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An Alternative Model of Development for Honduras

By Susannah O'Grady Honduras This Week
December 13, 2003

"I have grown tired of hearing all the reasons why Honduras will never develop and progress. I am tired of listening to criticisms, without hearing solid solutions to the problems". This opinion led Marco Caceres to begin a project that has led to over 2,500 people across the globe inputting their effort to help Honduras.

The positive will to do good is inherent in many individuals, but a single voice often goes unheard. A medium for this voice is present, however, in the shape of projecthonduras.com, a website and forum run by Caceres especially to bring individuals who want to make a positive difference to Honduras together.

The English language website includes 16 discussion groups where people can exchange information, sources and ideas on topics ranging from AIDS in Honduras to Immigration. Also on the site is an interactive map that identifies different organizations working in the country and a calendar of upcoming volunteer missions to Honduras, as well as up to date statistics on the economic climate and the tracking of financial assistance to projects and charities in Honduras. There are links to other associations and companies including Honduras This Week, one of their promotional partners, as well as the Embassy of Honduras, the World Bank and the International Health Service.

"The inspiration for the site came mainly from the realization that money will never solve Honduras' problems. Honduras needs people power, not financial power. projecthonduras.com is designed to be an alternative model of development for Honduras, using the power of the internet and mass communication to organize people, inspire them and coordinate their efforts," said Caceres.

Born in Honduras, but living in America since the age of four, Caceres says his strong sense of connection to his native land is due to his parents. "We were encouraged to speak Spanish at home and we regularly traveled to Honduras to visit family. We ate Honduran food and listened to Latin American music. Somehow my Honduran spirit remained strong and I've always had a desire to give back to the country of my birth."

This opportunity and inspiration arose when Caceres had a chance encounter with a fellow native through his work as a space market analyst. Introduce to Paulina Bendana, an economist, working as a strategic planner for Boeing, they discovered they were both originally from Honduras.

"It struck me how odd it was to find two Hondurans working in such a high tech field near Washington, DC. I thought there must be hundreds, thousands of Hondurans working in key companies, agencies, industries in the US. What if I located them all and found a way to effectively channel their respective talents, energies, expertise and contacts into specific projects to help Honduras?" Caceres said. The website or "movement" as Caceres terms it, was up and running by December 1998.

Completely independent with small overhead costs, Caceres says that in five years the website's initial contribution has been to raise awareness of all the good things that foreign volunteers are doing in Honduras. Secondary is the introduction of an element of hope that there are alternate ways to solve Honduras' problems.

The biggest achievement of the site to date is the annual Conference on Honduras. Four have been held so far, with this year's the first to actually be held in this country, in Copán Ruinas. Caceres says its success surpassed his expectations. "More than 310 people attended, about 52 percent from the US, 47 percent from Honduras and one percent from the rest of the world."

Caceres lays credit with a number of individuals and organizations that have contributed help and support to the conference. The Special Missions Foundation, a non-profit organization in Texas, is sponsor of the conference and has become a close ally in the movement along with Copán Ruinas locals who Marco says have become close partners. Sandra Guerra, a business woman who runs Casa de Todo in Copán Ruinas and Carin Steen, the founder of Copán Pinta, an art project for children, have become a successful planning team for the conference.

With 57 panel presentations on subjects ranging from caring for orphans to healthcare projects, Caceres says the three day conference had "a spirit of comaraderie and goodwill that never wavered." A four day conference is already scheduled for October 2004.

When asked what future plans Caceres  is contemplating for the site, he replies "I am happy with the site as it is. It really is just a homebase for the network. The real work is being done in the forums and through the annual conference and of course... on the ground in Honduras."

His plan of expanding the movement through the conference is already underway and he is continuing to apply for grant funding so he can dedicate all his time to it (he currently spends four hours a day updating the site along with his full time job). However, the site ultimately rests upon the individual's ability to realize their potential input and collect together to help the movement evolve. As Caceres says, "money is a useful tool, but unless we get more people involved in helping to solve Honduras' problems, no amount of money will ever make a lasting difference."



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