Where do Heart to Honduras community development projects come from?
The short answer is “from within a community.” Even though this answer may seem obvious, Heart to Honduras (HtH) spends a great deal of time and effort to ensure that this statement remains true. As you read through the solicitations you may notice that some wording and project names seem a bit strange. This is because these documents truly originate from the community, and we do our best to faithfully translate what it is that they want to communicate. As these concepts cross cultures and tongues, some peculiar language is certain to result.
As an organization, we believe that the most productive, sincere development efforts are those that are born in a community, led by the local church, and involve additional collaborators that function in a support role. These collaborators may be local, state, or national government, local landowners or businesses, sister churches, outside donors, or NGOs (like HtH).
An unfortunate outcome tends to occur when these collaborators interchange their support role for a more active role as initiator and/or executor. When an outside collaborator assumes the community’s appropriate role, this often directs the community into the role of passive recipient, reducing their involvement, ownership, and commitment to the project. This role-reversal can also damage a community’s self-image by implying that they are incapable of producing viable ideas or participating in worthwhile projects: a notion that many communities sadly begin to accept over time. In a worst-case scenario, this can lead to the community’s complete reliance upon outside support, a situation known as dependency
At Heart to Honduras, we believe that in order to decrease dependency and promote true holistic development, we must invest ourselves in a process that promotes dignity, self-sustainability, and hope in Christ, while recognizing the fact that a person must be addressed as a whole, not only a body or soul. This process begins when a community identifies its unique resources and then works to apply them to specific needs within the community. This approach is known as Asset-Based Community Development or ABCD. As a result, our Project Solicitation Process places the Honduran church in the role of protagonist in their community’s own story. At times this tale temporarily takes the turn of tragedy when the actors fail to rise to the challenge, having come to believe that they are incapable of greatness. But more often than not, we see these actors assume the mantle of victor, led by the hero Jesus, confronting challenges formerly seen as insurmountable. As a result, not only is a project completed, but hope is created. The local church becomes the catalyst of positive change, and Christ is glorified.
Due to our adoption of this process, we now ask North American partners (sister churches and other donors) to fill the support role, which for some is a change in the traditional way that missions have been approached. Although at times this role may be frustrating, most partners find it more rewarding in the long-term as its intrinsic benefits begin to manifest. We find that most sister church ties actually strengthen through this process as the Honduran church learns to fill the leadership role in the relationship.
In order to function effectively as an international bridge between Honduran and North American partners, we have created the HtH Department of Community Development that emphasizes the values described here. In practice, this department performs the following basic functions
Things we do as the Department of Community Development:
- Increase professionalism, accountability, and transparency for CPH, HtH, beneficiaries, and donors.
- Decrease dependency from Honduran communities on outside resources.
- Create a professional procedure available as a resource for pastors and community leaders to partner with HtH in development efforts.
- Provide training to pastors and local leaders.
- Meet with local pastors and leaders to help them determine their community’s unique self-sustainable development path.
- Encourage the community to identify their resources and utilize them to benefit the community.
- Receive and review project solicitations and budgets and send them to the indicated person.
- Facilitate collaboration between the community or church with outside entities (e.g. local government, other NGOs, US resources, sister churches etc.)
- Perform field visits to gather information and then send to the indicated person.
- Provide ongoing supervision and support for larger, more involved projects (e.g. electricity, water, sanitation, etc.)
Things we do not do as the Department of Community Development:
- Participate in projects that do not involve the community or local church.
- Participate in projects that do not both originate in the local church or community and follow the official solicitation process from the beginning.
Workflow and process for the Department of Community Development:
- Honduran community or church solicits project with Department of Community Development.
- Department reviews solicitation and budget including any required legal documentation and acquires two quotations if necessary.
- Department performs pre-project field visit.
- Department reviews, translates, approves, and posts project to Sponsor Projects page.
- Upon receipt of required resources, Department of Community Development notifies the Purchasing Department to purchase any required materials.
- a) Should project involve execution by North American group, project execution during the group’s stay is carried out by Heart to Honduras’ logistics department and b) Should project not involve execution by North American group, supervision and execution will be coordinated by Community Development.
- Upon completion of project, post-project field visit will be performed and post-project financial and informational report will be provided to be donor and beneficiary.
Please note that this process does not require that the project be physical or infrastructure related (e.g. water, housing, electricity, public health, etc.) Should a community recognize its need for improvement in education, training, spiritual support, etc. they can solicit a project accordingly. As a result, the resources requested from a partner may not necessarily always be financially-related. The skills of many North American partners can be of great use in Central America.
For all involved, this process requires greater patience and partners that are interested in long-term qualitative results. However, even in the short time HtH has utilized this process we are seeing some incredible results.