Transforming Lives…. is what HOI’s mission in Honduras as been about. Methodically, through community ties and projects, villages and groups of willing and enthusiastic leaders have been identified that are ready to take the next step into sustainable, entrepreneurial living. In order to open these doors and secure these opportunities for the people of the Agalta Valley, several important partnerships had to be developed by HOI with local actors. Our economic development projects are simultaneously taking off thanks to the support of UNILEVER, Colgate, the National Gastronomic Association and Sheva.
In June, UNILEVER’s country sales manager visited Rancho El Paraiso and was so impressed with HOI’s work that we started on a Honduran version for Unilver’s very successful Project Shakti that was born in India. Shakti is an initiative to financially empower rural women and create livelihood opportunities for them. It provides a regular income stream for entrepreneurs and their families. 17 women are setting up shop in different communities with a UNILEVER catalog, subsidized consignment deals and direct contact with the regional representative for the house brands. Along with HOI staff, UNILEVER is providing training on basic accounting, selling skills and health and hygiene relevant to the products they sell. For HOI this is a multifaceted approach to our community improvement goals, where several households will increase their income and these communities will have affordable, in town access to health and hygiene products , thus reducing several of the skin conditions and afflictions our medical staff are treating. These items, as basic as soap and shampoo, can cost up to twice as much in the rural area than they do in the larger cities, through this program they will be sold at production cost. The participants will have the opportunity to make their business grow because, as they show responsible management, their access to the Unilever product universe will expand. Our target population is 150 women, reaching 130 communities.
Health and hygiene home attention is a priority for our medical program, luckily for us, Colgate Honduras has decided to contribute to our product and education campaign at the community and school levels. After a training session for our dentist and one of our nurses, Colgate donated boxes filled with learning material for a new group of dental health promoters that are to become part of a network of community and school mentors. These ladies are already contributing to the health of their neighbors by volunteering and assisting when the medical staff visits our rural clinics. Colgate will also help with some product donation to ensure we will be reaching all of our participants with everything they need. These ladies will also be enlisted when we begin with our female hygiene education campaigns, all thanks to Sheva, a Guatemala based non profit focused on female education. Sheva believes girls and young women are tomorrow’s game changers, but in order to reach their full potential they should be informed and aware of what they are capable of, but need to be empowered. Sheva’s work and community impact has been featured on Mashable, CNN, Huffington Post and been mentioned by the likes of Sheryl Sandberg and Melinda Gates. By sharing their interaction methodology and education material we hope to reach hundreds of young girls in our communities. An empowered woman is a step towards a healthier community, a sturdier family and an educated future.
HOI wants to take the Hondurans’ potential and enable them to thrive in all ways possible. It just so happens to be, that the National Gastronomic Association wants the same, and has enlisted HOI’s help. A group of boutique restaurants in Tegucigalpa, led by restaurateur Mandy Bermudez, are looking to help the local grower by bringing back popular Honduran cuisine. HOI will liaison between a group of restaurants and the Agalta Valley growers, enabling them to produce a set list of 11 items distributed in 4 communities to become an important part of the restaurant community’s supply chain. Other players would come in and partner up with HOI in order to make this as successful and sustainable as possible, such as IDE (International Development Enterprises) which would contribute with technical assistance in drip irrigation and USAID with their experience in the dry corridor in regards to the growing, quality assurance and commercial aspects of this endeavor. Because of previous bad experiences some of the potential participants have shied away from the project, but we are confident that all those involved are committed to a mission of partnerships, lessons and success.
When we treat a man as he is, we make him worse than he is; when we treat a man as if he already were what he potentially could be, we make him what we should be. – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe