The 3rd member of the committee is a professor at the Catholic University and a guidance counsellor for the largest high school in town. She has been working with Plan Honduras in their rural youth leadership program. The 4th member recently retired as the provincial director of education. Her insight will be more in the area of the school system and ways to promote the program through it. Additionally she is an organizational help in identifying selection criteria for the students.

Two great ideas came out of Wednesday evening's meeting: 1) use the work at the farm to generate some income that stays with each student -- help them to see the benefits of their work first-hand and 2) narrow the annual search area down to a targetted municipality. Both ideas will help us to improve the program significantly.

After almost 2 months of each missing the other, I was finally able to meet with the local director and also the chairman of the local board of Habitat for Humanity regarding coordinating the construction of the house fo the family that lost their home here in a fire in February. As a bonus, since we learned some years ago in Mexico not to give away homes, the family will end up with home and payments to make to Habitat. The bonus in that is that Habitat will be able to use those payments to help launch a small micro-business for a family to provide adobloques -- a cross between adobe (dirt blocks) and bloques (normal concrete blocks).

At La Roca, we finished installing a concrete "footing" around the basketball court so that we can re-install a fence to keep the balls from going into the adjoining valley (not that deep or large). When the side of the mountain came down last November, it took out the prior fence... This time we'll put up a couple rows of blocks along the bottom so that the fence isn't ruined as quickly by the kids either. In July, we have a group coming down and hopefully with them we'll install the wire that will go on top of the blocks and the cabling to hold it tight. That group will also work on installing a "Jungle Gym" on the front lawn of the youth center.

We're in the middle of a computer class at La Roca with mixed youth and adult students. This coming week we'll start up our baking and beautician classes as well. They've taken a long time to get ready, but I sympathize with Alma that it has been difficult for her to get the interested students to agree on which courses to provide and when to host them. The unfortunate loser for this summer is the sewing class which does not have enough students to carry on. The good part on that is that some of our prior students moved to a higher level and are taking courses at the Western Honduras Arts & Trade School -- something that is very rare for the residents of our neighborhood.

As I mentioned earlier, I'm heading up to Canada on Wednesday. I should have gone today, but it is my wife's first Mother's Day and, well, she ranks ahead of everybody and everything else on this earth...

So, that's where we are at for the moment. We always welcome your feedback, so feel free to contact me at phil@timko.ca.