Networking for a Cause
An Annual Conference in Copan Brings together Nonprofits from around Honduras

November 1st, 2008
by Thomas Tomczyk

[private]

One of the conference tables and podium at the Copan Ruinas Municipality.

One of the conference tables and podium at the Copan Ruinas Municipality.

Medical brigades, church groups, university organizations, and private individuals all took part in Copan’s Conference on Honduras. Around 120 people attended the sixth annual conference which filled the mountain town from October 1 through October 4. The conference was held at the Copan Ruinas Municipal Building in a meeting room with 20 round tables and a floor covered with pine needles.

Roughly three quarters of the attendees were not Honduran, most either from the US or Canada. Several nonprofits came to the Honduran mountain town from the Bay Islands: Clinica Esperanza from Roatan, Kids Matter International of Roatan and Ahmen from Utila, amongst them.

One of the nonprofits attending the conference was Farm of the Child, an orphanage and healthcare center in Trujillo. The program began in 1993 and is run by Sisters of Saint Francis. “This is a magic place where an angry, abused boy becomes a caring, big brother,” said Cameo Schad, a teacher and social worker of the clinic.

Many attendees used the conference as an opportunity to network, brainstorm and sometimes just bring to light their accomplishments. The annual conference has become a fest for spreading the news about what all the Honduran nonprofits are doing and focuses on three topics: education, healthcare and community building. “There is no membership fee. I want people to use Project Honduras as a forum, to come together , to get ideas and to find contacts,” said Marco Caceres, founder of Project Honduras.

This year Project Honduras’ phenomena even attracted a PhD candidate, Sharon McLennan, working on a doctorate, “Discovering an unconventional movement for change.” Project Honduras’ model could spread to other countries. “People I come across from other [third world] countries always tell me that they never came across this type of a system. It’s a shame, because it is so easy to emulate,” said Caceres.

It all began in November 1998 following Hurricane Mitch, when Project Honduras website was launched. In 2000 the first “Conference on Honduras,” an extension of Project Honduras, was organized. For three years it was held in the Italian Community Center on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC attracting about 100 people each year. Few attendees were Honduran and in 2003 the conference moved to Honduran soil in Copan Ruinas.

Honduras is a growing place for volunteer tourism, a perfect place for Americans to volunteers: poor, only two hours by flight from the US, and with enough infrastructure to provide comfort for volunteers accustomed to first world amenities. [/private]

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