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Educating the Island Nation By Thomas Tomczyk

Bay Islands Have Caught Up with Mainland's Abysmal Educational Record. Is there a way out?

The US invasion of Iraq and the Bay Island's public education system have something in common. They both failed, yet few people have a reasonable hope of making them succeed. The US and Honduran central and local governments find it difficult to 'stop supporting the troops, or teachers' fighting there. In both cases a completely new approach is needed. Some individuals and an education committee are looking at alternatives for making a change.

Opportunity Lost, Promises Broken
In the first week of February I encountered a ladino family of eight squatting on a piece of land in shacks without running water or electricity. Of the family's six young children, three were not in school because the family "could not afford to buy them school uniforms and supplies," I was told at first.
The reasons why the three 11 to 13 year old boys were not in school were more complex I soon found out. The two boys: Jesus and Oscar, lived on Roatan for six years and had jobs as grocery store helpers. The third one, 15-years-old Juan, came to Roatan only three month before from Olancho and after three grades could neither read nor write.
Juan said that if he went back to school his classmates would make fun of his age. I argued that the teasing would stop in a week and if he managed to learn how to read he wouldn't end up being teased for the rest of his life.
At the end of the day and Lps. 3,000 later, two of the boys were ready to go to school. While Jesus and Oscar made a promise that in exchange for this opportunity they would go to school for the entire year, Juan decided to focus on looking for a job. When I checked with their teacher I was told Jesus and Oscar stopped coming to class in May. This sad story is en example of the complex and uphill struggle that the people on the Bay Islands are facing and of the priorities that they have.

The Attitude
Someone always has to be last and there is a reason why Honduras is at the bottom of educational systems in Central America. Amongst 9 countries that are already poor, it is Honduras that is furthest behind and there are many reasons for that. One of the most important reasons is Honduras' moribund education system. If anything is to change it for the better, it is unlikely it will catch up to Nicaragua or Guatemala.
"The problem is that children are not taught to question, debate, or rationalize. I think it is a cultural thing," says Cam O'Brien, chair of Roatan Municipal Education Commission funded in March 2007.
You cannot outrun the Honduran mentality. Education is way down the list of priorities for typical Hondurans and that will not be changed easily. What Hondurans value in general are not education and honesty, but wealth and power. Changing that will take many generations. It is much easier to reinforce current attitudes than fight them.
From a Bay Islands perspective, perfecting the Honduras' national education system for the benefit of island youth is impossible. The national educational system is hopelessly dysfunctional and youth are finding ways of educating themselves despite of it, not because of it.

All About the Benefits
The 61,000 Honduran public teachers are a privileged group, capable and ready to protect their own interest and benefits. According to O'Brien, around 98% of the Bay Islands education budget goes towards teacher salaries. "The whole system is focused on salaries and benefits, but is not interested in improving the education system," says O'Brien.
The Honduras government, while hesitant, almost always gives in to teacher demands, organized in their Honduran Teachers Federations (FOHM). The teacher's 2006 street protests raised their base monthly base salary from $298 to $353. While the month long strikes continued, 2.5 million Honduran school children stayed at home. According to Oxfam, IMF disagreement over teacher salary increases has cost the country $500 million in delayed debt relief and donor aid cuts.
Honduran teachers, six times more numerous and far better paid than police officers, form a powerful lobby ready to defend their rights and benefits they acquired over time. Too often the interests of teachers do not go with the interests of the students. In 2005, 80 of the 200 class days were squandered as a result of teacher's strikes and protests.
The teachers who go against the system are ostracized. Eight years ago a national teachers strike paralyzed the Bay Islands schools and one teacher decided to keep on giving classes. Professor Rosa Amelia Bindel taught in Brick Bay until she was pressured by fellow teachers to stop teaching. "She would buy things that the children needed," says about Bindel Maritza Busitllo, a Brick Bay resident.
Quite a price to pay.

A Typical School
Fausto Miguel School in Brick Bay is a typical Bay Island school. Founded in 1990, in 2001 it received its own two classroom building built with Roatan Municipal money. While the light bill is paid from the Departments Education budget, the children's parents pay for water and 25 mothers alternate cooking the afternoon student meals.
The school's four teachers earn an average of Lps. 17,000 a month. With bonuses and administrative costs, the Honduran government pays Lps. 1.1 million a year to educate the school's 83 students. The yearly cost per student is Lps. 13,250. That does not include educational materials such as transportation costs, uniforms, and supplies that are all paid by the parents.
The most affordable of Roatan's bilingual schools, Church of God School in Coxen Hole, educates a typical student for Lps. 14,800 a year. It would make more financial sense for the Honduran government to pay private Bay Islands' schools to educate.

Litmus Test
The litmus tests of the Bay Islands education system is provided by the foreigners who decide to raise their children here. While Hondurans may have few choices, foreigners with children face the dilemma of moving back or sending their children to boarding school to ensure that they have a chance at a western level education.
"I love the multicultural aspect of education here," says Kim Dueffert, a 14 year Roatan resident who nevertheless would not consider keeping her only child in the island educational system beyond first, or second grade. Her five-year-old daughter Mia, will go attend a grade school in Wisconsin starting in August. "I will be curious to see how she will do in the US education system," says Dueffert.
For Frenchman Pascal Accard and Canadian Leinie Cohen, a couple who lived in West Bay for 11 years, priorities changed once their two children reached school age. In 2006, while still overlooking a hotel business on the island, they decided to leave Roatan for Panama. "The teachers in Panama all have diplomas. They are not just recruited off the street," said Accard. "Our children were born here. They are islanders, but we have to show them a vision of other places other than Roatan."
Foreigners are not the only people looking at options to the island education. Islanders with families in the US often try to send their children to US schools. One of them is Ramsey McNab, 14, and ready to move to Tampa. Just like his brother Kerry and several other family members before him, he plans on transferring from Children's Palace grade 9 to a Florida Junior High's grade 10.
The most difficult part of continuing the education in the US is finding a place to stay and not everyone has family willing to take the students in. Ben Gough, a student in the same situation as Ramsey had to give up his aspirations of studying in an American High School because he doesn't have a family in US.

Food for Thought
Despite the concept of feeding the needy, the school lunch program administered in Bay Islands' schools develops and enforces poor dietary habits Hondurans suffer from already. Rice, beans, sardines and vegetable oil meals cooked by student parents or teachers themselves are hardly a solution to the children's nutrition situation, but shape the diets and eating habits of children in the county's public school system. Correspondingly problems with obesity and poor nutrition surface in Hondurans as young as 18.

At French Harbour public library a high school student receives free tutoring
from a US volunteer.

Municipal's Help
According to UN 23% of the Honduran budget, or round $422 million, is spent on education. Out of that, $3.7 million or 0.9%, goes to the Bay Islands. To relieve the need for new schools and maintenance, all Bay Islands Municipals had too step in with financial help.
Over the last 18 months, Roatan Municipal built 30 new classrooms at a cost of Lps. 6 million. While education scholarships at one point granted by Mayor Hynds are no longer offered, the Municipal is paying 36 salaries of English teachers, Lps. 130,000 a month, to teach at the public schools.

Can't Help Everyone
The premise about helping all the children is a difficult one. If anything, you can save the brightest children and help them succeed in getting ahead. The few children that succeed in Bay Islands public schools succeed not because of them, but despite them. Half of children enrolled in Roatan Bilingual School are ladino, and according to Cheryl Galindo, owner of the school, it is because their parents see a clear benefit of the private education system.

The Roatan public school system is as broken as anywhere else in Honduras. It cannot help itself, regardless good intentions. "Teachers blame parents, parents blame teachers, and everyone blames the government," says O'Brien. In a six month period, the commission wants to go through three phases: gathering information, analysis and finally designing a realistic model for improving the Bay Islands' education system.
The improvement issue might come to whether they will have to work within the existing national education structure or could they look at their own models. "We are looking at all options," says O'Brien.

Methodist Bilingual School cadets on September 15 parade

Textbooks
Few Roatan schools, let alone students, have even a complete set of text books. The only books available to teachers are for Spanish and Math. O'Brien took on the system to equip an education center at Sandy Bay Public School near her home. "After six month of lobbying, the Ministry of Education finally sent us a complete set of books,"says O'Biren.
Still, just having the books does not solve the issue. The books offered by the government are held in such low esteem that families of the Corozal Public School decided to buy a set of Santilla books, at Lps. 250 each, for their children instead of getting the government ones.
"We assemble our own books to teach from," says Estefi Romero, 28, director and teacher of the Brick Bay's Fausto Miguel School. "The new books lack definitions of terms and stories of witches are inappropriate." Many Bay Islands teachers feel uncomfortable using the materials provided by Central Education Ministry. They prefer using school books published by Santilla and Division Publica, Spanush language publishers of school books.

