November 12, 2006
Santa Rosa de Copán, Honduras
We've taken some major steps in the past three weeks since our last update. The largest of these was the hiring of the Rural Development Program Coordinator for Project Hope.
We are very happy to present Fredy Torres Mejía, a young professor from the national university campus here in Santa Rosa de Copán. Fredy grew up making leather goods (saddles, etc) before going to university for training as an agro-industrial engineer, giving him a strong focus on post harvest processing of the products we grow. Fredy grew up here in Santa Rosa de Copán and as such, several of our board members already knew him somewhat. In our recent ventures into the rural schools, we have run into teachers that are / were students of his and schools were he has been the provincial supervisor for exams, etc. He appears to always be well received and this bodes well for our reputation. Fredy has also spent a couple years helping out at another school for rural kids that only has classes on the weekends, so he certainly has experience working with our target audience.
Fredy has some excellent ideas about collaborating with the local orphanages to provide vegetables to them as part of the development program at our farm. In addition, he is interested in providing a market gardening course for women at the local jail (not to worry -- he already has a girlfriend and is not looking in the jail for a replacement
We were also fortunate enough to find a beautiful large home for rent right on the entrance to Santa Rosa de Copán. The home has 3 very very large bedrooms, each with their own bathroom. One bedroom will go to the house-parents and the other two will hold 2 sets of bunkbeds each to house the 8 youth participants in Project Hope. The kitchen is certainly in need of some upgrading, but the owners are working on that between now and the start of January (which is when we want the house). The backyard is extremely large, but not suited for football as it is full of fruit trees of all kinds. There is even an African Palm tree back there hiding in the corner. There are two living rooms as well as a separate enclosed room which functioned as a convenience store previously. For us, that room will serve as a study room where we can put tables and chairs for classes and for homework.
The legal process regarding the purchase of the farm continues along and we look forward to finishing that as soon as the inheritance transfer steps are all completed. Since we already have possession, we are soon going to have to look after the harvest of the coffee that is growing in the front part of the property. The other legal process that is ongoing is the application for tax-exemption here in Honduras. While we are legally registered as a non-profit association, that does not guarantee our tax-exemption. To date we have always run at a slight loss: thereby eliminating the need for this exemption. Now, however, when we are investing in property, a vehicle, etc., the income that comes as donations will now significantly exceed the expenses since the government does not allow you to "write-off" assets like these all at once (similar to North American rules).
La Roca continues to proceed as normal. The kids are practicing hard and painting up a storm for an upcoming presentation that they are going to give in the central park downtown. In addition to her work at La Roca, Alma has been helping me out in some of my rural adventures to find schools and talk to families.
This last week, I finally presented some of my documents to a lawyer in San Pedro to re-initialize my application for Honduran residency. I've been living here for over 4 years as a tourist since my original residency documents were all stolen about 2 weeks after I arrived in the country. Thanks to my beautiful wife, Triny, and little son, Pablo, the process should be easier and faster now.
What's important yet to finish the year? First, we have final interviews for the applicants for Project Hope here in Santa Rosa de Copán on Saturday, December 2nd. Fredy, Alma and I went out on Friday to visit the families and notify 6 applicants of these interviews. We still have at least another 6 to notify. Secondly, we still need to hire the house-parents. This couple will have a tremendous influence on the attitudes of the youth and as such, are critical to our program.
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