Saturday, December 19, 2009

Walter Tróchez

Walter Trochez
Originally uploaded by StormyPetrel
This past Monday, I received a message through a Honduran HIV/AIDS email list that I belong to. The message said that Walter Tróchez had been shot and killed on Sunday night in the middle of Tegucigalpa.

I worked with Walter on the TOT we did in Teguz shortly before the end of my service. Though younger than I was, he was a longtime activist in the LGBTQ community, and did extensive work with and on behalf of PLWHA. He was bright, energetic and articulate, and made a big impression on me at the TOT.

After the coup, he posted several times to the email list about resisting the coup, and human rights violations that were happening. I hate to admit that I didn't pay a lot of attention to those posts, as my feelings about the coup were largely ambivalent. The government of Honduras seemed so dysfunctional during my time there, how much worse could the de facto government be? And if the majority of Hondurans were checked out of the political system already, wasn't the government a democracy in name only even before the coup?

If anything, I was of the opinion that one group of elites had deposed another group of elites, and was mad that the coup had cost the people of Honduras so dearly. One article I read claimed that Honduras' economy had been set back 10 years by the coup.

Walter was shot twice from a car that then sped away. He was targeted and assassinated. 10 days earlier, he had been kidnapped by government agents who hooded him, took him to an unknown location, and beat him while asking questions about La Resistencia, the movement to resist the de facto government.

Walter escaped and immediately reported the crime and documented his injuries with the human rights commission in Tegucigalpa, as he had done for dozens of other resisters who had been harassed, intimidated, kidnapped, beaten, and even killed.

Any trace of ambivalence about the coup has evaporated since reading the news of Walter's assassination. The de facto government has returned Honduras to the bad old days of dirty wars waged by dicatorships backed by the US.

And unfortunately, the de facto government has received endorsement if not outright backing from the US government. Pepe Lobo won an election that was not monitored by any international agencies and in which turnout was less than 50% (though it was reported to be 62%). Pepe was one of the so-called "business leaders" who originally backed the coup.

Unfortunately, the US showed no backbone against a country the size of Tennessee whose economy and military is almost entirely dependent on our support. So the de facto government in Honduras will continue to act with impunity, attacking and killing brave activists like Walter who are simply advocating for a return to the rule of law.

Right now, the best thing I know of to do is write your congressperson, senators, and President Obama to express your anger and dismay at such a colossal failure of to practice good foreign policy or even basic human decency in Honduras' political crisis. I'll try to find out about other ways to support La Resistencia, and post them here.

More about Walter:
Sample letter to US Gov't:
Amnesty International Statement:

Monday, May 11, 2009

Life in the US of A

After a two-leg flight that suffered multiple delays, I finally arrived in San Francisco around 2am on May 2nd. I've been home for just over a week, and here are some thoughts, in no particular order:

  • The plan to "just relax" is anything but relaxing. I feel useless and bored when I have nothing to do. I don't want to rush in to anything, but I need to find something challenging and engaging to occupy my time.
  • Everything seems familiar, but doesn't feel familiar.
  • Walking through heavily latino parts of town makes me happy. I immediately feel more at home when I overhear conversations and see signs in Spanish.
  • Having so many options (restaurants, shops, offices, etc) is a bit overwhelming. And the travel distances to get there too. I miss being able to walk to a pulperia to get all the basic stuff I need.
  • In many ways, it doesn't seem like much has changed. But many of my best friends are now engaged, married, or have kids. They're also working better jobs, or getting advanced degrees. It's hard not to feel like I've fallen behind.
  • I love drinking out of the tap, Hetch-Hetchy water is delicious.
  • Stuff I missed and thought I would relish (like eating good food) isn't as fun/fulfilling as I expected.
  • Traffic is so orderly it's spooky. And where are all the cabs?
  • It's really cold.
  • Having great friends and family nearby is very helpful for the readjustment process.
That's all I can think of for now, I might add more later.

A lot of people ask me what I'm going to do now. The short answer is: figure out what I'm going to do. Grad school is a strong possibility for Fall 2010, but I need to figure out what I want to study. The current candidates are Public Health/Public Policy, Economics, and Computer Science. I'll be spending the summer taking classes, researching schools, and talking to professors and professionals in those different areas. Also, I'm hoping to find a job by around mid-August. I'll definitely be applying to be a Peace Corps Recruiter, but if anyone out there knows of other jobs they think I'd be good for, let me know. My resumé is available here.

This blog probably won't get many new posts from here on out. I'll still add to it anytime I have something to say about Honduras or the Peace Corps. It's been fun keeping a blog, and I plan to start a new one as soon as I can decide on what it'll be about. I'll let y'all know when that happens.

Thanks for reading. I'm slowly but surely uploading the huge backlog of pictures from Honduras to my flickr account. You can see them here.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Description of Service

Peace Corps Honduras

Description of Peace Corps Service

Raphael Crawford-Marks
Honduras 2007-2009

After a competitive application process stressing technical skills, motivation, adaptability, and cross-cultural understanding, Peace Corps invited Raphael Crawford-Marks to serve as a Health Educator in the Central American nation of Honduras.

Pre-Service Training
Mr. Crawford-Marks began an intensive 11-week pre-service training on February 12, 2007 in Santa Lucia a community located a half hour from the capital, Tegucigalpa, and in the community of La Paz. The program consisted of Spanish language training, technical skills training, AIDS education, and area studies training. Throughout the pre-service training program, Raphael lived with a Honduran family, reinforcing his linguistic abilities and exposing himself to Honduran culture and traditions.