Where are the Bay Islands?
There is no mention of Bay Islands in the text books provided by the government in grades 1 through 6. The first reference of Spanish conquistadors in Honduras is not the 1505 Columbus landing on Guanaja, but 20 years later Hernan Cortez coming to Puerto Cortez. The Honduran education authorities would rather lose 20 years of its history than acknowledge the Bay Islands in its history books.
The new books provided by the government base the educational strategy on educating through a story. But among stories of witches, peasants and city children there is not a single story about the Honduras' islanders. The Honduras education system is not only neglectful; it is purposely omitting the heritage of some of its people.

The Method
Most teaching done in the Bay Islands' public schools is done in two classroom schools, far away from any supervision. Many teachers are uncomfortable using the new Spanish language books as they contain stories about witches and goblins. "They don't teach it for religious reasons," says O'Brien. Whatever the reason maybe, the public school teachers make their individual decisions if and how to use the textbooks in the classrooms. Many teachers just follow their own methodology of teaching with little supervision and no accountability. According to Andy Watler, no teacher has ever been fired from their post in the Bay Islands.

Example of Cooperation
The current illiteracy ration of 40%-60% didn't apply in the Bay Islands until the 80s when the ladino migration to the archipelago created a class of illiterate and semi-literate adults. Twenty five years ago, almost every Islander would go to school, and would be able to read and write, many times, in two languages. As the school enrollment ratio has gradually declined on the islands to reflect the mainland 50% enrollment, illiteracy grew.
An example of how things used to be in an education structure is the community of 800 people of Saint Helene island where there are two schools. The government school in which 150 students are enrolled is staffed by four teachers who commute to the island from Oak Ridge. Because of the commute, the classes are really only given on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
The islands private school, Helene Bilingual School FBEL has 97 students. Larry Benson, director of the school, says that 60-70% of the school's children have their $150-$300 monthly tuition paid for by sponsors in the US. At the same time, FBEL organizes and pays for construction of the roof and school supplies of the government school. The private school is training four island women to eventually take the educational responsibilities from the school's American teachers.

Private Helping Public
Saint Helene's EFBEl isn't the only private school cooperating with a public school. According to ex-department BI director of education Marta Herrera, there are 537 scholarships for study in the public schools. "There is a way to exchange knowledge, share our curriculum to walk together towards the same goal," said Herrera about public and private school cooperation in the Bay Islands.
Herrera was in charge of a Lps. 70 million budget, around 400 public school teachers and 200 private school teachers. With all the vested parties, it is sometimes difficult to see a consistency of efforts. "We have to invest in our children's education, but everyone is pulling in different directions," said Galindo about the BI Education Commission work.

University Anyone?
When O'Brien first came through the doors of the Sandy Bay School in 2005, the facilities were abysmal. "520 children in a 5-room school. No working toilets or running water," O'Brien describes of the school. To raise funds and improve the situation, O'Brien came up with a novel way of fundraising.
Every Thursday at 6:30pm a crab race is held at Bay Islands Beach Resort owned and managed by O'Brien. Between March and December 2006, the races raised $10,000 that was used to purchase computers, redo plumbing, wiring and create a first of its kind learning center at the Sandy Bay Elementary School. The attitude of the Sandy Bay students improved dramatically.
O'Brien isn't alone in trying to make a difference. Shelli Heil, 40, an ex-business owner who in February moved to Roatan from the US, has devoted herself to launching a mentoring and counseling program to the few Roatanians that are thinking of college.
Heil wanted to make a difference, but decided that instead of fighting the system from top down, she could accomplish most if she works with students individually. On July 14, students were partnered with five tutors, US medical students already volunteering at the Clinica Esperanza in Sandy Bay.
Heil set up a mentoring program for students in grades 9-11 thinking about going on to University. The tutoring takes place at the French Harbour's Library, a place full of books and learning equipment that looks empty, abandoned by island youth. The only people using the library were the tutors and their students.
What Heil found out that students lack understanding of how to go about applying to universities. "There were many people that promised these children a lot and never delivered," said Heil.
In all, there are around 10 organizations in the Bay Islands attempting to improve the education situation in the island department. The primary education efforts eventually translate into university education opportunities for some of islands youth. "In this country everyone seems to think that education ends at sixth grade," says O'Brien. According to O'Brien, out of the 15,000 students in the department, 404 graduated from high school in 2006 and less then 10, that is 1/20 of 1%, went on to a university.

What Can Happen?
While it is unrealistic to count on changing the Hondurans attitude towards education, you can try a few ambitious programs that could change the fate of a small Honduran department.
Today, to give their children opportunity of getting ahead, Islanders send their children away to Tegucigalpa, San Pedro and La Ceiba. If anything, maybe Bay Islands could be a place where island children stay for their education, all the way through the university.
To improve the archipelago's education environment in any significant and meaningful way, thinking outside the box is needed. Part of that help can came from developing a strong scholarship system to private Bay Islands schools to support the talented youth and relieve the overstretched public system. Other help can come from individual programs run by pragmatically, realistically thinking individuals and organizations.
It will take courage to enact a Bay Island wide education reform. Considering the rigidity of the government education system and vested interests of public teachers' unions, reform looks even less likely. It is also much easier to support the failed governments' educational program and, despite all its failings, just throw money at it. The Honduran education system is broken and no one department strategy is likely to help this in a significant way. Even with good ideas and good will, you cannot fix, or perfect something that is failing at the core.
Florida Hospital volunteers paint a mural at the French Harbour community clinic.
Accident Express: Riding 40 miles an hour construction workers commute back to their homes on the back of lorry trucks

 
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The Taboo of Culture & Race by Thomas Tomczyk
In the Bay Islands, the 200 years of rivalry and armed conflict between English islanders and Spanish was followed in 1853 with 150 years of ambiguous neglect on the part of the Honduran government and disdain on the part of the islanders.
For all this time Bay Islanders' different ethnic, religious and cultural groups have settled and stayed in different parts of the island interacting with each other only in town, at work, and on the streets. Catholic Garifuna stayed in Punta Gorda, black protestants settled in Sandy Bay and Flowers Bay, while white islanders built their homes near good harbors and sheltered southern slopes of French Cay and Jonesville.
In his 1966 book The People of French Harbour: A study of Conflict and Change on Roatan Island, David K. Evans identified in the Bay Islands a scale of social stratification based on skin color. The long-in-use derogatory expressions of: 'caracoles,' 'Spaniards,' 'indios' and 'negritos,' have taken on a new life. The initial disdain that they carried, has washed down, but by no means disappeared.
While foreigners who arrived on the islands intermarried with all these groups and integrated, the late arriving ladinos had to build their homes in the interior of the islands, then crowded the booming areas of Los Fuertes and squatted by the side of the road and on land that they were "allowed to watch."
While foreigners, mostly English speaking, were welcomed, the Spaniards- symbolizing the governing Honduras, were treated with mistrusts. As rich ladino families took on English as their language and over time managed to become "islanders," most poor ladinos remained on the island's periphery. Over the last 10 years their numbers have grown to where they form half of Roatan's population.
No one wants to be considered the bottom of the totem pole. Ladinos, while the biggest group on the islands, make up its widening bottom base, but occupy that place with ill ease.
Deep suspicions within all Bay Islands communities remain and simmer. They rise to the surface in times of conflicts and elections. Recent such occasions came during RECO disturbances, foreigner and ladino land conflicts, and then most recently during the Barbaret boat deaths.
Foreigners who could understand Spanish watched in disbelief as slogans of "get out gringos who steel our land and kill us" were repeated over and over again. This took place on air on Channel 4 and Channel 9, during the call-in "news" shows that are set-up for entertainment and resemble a cross over between Jerry Springer and Imus. The TV personalities dominating these shows are all ladino as are most of their callers.

Within three days after the Barbaret incident, patronatos vice president, another ladino, marched through the streets of Coxen Hole with a loudspeaker shouting "get out Gringos who take away our beaches!" A few moments later, a semi-comical moment came as a Flowers Bay black islander man told the crowd, "We're running all the 'Choreados' (dirty Spaniard) off our island!"
Ladinos used "the Gringo" as a distraction to hide their own mistrust and resentment of the white islanders and black population. The Barbaret incident exposed deep seeded resentment that the ladinos feel towards the foreigners.
While these people reflect on the society that surrounds them, what was revealed is scary. Ladino community is insecure, full of suspicions, and harboring a sense of conspiracy. Ladinos often look at foreigners both with envy and disdain. They want to be wealthy like them, but at the same time they resent their economic status. The foreigners, categorized by most ladinos as 'Gringos,' are often in verbal conflicts reminded that they are only guests here. The inability of many foreigners to regulate their legal status makes them particularly vulnerable.
Foreigners also are not without fault either. They often harbor and speak out with a sense of superiority and self importance. They put down the islanders for their "laziness and apathy" and ladinos for their "lack of education and stubbornness." Foreigners often grow a sense of resentment of the incompetent and abusive central government that changes laws, but doesn't follow them and can be bribed with a few hundred Lempiras.
Amongst the Bay Island's foreign consignment, it is perhaps the Canadians and Americans that are most notorious for their inability and unwillingness to learn Spanish. This fact is often misconstrued as threatening to the ladinos, who show the same disinterest and opposition at learning English.
These cultural, racial and religious tensions and conflicts are usually a taboo subject in Honduras and on the Bay Islands. While many Hondurans and Bay Islanders would like to see themselves as one big happy family, the reality is quite different. Their archipelago all through its history has harbored a deeply rooted conflict that is cultural, racial and religious in nature.
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Barbaret’s falling out

Foreigners and authorities meet to discuss the incident and its repercussions.

The foreigners at the meeting were concerned more with the aftermath of the incident and the scapegoat of foreigners in the local media. Several people raised concerns that both Roatan TV stations, run by Spanish speaking staff, have accused Kelcy Warren, an American owner of Barbaret, of ordering or personally killing the Helen island youth. "I was frightened of what Roberto [Romero] was saying and how far he was inciting the people," said Helen Murphy, an American living on Roatan, about a Channel 4 TV personality.
Channel 4 owner, Marco Galindo, agrees that the Barbaret coverage crossed a line: "These guys [Channel 4 personalities] are not very smart and when people call in, it makes a big commotion." While Galindo says that Channel 4 coverage is far from being journalism, he still gives his TV staff a wide degree of independence.
A different take on the matter had Congressman Jerry Hynds. "It was the Spanish media that took advantage of this. They [just] didn't want to say Spanish guys killed some black boys," said Congressman Hynds. "There was always a great rivalry between island people and Spanish people." As Bay Islands grow and the wealth gap amongst its residents widens, foreigners will likely play an active role in this "rivalry."

Tim Blanton, an American resident on Roatan asks a question.
The death of three Helene Island youth in a boat ramming and the Spanish TVs coverage of the incident became the focus of the meeting at Coral Cay on June 6. Around 50 foreigners listened to the authorities' version of what took place and then voiced their concerns. "This was no accident. This was premeditated murder," said Congressman Hynds.
Congressman Hynds and Governor Thompson agreed that arrests were made swiftly and the judicial process was taking place as it should. Still, at least some Saint Helenians were leaving nothing to chance. "We have people who trace them, so the authorities just wouldn't let them go on the mainland," said Wally Bodden, Santos Guardiola councilman, about the three men arrested for ramming the Saint Helene boat.
Cubans in Sandy Bay
Taking advantage of strong southern winds and currents, another boat filled with Cubans lands on Roatan

According to the Cuban migrants, and contradictory to Honduran press speculations, the only people making money and, in an organized manner, earning a living from the boat transport of Cubans to Honduras, are the boat builders.
The "La Dichosa" cost the 13 migrants 200,000 Cuban pesos, or $8,000. Ten of them paid $800 each to purchase a place in a five meter long wood boat lined with fiberglass and equipped with supplies and fuel to last them till Cayman Islands. The increase in demand for the boats ready to reach Honduras has increased the price charged by the boat builders. Two years ago you only needed $400," says Carlos Carbajal, a diesel mechanic who came with the 13 Cubans.
Accusations of boats being picked up at high seas and then towed just short of Honduran coast don't hold much water. Bay Islands Voice has analyzed every case of Cubans landing on Roatan and verified that they came through Cayman Islands on a date provided by the crew. With a sail, a drift speed of 2-3 miles an hour is well in line with the time between leaving Caymans and arrival in Honduras. Also the feasibility of towing flimsy 15-17 foot vessels for days seems more dangerous that the actual endeavor of sailing it for 8-12 days.
While accusations are exchanged on who profits from the immigration of Cubans, the main reasons for them undertaking this perilous journey remain the same: the lack of Honduran-Cuban agreement on repatriation of migrants without passports or visas.
According to the Manzanillo 13, two boats have disappeared bringing the Cubans to Honduras. In January 2007, a boat with 15 people on board departed Manzanillo and was not seen again and in March of 2006, a boat with seven people went missing. With the reported one, even two boats leaving Gramma for Honduras every week, the chances of successful crossing are still with the migrants. Bay Islands Voice estimates in the most suitable for crossing months of January through June that as many as 30 boats with around 400 Cubans left for Honduras. While some are turned back by Cuban coast guard, deemed un-seaworthy in Cayman Islands, or picked up in international waters by US coast guards and returned, the majority do make it to Honduras' shore and eventually to the US. Around 5% of the migrants die in the endeavor.
The "La Dichosa" 13 and Rev. Fredy Cabreras of the Roatan Catholic Church in front of the Coxen Hole police station.
The 13 left the town of Manzanillo, Gramma province on June 27. They stopped in Caymans to take provisions and continued for another seven days and 350 miles towards Honduras. Their five meter wood boat named "La Dichosa" (the Lucky One) was equipped with two Lombardini engines. On American Independence Day, the boat crossed the Sandy Bay channel and landed on the beach. Within hours the Cubans were transported by the police to the Coxen Hole station.
While private individuals, churches and Roatan Fire Department rushed to help the Cubans with gifts of food, clothes and shelter, this group received less help than previous ones. Mayor Dale Jackson, who in two previous occasions of Cubans landing on Roatan has in one case paid for the migrants hotel and in the other for their daily food, has not even appeared to meet with the "La Dichosa" 13. "I asked the immigration if I could visit them, but they never answered me," said Mayor Jackson, whose ill handling of the matter could aid in the [BRING ABOUT A] resurfacing of accusations of his involvement in the smuggling of the Cubans that appeared in the mainland press in March and caused a national scandal.
"Based on a meeting with Herman Espinal, the immigration officials would contact us if they needed any help," explained Manuel Serrano, Roatan Municipal chief of administration, on the matter. "It was avoiding a confrontation." According to Serrano, Roatan taxpayers spent around Lps. 85,000 for each of the two groups of Cuban refugees that landed on the island in the last year.
Every Cuban that landed on Roatan on July 4 had family member who have come to Honduras on a boat. "My cousin is going to school in Nevada," said a woman. "My brother is already working in Miami," stated another migrant man.
Fixing Island Quadrupeds

A Group of Veterinary Students aim their scalpels at Roatan pets

On July 2, the clinic worked out of West End, then moved for two days to Dixon Cove, on the site of BI Environmental Equipment Rental. While the pet owners watched, four doctors assisted the veterinary students in performing examinations and surgeries. Nidia Hernandez, from Flowers Bay, brought her 9-month old dog Onix, a lab-mutt mix, to take advantage of the streamlined spade procedures. "My nine cats are neutered and I wanted take advantage of the Lps. 50 procedure," said with a smile Hernandez.
This is the third time in two years a student veterinary group was brought to Roatan by Dr. Fleming. While Dr. Fleming plans a move to the island within a year, he also hopes to continue the U of Florida student trips.
According to Dr. Baird Fleming, as many as 40% of dogs on Roatan have Ehrlichia, the brown tick born disease. Dr. Fleming estimates that around 20% of dogs on the island suffer from heart worm and many have various skin diseases. Particularly dogs which are brought by their owners from cooler climates find adaptation to Roatan's weather difficult and a cause of skin problems.
Two dogs lay head to paw on an operating table staffed by University of Florida veterinary students and doctors.
The first week of July was the best time to sterilize your pet companion. Nine University of Florida veterinary students, members of CIVO club (students for International Volunteer Opportunities), showed up on the island for a week long visit of consultations and cultural immersion. Their visit was coordinated by Roatan Animal Rescue (ROAR), a group of community members working on improving lives of domesticated animals on the island.
The students paid $1,000 each, to spade, neuter and diagnose a couple hundred island animals. Performing around 20 surgeries a day, the students, all members of Students for Volunteer Opportunities Club, worked under the supervision of four veterinary doctors.
Stadium and Hospital for Roatan
Municipal Construction projects kick in high gear

The Minister of Health has made a written offer to fund a hospital and the equipment. According to Governor Arlie Thompson it is the South Korean government that offered to fund the project for Lps. 500 million ($26.4 million) funneling the money through central government. As a bonus, architectural plans of the Tela hospital were offered to the Roatan Mayor free of charge.
A condition of the money coming in was the municipal finding and purchasing an appropriate building site for the hospital. In response, Roatan Municipal purchased 28 acres in Dixon Cove, 100 meters from the main road and behind Vegas Electric. The site is planed to serve also as a location for a new municipal sports stadium.
The flatter portion of the site will be used for the stadium and parking lot, with the slopes of the nearby hills used as the base for stadium seating. The stadium according to Mayor Dale Jackson will have "one third of what La Ceiba stadium seating is," and will serve for Municipal use. La Ceiba's Nilmo Edwards stadium can accommodate 22,000 people.
Another 5.5 acre building site in Spring Garden that the municipal is in the process of purchasing is planned to house future Preventiva Police, DGIC, Fiscalia, courthouse and a fire station.

The site of the future Roatan stadium
For Roatan Municipal government, 2008 is beginning to look like the busiest construction year to date. As hospital, stadium, police and fire station are planned, the center of gravity of the island is shifting east of Coxen Hole to Dixon Cove. The community is already home to Galaxy terminal, planed Carnival Cruise terminal, Coral Cay conference center and soon, a municipal stadium for 7,000 people and a 100 bed Roatan hospital.
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H2o for the Poor By Jenny Roberts

a Sandy Bay Pastor Offers a Gift of Water

According to nurse Strangers of Clinica Esperanza, since the rains have stopped, the Colonia health problems caused by contaminated water have risen from by 25%. "It is just a matter of time before cholera will be in the Colonia if the water and sewage problems are not corrected," says Dr. Robert Buckingham, an epidemiologist from University of New Mexico, who recently visited the Colonia.
Pastor Chuck, partnering with Henry Zittrower, founder of Living Water 4 Roatan, began a temporary fix for the Colonia's water problem on May 7, hauling purified drinking water in trucks every Tuesday and Thursday, as many as a dozen trips each day to bring about 5,000 gallons a day. Pastor Chuck says, "Our good God provided an abundant water source from the well on Henry's land, which is the site for the treatment system," a MIOX system that is able to purify 330 thousand gallons of water a day for 100 lempiras per 1,000 gallons. The MIOX is the only water treatment system known to purify even chlorine-resistant parasites by using mixed oxidants.
Pastor Chuck and Henry recently obtained permission from landowners and ran water lines along property lines from Henry's well to the Church of God's Prophecy in the Colonia. This emergency clean water line, which alleviates the need to truck water, has been distributed daily since June 12.
During the weeks of hauling water by truck, six-year-old Josue was in the crowd already gathered and waiting under the shade of some banana trees when Pastor Chuck's little Mitsubishi pulled up. All sorts and sizes of empty containers waited as well. The distribution process seemed almost quiet and reverent, with people queuing up and helping each other, except for Josue and other little shirtless boys who were all yelling "aqui!" to the water-gun wielding, boyishly grinning Pastor Chuck.
Pastor Chuck and Henry Zittrower, working with mission teams and community members, are currently moving forward on a big vision for Josue and the rest of his community: two new wells, along with Henry's existing well, all connected to a new pump booster station and an 60,000 gallon water tank above Policarpo, complete with distribution mainlines, valves, fitting meters and meter boxes… plenty of cups of cold water.

Residents of Policarpo Galindo gathering water.
While rewards might be few and far between when you're washing another pot in the kitchen or digging another waterline trench, the people of Son Rise Calvary Church and Mission Hotel keep handing out cups of cold water, whether in the "soup kitchen" line on Sundays, on the volleyball court out back, or from the back of a truck in the Colonia.
Pastor Chuck Laird, who before coming to Roatan owned a small water treatment company in California, is mostly quiet and soft-spoken (even when he's preaching). He's more a man of action, especially on behalf of the residents of Clinica Policarpo Galindo Colonia, where the families of over 400 homes have been without well water for over eight months. He relates with a burdened heart what he's seen there.
"When their wells went dry, they started digging into the gray water ditches to get water for cooking, cleaning, bathing and drinking. Tiny children, as small as Carlton (his two year old), wrap their entire bodies around these five-gallon water jugs to haul them five or ten steps up, then rest. Then do it again another five or ten more steps, and again and again, until they make it up to their homes…with jugs full of parasite-infested ditch water."

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