In theory, I'm here in Honduras to help the Comision de Accion Social Menonita get better at communicating. The non-profit is a Cuso International partner, and communications is what I do.
In reality, I suspect I'm in for one of the most challenging job experiences of my life. And that's saying a lot, what with me being the type to jump into the deep end fairly regularly when it comes to work. It's just sinking in tonight - with mere hours to go before I show up for the Monday-morning devotional tomorrow at 8 a.m. - that this is going to be one heck of a ride.
CASM has been doing good work with impoverished and vulnerable populations in Honduras for more than 40 years, first with El Salvadorean refugees flooding into Honduras during and more recently with indigenous \women and children. But non-governmental organizations - in Honduras and Canada alike - tend to put their heads down and work, without spending too much time documenting either the work or the results.
My role in the next year or two is to help CASM get better at that, using its small Copan Ruinas office as a pilot that could eventually be expanded to its six other office in Honduras.
How will that play out? I have no idea. The language challenges are the most immediate, but it's much bigger than that. I've been to the office twice now, and both times the staff was very welcoming but clearly puzzled at who I was and why I was there. That's a tough opening position.
I'm quite sure my new boss will have plenty of work for me once I settle in - there are only five employees, after all, and dozens of dead-poor Chorti villages in this region alone in need of help. And for at least a couple months, I'll need to follow behind the CASM staff and do what they do anyway, because there's no figuring out communications until you know exactly what it is that needs to be communicated.
But sooner or later things will have to get around to communications, because that's the whole point of the Cuso project. In an organization that has never had time for communications, however, that's a tall order. As I've already learned from various non-profit projects in Canada, it's not just about me coming in with my skill set and voila, we're all communicating. It's actually about going up against a culture of non-communication and trying to convince people that it's important.
And when it's a Spanish-speaking organization in a foreign country that values hierarchical structure and male leadership - well, you can imagine why I might be a tad nervous. I am, after all, an older Canadian woman with a pierced nose, a tattoo, a tentative grasp of Spanish and a lot of years of not having to prove myself to doubtful strangers.
But I will get up tomorrow and walk the half-hour to my new workplace in what will probably be sunshine, and I guess we'll just see. CASM starts every work week with an hour of prayer, and right now that sounds like exactly what I need to be doing.