August 3, 2008

Mrs. F's excellent adventure

Retired Canadian Anne Fowler has been working as a volunteer in Honduras since 1993. In 2006 she moved to a small north coast village where she constructed Hamilton Benest House, which provides accommodation for visiting dentists, doctors, teachers and other volunteers. Anne continues to develop new community initiatives and strives to make the lives of the Honduran poor "a little better". She divides the year between Honduras and her Haliburton cottage north of Toronto.

The following are some excerpts from a newsletter sent to friends and supporters in 2007:

Puppets teach healthy living, El Porvenir, HondurasUsing puppets to teach healthy living


This program has continued with 1,800 new students from schools in El Porvenir and surrounding communities. Once again the puppets were a hit as they told their educational stories to a fascinated audience. Participation by teachers and visitors were applauded. Fluoride, toothbrushes and eye acuity exams were given to all the children.

This year, we found several kids who required immediate help with their eyes…... notably, a thirteen year old girl named Delmi from the town of El Pino. She left school last year because she could no longer see the blackboard or even read. Born with cataracts, other problems had occurred and her sight had deteriorated to almost zilch. It’s an amazing testimony to her determination to have an education that she even reached grade 5.

It was decided to operate on Delmi’s “worst” eye and see what the results might be. They don’t want to touch the other eye because it may be the only vision she will have if the surgery was not successful. The best case scenario is the use of special contact lenses (hopefully in both eyes) and perhaps more surgery on the cataract in the “good” eye to improve it. Worst case scenario, she is fitted with a contact in the “good” eye which will bring her vision in that one eye to about 20/70……better than her situation now.

Eye exam, El Porvenir, HondurasIn either case it will be a long process but she should be able to return to school. Other cases that will be evaluated in Progreso next month include an 11-year-old boy who was hit in the eye with a mango last year and a 9-year-old girl who got nail polish remover in her eye (don’t ask) and they both have lost much of their vision. There are a couple of kids with such terrible short sightedness that we are also taking them to the clinic to get glasses.

All of these children come from very poor families who cannot afford such medical treatment.

This year was our first attempt at a “review program” for the schools where we had made our Healthy Living presentation with the skits last year.


has been put “on hold” due to a lack of participation. Realistically, I cannot expect every thing we try to be a success and sadly the enthusiasm had dropped for this program. Perhaps we will try again next year with a monthly rather than a weekly meeting.


Because Honduras has such a large problem with AIDS, this program is especially needed. We continued with the Grade 6 puppet presentations, and the high school seminars, and expanded to adult education with the employees of Standard Fruit Company. Three separate charlas (talks) were held, each led by a Peace Corp volunteer. Very well received, we have been asked by management to come back and do more.

students, El Porvenir, HondurasFEED A MIND PROGRAM (the library project)

El Porvenir has no library facility either in the community or the schools. After meeting with the elementary and high school directors, teachers, parents, the mayor….it was determined that a library located in each school would be the best solution for the students and that the community could have limited access to both. In Honduras, books cannot be removed from a library and must be used on the premises.

So now I had TWO libraries to establish. Where to get the money???? The high school library is a project that will be generously funded courtesy of a matching grant between the Rotary Club, Ames, Iowa and the Rotary Club of La Ceiba. Our mayor is building a separate room at the high school that will house the new library. This was an unexpected bonus as we thought we would have to use two adjoining classrooms already in existence. The teachers have approved my library space design and are busily preparing a list of books to purchase when the time comes later this year.

The elementary library is already well underway. In a large existing classroom, which was designated for the library, we have painted, installed electricity, a local carpenter is building the shelving, AV unit (for the TV and DVD player), tables, computer desks. Donated books are being shipped to Honduras. The rest of the books will be bought and so far I have enough money to buy 50% of the teachers’ “wish list”. Hopefully I can purchase the rest when I get back with more cookbook profits!!!


Originally was planned as an activity specifically for mothers and preschoolers to encourage reading stories (something they do not do here….no books) plus an introduction to English. At the request of teachers we are now incorporating the program into the kindergarten schedule. Once a week (moms are invited to attend) we spend 45 minutes reading/discussing stories and teaching introductory English vocabulary (i.e., numbers, days, common words) utilizing visual props and games. This is a big commitment for us since it must be an ongoing program without interruption. Next year teaching more English at the Grade 1 level will be included.


We have been working on the logistics of these initiatives and hope to introduce them in 2009:

free flouride treatment, El Porvenir, HondurasDental Program for Grades 4, 5, 6 at El Porvenir’s elementary school:

To further encourage good dental hygiene (read ANY dental hygiene) we plan to have a dentist with 2-3 hygienists visit every year. Ideally we will be able to get two teams to visit during the school year. I will be working hard during the summer to develop this program (since I won’t have that darn cookbook to write this year!)

Uniform Exchange Program:

We all know how much children want to be like everyone else. Although the school uniforms are cheap, there are some families who can’t afford to buy one and their kids feel “different” or simply don’t attend school. It affects self esteem and the child’s social orientation. I will be working with another Peace Corp Volunteer who lives in the nearby town of San Francisco and whose work for the Peace Corp centers around establishing small businesses. This proposed program is Bob Roxburgh’s great idea!

Recycling Program:

We have had several meetings between Standard Fruit and town officials. El Porvenir has no garbage pickup and generates a tremendous amount of plastic glass bottles etc. The current plan is to involve a few local women, students from the high school needing to do community service and a person from La Ceiba who is willing to pick it all up and pay for the recycled material.

Thank you for the guest blog article, Anne, and best of luck on your new programs. I'm particularly glad to see the uniform exchange and recycling programs as well as the health and reading efforts. If anyone would like to contact Anne, she can be emailed at anne.fowler (at)
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