SNRAS Master's International student Benjamin Rance is currently serving in La Jagua, Honduras, with the Peace Corps.
Rance sent his first update from the field recently:
My main focus in my community has been working with the Junta de Agua, the Waterboard. The community´s water project is not a secure and reliable way to provide the community with water, and the water quality is horrible. Most people in town get sick every month or so, but they are already accustomed to that and do not want to change the water source they have. On Feb. 1-4 I will be attending a Waterboard training held by the Peace Corps and I will be bringing the president of the Waterboard with me. He is a young man and doesn't have much leadership experience, so this will be a great opportunity for him. I am hoping to work on organizational things, such as planning meetings, having rules and agendas, and community responsibility.
Other projects that the community has been interested in are improved stoves and the construction of new pilas, or water storage places, for houses. I have been researching the different types of improved stoves, as well as the costs for constructing a pila or water tank.
The majority of my time in these first four months has been spent trying to gain the trust and confidence of the community, as these two things are going to be crucial to having successful projects in the future. I have spent a lot of time talking, drinking coffee, and just getting to know my community. Cultural interaction is a large part of the Peace Corps goals and should be given as much attention and importance as physical projects.
I am also planning with other Peace Corps volunteers in the area to have a Health Day in my site, as many of the kids frequently get sick due to unhealthy tooth brushing or wound treatments because many do not wear sandals when they run around. This will hopefully take place by the end of February.
That is the extent of my project work that I have done here. As far as my service relating to Native Peoples and Protected Areas, it is starting to look like I will be focusing less on that and more on water security and health issues affected by inadequate access to water. It is still early, and most Peace Corps staff tell me that volunteers really start to focus their efforts in their second year of service.
Rance is one of several SNRAS students enrolled in the Peace Corps Master's International Program. While serving in the corps he is also earning a master's degree in natural resources management. He has done course work at UAF before his assignment and will do more after his two years in Honduras. To discuss MIP options at UAF contact Associate Professor Susan Todd.
Any SNRAS associates interested in mailing letters or packages to Rance in Honduras, please contact Nancy Tarnai for information.