HIS UC CLASSROOM WAS IN HONDURAS
“I was able to weave the opportunity to live and work abroad into my master’s thesis, which I’m now completing. It relates to levels of trust, social capital and social networks and how they affect community members’ desires to participate in their community,” explains Rod, who just returned in February 2006 from his Peace Corps service in Santa Fe, Honduras. And because of extra classes he took before leaving and this quarter as well as the academic credit he received because of his service via the Peace Corps/School of Planning partnership, he’ll be set to graduate in August 2006.
Next stop for Rod and his wife will be Washington, D.C., where he wants to use his community planning degree and his international experience in the field of international development, specializing in promoting democracy and good governance at the grass-roots level in Latin America.
Rod and Devona spent two years – from February 2004 to February 2006 – in Honduras. He worked in the area of community/municipal development while Devona, a pharmacist, worked in the area of health education.
“It’s really a find-your-own way kind of situation,” explains Rod. “At first, I really didn’t know what to do in a practical sense – focus on technical skills and computer-related training, work on grants or conduct workshops related to the environment and small business or just do various projects that came up, like starting a library.”
But slowly, Rod did find his way, even so far as trying to learn to fish with just a line and a hook (no pole) and making himself understood in another language.
He recalls that his accent, at first, was a source of great amusement to the children in Santa Fe, which is located on Honduras’ northeastern coast. “For a while, the kids in the community liked to climb onto the tin roof of the house where Devona and I lived. They were trying to pick marmonas (a large grape-like fruit) from a tree that grew adjacent to the house. I’d yell at them to get down, and the kids decided they really liked to hear the funny guy and his funny way of talking. So, once marmona season was over, they threw rocks up onto the roof to get me to yell at them. They thought my accent was hilarious,” Rod says.
Normally, the bottles littered the community because there is trash-collection service in the area. However, by using the bottles for construction, they came to be seen as having economic value, which also fostered environmental improvement.
Far better than the construction, environmental or education projects that Rod and Devona built in Honduras are the relationships and friendships they similarly founded. Says Rod, “When it came time to leave, we were going to ride to the capital in the back of a pick-up truck. We were ready to go, and suddenly, so many people piled into the bed of the truck with us to accompany us on our trip. They wanted to ride with us to see us off, to spend every possible moment with us.”
“I don’t think I realized until then what an impact our presence had had.”
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