November was a challenging month for our communities, with two category 4 hurricanes passing through Honduras in as many weeks.
For much of northern and central Honduras, this has meant floodwaters rising to rooftops, and raging rivers carrying away bridges and houses and destroying vast swathes of farmland.
“The area where I live was flooded,” said our project coordinator, Walter Dubón. “We had to leave quickly because the water was already waist level. It reached all the way to the roof. We lost everything we had.”
Many of our school communities have been left isolated as roads have fallen away in landslides.
The pandemic has already put a strain on low-income families this year – people who work in jobs where the day’s earnings put food on the table that night, with no savings or safety nets. The widespread destruction of infrastructure, homes and crops caused by these hurricanes will only entrench existing issues of poverty and inequality in Honduras.
The roots of the crisis
The 2020 Atlantic Hurricane season has been the most active season on record, and scientists say these storms were exacerbated by climate change. Once again, we see an example of how vulnerable communities are disproportionately affected by the climate crisis.
But the roots of this crisis go beyond climate change, as the government also played a role in shaping this crisis.
For decades, the Honduran government has promoted neoliberal extractivist projects that lead to widespread deforestation and the destruction of natural ecosystems, as well promoting farming methods that emphasize monocultural agriculture, which also has negative environmental effects. These underlying and ongoing approaches towards development have set Honduras up to fail in the face of disasters such as these. Alongside underfunded public infrastructure and a lack of planning for such an event (though these are not the first major hurricanes Honduras has witnessed – in 1998 Hurricane Mitch caused over 11,000 fatalities in the country), it’s no wonder that an estimated 2.9 million people have been affected.
Our team has sprung into action. After evacuating his house during the first hurricane, our project coordinator Walter Dubon joined local relief efforts and spent the next day helping rescue over 900 people who had been trapped on the rooves of their houses. Communities have been providing mutual aid, supporting one another where formal relief efforts fall short or simply do not exist.
However, we are not a relief organisation. In the face of this immense destruction and devastation, we have decided to do what we can do best: support communities with a long-term focus towards rebuilding.
Education will be fundamental for communities in this process. As houses are reconstructed and roads are re-built, meaningful learning opportunities will ensure that children and young people can continue to grow and that they continue to believe that there is a future beyond this disaster.
As we have been flooded with stories of destruction, we have also seen people across the country offering their homes to people who have lost theirs, and neighbours providing meals of whatever they have to those around them. There are wonderful community-based groups across the country organising relief efforts, not to mention relief agencies who are also stepping up.
At educate., we have been expanding on our COVID-19 response, working to provide food packages to families, and to support our ongoing at-home literacy and creative writing projects as well as local community engagement groups.
Our work is encouraging children and young people to be active members of their communities and is providing meaningful ways for youth to be part of positive and unifying projects. We know how important these kinds of initiatives are for supporting mental health and socio-emotional wellbeing, and that is where we are putting our focus.
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