Volunteer Work Continued: Jim and His Dumps

Who would have known that one day we would be living in the tropics on the Caribbean Sea? Well, it is all happening, but at times it is a bit different than I thought. Jim takes me to dumps, he talks about them, and he tells me what goes on in his meetings about the trash issues in different villages. Not what I was expecting at all!

There is a need for not only villages, but even larger cities, to revamp their dumps. Most are just a dirt road off the side of the main highway where people dump their own trash; some have their trash picked up by a collection company, maybe the municipality just to be dumped in the same way. There are no protection measures for the environment to limit exposure to people, animals, ground water, or nearby water sources at all. And there is not much recycling going on either. Jim is working with one village, Masica, around 45 minutes by bus from La Ceiba to help with their landfill issues. This is a serious issue, but I have heard some funny stories about that one particular dump. Like the man who is living at the dump who pulls out some recyclable materials and lives with trash piling up around his ramshackle home. Can you imagine? But at least he now has a job, he recycles! This is one way, albeit sad, of turning lemons into lemonade! Another time going to this dump, on a rainy day, the truck got stuck in the mud. Jim said it is not the first time and probably not the last time that that he will get stuck in the mud at a landfill. Jim came home caked in it, but he still had his shoes, as his co-volunteer worker, Matt, lost his flip flops deep in the mud! Matt is the country organizer for a nonprofit called, Global Community Development.


Masica Dump

Okay, Jim is not only down in the dumps in Honduras, he is helping with others issues as well. One area is water systems for villages without running water and the other is water sanitation systems for sewer water. Another vision I did not have before coming here is unclean swimming water. Come on, it is the Caribbean for crying out loud! My husband has ruined all the beauty that was set in my mind. We are living on the Caribbean Sea, yet we can not swim in the water close to our apartment, or even five miles either way. The sewer water from all the upstream villages runs down several rivers and then through La Ceiba. La Ceiba’s sewer water and other industrial pollution runs into that same river taking all that crap, literally, straight into the sea. Lovely! I would not think of these things, if it were not for my husband. Ignorance is bliss…unless you get giardia or some other nasty bugs!

Do not get me wrong, not all the rivers and the sea are polluted, there is tons of beautiful fresh water coming from springs in the mountain a few minutes up the rivers outside of town, and 15 minutes outside of La Ceiba the sea is that crystal clear, turquoise blue color we all love and believe it to be down here.


Clean Water Photos

Jim just recently went with Matt to the Village of Corral Falso to get information they need to start the design process for their water system. The village has about 200 people, 20 men came out to help them. This is a great sign because we have learned if the villagers are involved they will take ownership and want to keep it in good working order. The funny thing is that this trip was just for info gathering and they did not have a lot of equipment, so one man carried a surveyor’s rod, one carried some kind of bag full of small equipment, one carried the theodolite, and so on.


Yoro Projects

One of Jim’s first volunteer activities was designing a building for an environmental leadership school in a small village of about 500 people, El Naranjo on the Congrejal River. A friend, Jessa, is trying to make this dream happen. Her boss, Oscar, owner of the Banana Republic Guest House in La Ceiba and The Jungle River Lodge near El Naranjo, has donated land in the village for this non-profit school. By the way, we love The Jungle River Lodge, rustic, natural and way over the top beautiful.

Anyway, the school project is in the infancy stage. Jessa needed to know what it would cost to build the school, so she could start a non-profit to raise the money. Things work slowly here in Honduras, but it is a great dream. And if I do say so myself, Jim did an awesome job designing the school! Check out Jessa’s Blog to get more information about the area and her work getting the school built.

I have also recruited Jim to work on the computers at Casa Del Nino. They have around 6 computers ranging from pretty darn old to not so old, all of them have viruses. The computers are not hooked up to the internet and mostly the boys use them just to play games. At some point in the past they were used for teaching basic computer skills. When we needed work done on our computer, our landlord, Gerald, brought Jim to a place where he knows the owner. After getting our computer fixed, Jim talked to the owner about the computer situation at the orphanage and the computer store owner has agreed to assist with volunteer technicians and parts. So, Jim is in the stages of working with the computer store staff to get the computers at the orphanage cleaned up, get them connected to the internet and then teach classes on how to use and fix computers. The boys are very excited about this program.

Jim helps out here and there for other things at the orphanage as well, like when we had photography day, Jim came to keep an eye on one of the cameras while the kids took pictures. They took a bunch of pictures of Jim. By the way, the boys love Jim. I think it is good for them to see a couple work together. I hope to get Jim to do a “shop” type of class as well because the boys have shown interest in learning construction skills. The boys do not have a couch, so I am hoping that maybe he can work with the boys to build an “L” shaped bench along the walls for a make shift type couch. We will see about that one, as wood is not cheap here and we do not have any building tools. It looks so sad with the boys trying to curl up on a plastic chair with no cushions to watch TV! Last week the director of the orphanage talked to me about wanting to talk to Jim about a new water system, even maybe with some warm water for the boy’s showers! Jim met with the director and is now working on sinks for the bathrooms (there is only showers and toilets in the bathrooms, no sinks!) a water purification system so the kids will have clean drinking water other than the five gallon jug and cup they all share and a water heater for the showers so the stubborn kids that don’t like to take cold showers will bathe more frequently. Uh, I think I will keep Jim busy in between his Engineers without Borders / Global Community Development work.

Although seeming to be plenty, Jim’s volunteer work here has been a bit frustrating for him at times as it is not an every day hands on type of thing. As I have mentioned before, Honduras works slow, so he may not even see some of projects gets started, much less finished, by the time we leave here. He keeps plugging along working as closely as he can with Matt to focus on smaller projects, so they can actually make the changes that are needed, instead of just talking a lot to city and municipality officials.

Our new motto is “One Step at A Time!”


From Buzzards at the Dump
From Buzzards at the Dump

Written by Dawn Balzarano and edited heavily by Jim Henderson

~ by My Gnome Little World on March 11, 2009.

One Response to “Volunteer Work Continued: Jim and His Dumps”

  1. The guy who lives at the dump reminds me of Sanford and Son. It’s the big one, Elizabeth!!! That’s funny that you’re writing this. I’m trying to put together a public workshop on landfill gas power generation.

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