We received huge help came from the local department of transportation recently. They had big machinery working on a road near us and they said that for only the price of fuel, they would help us level land for more buildings and a road. In only a couple hours and for only $50, we leveled out what would have taken months to do by shovel. We made space for a dorm building for groups and volunteers, a place for the future home of the Furrow family, and the start of the road to get to them.
Just this past week we were able to purchase a storage unit, which will be another big help. Right now our "office" is really the storage building for all the things that have been donated to care for children. We were thinking about all the volunteers and groups coming this year, wondering where they would be sleeping, when this new storage option became available. Jason certainly likes to tease me (Sarah) about my love of storage, but it comes in handy.
This 3rd house has come up fastest by far, with the walls shooting up in a matter of weeks. Even though we have fewer construction workers at the moment, they've been more focused on a single project, and we've really seen the results. We are so excited to see things coming together this fast.
We are reminded again of how soon these homes will be filled with children.
The other day a man came by and said he had a baby monkey for sale. Jason has a soft spot for such pets and it may have ended up as someone else's dinner if we weren't interested in buying it, so we now own a baby monkey. We think she is about 2 months old, but since we just got her, we haven't even looked up what breed she is or anything. And you'd never guess it, but banana is her favorite food. We're still working on a name...
Well, we didn't anticipate how much we would get into agriculture when we moved to Honduras, but so it is. We think that we can grow great food for kids and that this will help us provide for them and be partially self-sustaining. We think that this will be a great environment for kids to grow up in, where they learn the value of hard work and methods of providing for themselves in the future.
Where we live, agriculture is how nearly everyone makes a living. We heard some wise advice recently that we've taken to heart: the world survives through agriculture and so we shouldn't be just trying to give people other careers and moving them into the cities. What they need are methods and specialization to be farmers that aren't poor farmers. So, we want to invest in agricultural projects to help our community and to teach the children we care for, while educating them, opening their horizons, and giving them options for their lives. Poverty is a lack of options.
So, enough theory. We have planted 10 acres of mahogany in the past year and we have more mahogany and teak starts growing. We have two acres of coffee that produce well and we are considering planting more. We have an acre of bananas and plantains that should start producing in about six months. The plan is to see which varieties of bananas and plantains do best for us, so we can plant more of that type.
We planted several hundred fruit trees last year, of various types, and we have about 130 more fruit tree seedlings that we recently grafted. The cashew trees we started have done extremely well and we have about 100 to plant. Recently we tried some Asian vegetables in the garden and they did really well, so we're hoping to do some more experimenting in this department, as we continue learning about vegetable gardening in the tropics.
The newest project has been researching vanilla. We had about 20 vanilla vines planted and then Jason discovered that we have a small island in our river just about covered with vanilla. We're hoping it's the same variety, so we can make our very own vanilla bean ice cream and of course have beans to sell. But the tricky thing with vanilla is that it only flowers like 2-3 days a year and you have to be out there to hand pollinate it when it does.
One poor tree behind our house is so heavy with mangoes that it's branches are breaking off. Four branches fell in less than a day, so we put in supports for a couple of the remaining branches, in hopes that they'll hold on. The bucket in the photo was about half of what we gathered from the fallen branches. We're hoping they ripen up well. We love mangoes!
As we get more involved in the life of our village, Urraco, we've tried to offer creative opportunities for families to increase the quality and variety of their diet. Our tropical climate allows many varieties of fruits and vegetables to grow that would never grow in my native Indiana. Mangoes, avocados, oranges, and all kinds of trees can greatly increase the quantity of food a family has and improves the nutrition that parents can offer their children.
We had about 20 people respond to the invitations, and they had the chance to listen to the grafting specialist teach about grafting mango, rambutan, and avocado trees. Each of the participants got a chance to graft a tree, and then take that tree home and plant it on their property.
In the past couple of months we've had the chance to teach English classes in our local elementary school, hosted a community fun day for young people in three villages, hosted a community movie night, and put on this grafting clinic. All of these have been well attended and have helped us build relationships with our community. Thanks for helping us reach out to our community that has so many needs.
Every year in Honduras, and many other countries that are heavily influenced by Catholic traditions, the week before Easter is celebrated as Holy Week, or Semana Santa in Spanish. Classes are suspended during this week, and children everywhere spend time playing soccer and swimming in the many rivers.
In our area, there are so few activities for children to be a part of. Just like in the US, television takes up a lot of young peoples' free time. We wanted to offer young people in our area, a fun activity to participate in during their week of vaction. So, with the help of a group from Radiant Life Church in Indiana, we hosted a Kids Day. We invited children from Urraco (our village), San Luis (a village that's about 45 minutes up a path from our village), and Japon (Japan, a small village just down the road).