Training program included:
- 185 hours of formal instruction in Spanish
- 113 hours of area studies (the history, politics, economics and cultural norms of Honduras)
- 141 hours of technical project training
- 16 hours of AIDS education

On May 3, 2007, Raphael completed training and was sworn in as a Peace Corps Volunteer. He was assigned to Trujillo in the Department of Colón.

Support to People Living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA)

In his two years of service, Raphael Crawford-Marks focused on supporting people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA). In his community, Mr. Crawford-Marks worked with Nuevo Amanecer (New Dawn), a support group for PLWHA founded in 2004. On the national level, Mr. Crawford-Marks worked on and later coordinated Viviendo Positivamente (Living Positively), a new Peace Corps Honduras initiative for working with PLWHA and Support groups.

Strengthening Local Support Groups

Mr. Crawford-Marks helped the leaders of Nuevo Amanecer to plan and facilitate bimonthly support group meetings and other activities such as marches, community service events, potlucks, and holiday parties. Mr. Crawford-Marks also worked on several other projects with the support group, including securing a grant to fund the group’s activities for 6 months, conducting a demographic survey of 100 PLWHA in Trujillo, and increasing the group’s outreach to PLWHA. By the end of his service, average attendance to support group meetings had increased 200% (from 5 to 15). Additionally, Mr. Crawford-Marks gave technical assistance and training to support group leaders from surrounding communities, including Santa Rosa de Aguán, Santa Fe & Guadalupe, and Limón. Throughout his service, he focused on transferring skills to his Honduran counterparts while gradually diminishing his own role, so that by the end of his service the support group leaders were effectively planning and facilitating all support group activities with minimal help.

Revision and Creation of Educational Materials

As member of the Viviendo Positivamente team, Mr. Crawford-Marks edited and rewrote significant portions of an activities manual for PLWHA support groups. He also created or adapted a number of new activities, covering topics like Healthy Lifestyles, Communication, Team Building, Stigma and Discrimination, Self-Esteem, and Adherence.

Development of “Training of Trainers” (TOT) Curriculum

Since assuming leadership of Viviendo Positivamente in 2008, Mr. Crawford-Marks and his team created a 3-day “training of trainer” (TOT) curriculum for PLWHA support group leaders and facilitated TOTs in four communities: Santa Rosa, Copán; Trujillo, Colón; Catacamas, Olancho; and Tegucigalpa, M.D.C. He also trained 12 new Health PCVs on the Viviendo Positivamente methodology. Since the creation of the new TOT, the Viviendo Positivamente team has trained 40 Honduran men and women representing 11 support groups from 5 different departments.

Grant Writing

To fund two of the TOTs, Raphael wrote and managed two President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) grants. The grant proposals included detailed budgets, action plans, and monitoring and evaluation plans. Each of the TOTs were completed on time and on budget.

HIV/AIDS Prevention

Mr. Crawford-Marks also worked on fulfilling the health project's first goal of HIV/AIDS prevention and care, and worked primarily in Men's Health, a Peace Corps Honduras initiative that uses an innovative methodology to prevent adult men from contracting HIV and other STIs and raises awareness of other male health related topics.

Men's Health is a Peace Corps Honduras initiative that targets adult men in HIV/AIDS prevention, other topics related to men's health, and masculinity. This initiative was created in response to the lack of organizations working with adult men, a population that is rarely engaged, yet is often responsible for making the majority of the decisions in reproductive health for themselves and their partners.

Mr. Crawford-Marks implemented many of the initiative's activities in his site and facilitated several training of trainer workshops (TOTs) in the Department of Colón. During his service, Raphael facilitated educational activities and TOTs that trained 62 Honduran men to be Men’s Health facilitators, and an additional 74 Honduran men in HIV Prevention and Sexual/Reproductive health.

Secondary Activities/Projects

Raphael also completed several secondary projects during his service. During the summer of 2007, he taught English to a Garifuna youth group. He later organized a pen pal program between students at the local high school and American students at Ashland High School in Ashland, OR.

Raphael revised a hygiene manual and trained the Honduran staff of the Trujillo chapter of Pure Water for the World to give hygiene education in communities where they delivered biosand water filters. Since then, the staff of Pure Water has given hygiene education to thousands of Hondurans in the departments of Colón and Gracias a Dios.

Language Skills

Raphael achieved a Spanish language Oral Proficiency rating of Superior as administered by a Certified Peace Corps Language Tester at the close of his service. Raphael effectively used Spanish to communicate in his work, with his colleagues, Honduran work partners, and in daily life.

Raphael completed his Peace Corps service in Honduras on May 1, 2009.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Tegucigalpa TOT

From April 20-22, I helped facilitate a Viviendo Positivamente TOT (Training of Trainers) in Tegucigalpa. The training was funded by PEPFAR funds and by a Honduran organization called APUVIMEH/Casa Renacer.

Casa Renacer is a temporary home for people living with HIV (PLWH). They provide food and lodging at no cost to PLWH who haven't the means to pay for hotel and food when they come to Tegucigalpa for treatment. In addition, they do advocacy, hospital visits, and play host to several support groups.

The training went really well, and generated a lot of interest among to participants to do follow up trainings in other parts of the country. It was a great way to end my service.

Jason facilitating Globulos Blancos:

Adam facilitates a group discussion:

Part of a Self-Esteem activity:

Linea de Vida:

Enjoying a Dinamica:

Jason and I plan for the next day:

Groups prepare for the practica:

Adam and I evaluate the practica:

Giving feedback to the participants:

Post-diploma group photo: