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:

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Llaves Recognizes PC/HN Work with PLWH

Llaves (a Honduran magazine by and for people living with HIV) has written an article about Peace Corps' work with PLWH. The photo is taken from World AIDS Day activities at the PC office last December. Yours truly is quoted in the final paragraph.

Click here to download the article (1.5mb TIF).

Monday, April 6, 2009

Despedidas in Trujillo

I'm writing this blog update from Tegucigalpa, and have officially been homeless for one week. This past week was spent in Catacamas, Olancho, which is a really pretty town that I hadn't yet visited during my service. I was there to facilitate another Viviendo Positivamente TOT with a few fellow volunteers. The training went well, though wasn't as well-attended as we had hoped. But it still gave us valuable experience leading up to the big training we're doing after Semana Santa in Tegucigalpa.

My last week in Trujillo was a blur of despedidas and moving. I had two "official" despedidas (goodbye parties) - one with PCVs and other extranjeros, and one with my honduran friends and counterparts.

The first despedida was all the things I love about Trujillo rolled into one great weekend. We spent a night at Tranquility Bay, a beach resort outside of town run by a great Peruvian-American couple. We spent the day relaxing on the beach, then had a delicious brick-oven pizza dinner. The power went out and the field outside the restaurant was lit up by fireflies. After dinner we went swimming in the caribbean, under a starry but moonless sky. The water was filled with bioluminescent organisms, so every movement would cause the water to glow.

The next morning we got up early to take a trip to Cayo Blanco. Cayo Blanco is a cay that has sunk to just a few feet below sea level. It's surrounded and covered by a small but thriving reef. Fernando brought his underwater camera, so we were able to get some pictures. Among other things we saw a stingray, an octopus, bright red sea urchins, and lots of jellyfish.

We spent the rest of the day relaxing at Tranquility Bay before returning to my apartment in Trujillo. That night we started out at Evelin's in Barrio Cristales for some guifiti on the beach. Then we went across the street to Nunu's where they were having a live punta show, and we all danced a bit.

Then it was on to Truxillo, a recently remodeled disco in the center of town. They play better music there, and it was air conditioned! We danced until 3am and then got baleadas in the central park.

Before the second despedida, I had to move out of my apartment. I spent two days moving/selling/giving away all my stuff. Finally my apartment was bare. It was a strange sight, one that I haven't had since June of 2007.

My second despedida was also fun, but much sadder as well. I took the support group out for dinner at Andrea's Hotel in Barrio San Martin. We spent the evening reminiscing and then each member of the group gave a short speech and presented me with a going-away gift. Then we danced bachata for a couple hours. It was really overwhelming to get so much appreciation from the group, especially when I feel so guilty for leaving. After having been so completely accepted and taken care of by the members of the support group, it feels wrong to be going back home to my "real life."

So that's that. My service in Trujillo is over, and after facilitating a couple more trainings in other parts of the country, my service in Honduras will be over, too. It's hard to believe the 27 months are almost up.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Favorite Peace Corps Recipes

Those of you who know me know that I love food. And that presented a problem in Honduras, because there is very limited range of not only prepared foods but also ingredients available for purchase. Here are some of my favorite recipes, made from ingredients that are easy to procure in any medium-sized town:

Chocolate Rum Cake

1 package chocolate cake mix
2 chocolate pudding cups
4 eggs
1/4 C water
1/2 C Rum (or more)
1/2 C Chopped Walnuts (optional)

1/2 C (1 stick) butter or margarine
1 C sugar
1/4 C Rum (or more)
1/4 C Water

Preheat oven to about 325F. Grease cake pan. Place walnuts in the bottom of the pan. Mix cake mix, pudding, eggs, water, and rum. Pour batter into the pan. Bake at 325F for 50-60 minutes, until skewer or knife comes out clean.

Glaze: Combine butter, sugar, rum, and water in saucepan over low/medium heat. Bring to a boil and cook for 2 minutes. Pour immediately over still-warm cake.

Lemon Bars

1/3 C butter or margarine
1/4 C sugar
1 C flour

3 eggs
3/4 C sugar
3 Tbs. flour
3 tsp. lemon zest
5 Tbs lemon juice
1/2 tsp. baking powder

Mix crust ingredients with a fork until crumbly. Press into an ungreased 8"x8" pan. Bake at 350F for 15-18 minutes or until golden brown.

Meanwhile, combine filling ingredients and mix well. Pour over baked crust. Bake 20 minutes more at 350F or until center is set. Cool before cutting into bars. Sprinkle with powdered sugar (if you can get it).

Cold-Brewed Coffee

Mix: 2 parts coffee grounds to 9 parts water. (e.g. 1/3 C coffee to 1 1/2 C water.) Let sit overnight. Strain out grounds and pour over ice. Coffee comes out very stong, so dilute with water to taste (for me, that's about 1 part water to 4 parts coffee).

Pizza Crust (from PCV Annie Gingerich)

1 C warm water
1 pkg (2 tsp) yeast (levadura)
1/2 tsp salt
3 to 3 1/2 C flour
2 Tbs olive oil

Combine water, yeast and 1 1/2 C flour. Mix well. Add oil, salt, and rest of flour. Knead for 5 minutes. Let rest in oiled bowl covered with damp cloth for 1 hour.

P.S. Quesillo is a great substitute for mozzarella in Honduras. Freeze it ahead of time for easier shredding.

Fruit Pancakes (adapted from my friend Andrea's recipe)

1 1/2 C flour
1/4 C oats (avena)
2 Tbs sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 cups milk
2 Tbs oil
1 large egg
1 large egg white
1 1/4 C soft fruit (for example, sliced banana, ripe mango, or strawberries)

Mix flour, oats, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, mix milk, oil egg, and egg white until well mixed. Pour mixture over dry ingredients and mix until smooth.

Heat griddle (a comal works great) over high heat with 1 Tbs oil. Once griddle is hot, reduce heat to Med-High. Pour 1/2 ladle of batter onto griddle, and top with 4-5 pieces of sliced fruit. When pancake has bubbles, flip and cook until both sides are brown.

Serve with butter/margarina and honey.

Bean Burgers

2+ C cooked beans, drained and blended. (I use 1 or 2 bags of frijoles licuados.)
1 lb. tomatoes, diced
1 large onion, diced
4-6 cloves garlic, diced or crushed
1 can corn
1-2 C other cooked veggies of choice (optional)
1 small can jalapenos (optional)
2 eggs
1/3 C flour
1 C oats
2 tsp salt

Sautee onion and garlic, then add tomato and other veggies. Cook until tomatoes are a bit soft. In a blender, put beans, veggies, corn, jalapenos, eggs, and salt. Blend until smoothish. Pour mixture into a bowl, and stir in flour and oats. Desired consistency is like a thick pancake batter. Place a couple spoonfuls onto a hot oiled comal and shape it into a patty. Cook until it forms a brown crust on each side.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

COS Survey

Before leaving the country, COSing volunteers fill out a "COS Survey" which is published in Alli No Mas, the PC-Honduras volunteer e-zine. Here's my survey.

Name: Raphael Crawford-Marks
Site: Trujillo, Colón
Project: Health
Nicknames: Rafa, Justin Timberlake
Biggest Accomplishment: The Viviendo Positivamente Manual and TOT.
Biggest Disappointment: Failing to get the Trujillo support group to be as strong and organized as it could/should be.
Biggest Regret: Not doing enough, not always being fully engaged.
Defining PC Moment: Neighborhood kids calling out “Rafa!” when I walk down the street.
Things you will miss most: Warm nights, siestas, live punta shows at Nunu’s, drinking guifiti on the beach, doing yoga and dinámicas with the support group, having cipotes run errands for me, hiking to waterfalls, sunsets over the Caribbean, being special.
Things you will miss least: Burning trash, lack of initiative, corruption.
Biggest Irony: Most aid and development projects foster dependence and corruption, thus screwing things up even more.
Worst Illness: Rhabdomyolysis. It’s scary when your piss comes out dark brown.
Biggest Freak-out: Figuring out what to do after Peace Corps.
Biggest fear during PC: Having my corpse show up on the evening news.
Most useful things I brought: Yoga mat, laptop, and Spanish skills.
Least useful things I brought: Business casual clothing.
Favorite activity I did when bored: Cook, read, lie in my hammock.
Weirdest thing I did when bored: Fed mosquitoes to ants, then fed ants to spiders.
Favorite Hondureñismo: A la zumba marumba.
Greatest lie I told at my site: Peace Corps requires/doesn’t allow _________________________.
Favorite Honduran inquiry: ¿Que pedos?Best Honduran gesture: The finger wag.
Favorite CD/song during my service: Podcasts - This American Life, Fresh Air, RadioLab, Scientific American, Science Friday, The NewsHour.
Favorite books during service: How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn, The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins, Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond.
Favorite Honduran fashion: Rocking out with the panza out.
Best jalón: Savá to Trujillo when there was a bus strike and it was after dark.
Worst jalón: Siguat to Ceiba in the paila of a truck. 5 hours of relentless sun. Despite slathering on sunscreen and wearing a hat, I was badly burned and dehydrated when we arrived.
Best bus ride: Teguz-Ceiba on the day I came down with bacterial dysentery. The bus driver stopped the bus immediately and a fat honduran dude let me use his (very clean) latrine. Crisis averted.
Worst bus ride: Trujillo-Juticalpa. Dust, heat, leg cramping, body odor...for 9 hours.
Favorite food: Baleada con huevo as prepared by my neighbor Sandra.
Worst thing I ate: Iguana egg.
Worst thing I smelled: Bloated dog carcass.
Stupidest thing I did in the past 2 years: Did so many bicep curls that I gave myself rhabdomyolysis.
Untrue fact told to you as an undeniable truth: God created the Earth and all its creatures 8000 years ago and evolutionists are going to Hell.
You know you’ve been in Honduras too long when: You regularly lie to avoid even small confrontations.
I never thought I would: Eat so much fried chicken.
If I had to do it all over again I: Would take more risks.
Favorite Aralen dream: There was an epic one that involved submarines, surfing and supermodels and was set to a rockin’ soundtrack.
Favorite Ropa Americana t-shirt: “Will drink beer for sex” worn by a bolo walking with his mujer.
Best habit acquired: Is it possible to acquire good habits here?
Worst habit acquired: All of them.
Things you missed most from the U.S.: Family and friends, San Francisco, good food, climbing and biking, baseball, good conversation, initiative, competence, relatively low levels of corruption in business and government.
Things you missed least from the U.S.: That uniquely American mix of ignorance and arrogance.
Things you wish you’d known when you signed up: Nothing, all the important stuff has to be figured out as you go along.
Best advice for new PCVs: The best and worst parts of service are things you don’t expect.
Contact email: raphael dot crawfordmarks at gmail dot com

Last Week in Trujillo

I have 7 days left in Trujillo. It's hard to believe I'm going to be leaving so soon. Some of you may be wondering why I'm leaving Trujillo next week if I'm not flying home until May 1st. Good question. Because of trainings and other activities I have planned in April, there won't be any spare time to spend in Trujillo.

So my last month in Honduras will be spent as a vagabond volunteer, sleeping on couches and in hotel rooms in the different towns and cities where we will be doing trainings. I'm kind of looking forward to it. The workload and constant movement will distract me from the sadness of leaving what has become my home, and hopefully will make the transition easier. We shall see.

Viviendo Positivamente Training

Last month I facilitated a 3-day training of support group leaders that's been in development over the last 6 months or so. This was the first full test of the training curriculum, and overall it was a great success.

Developing this training has been my main project for quite some time. Thoughout the course of my service, I've noticed that one of the greatest needs for PLWHA isn't simply to find motivated people to organize and run support groups, but motivated people with the appropriate skills to organize and run support groups. The Honduran education system is very lousy, so the most basic organization, planning, and communication skills simply aren't acquired by the vast majority of the population. This training is intended to be a small step toward meeting that need.

With funds from a PEPFAR (President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) grant, Mary and I trained support group leaders from four municipalities in Colón: Trujillo, Santa Rosa de Aguán, Limón, and Tocoa. The response was very positive, but we also got some good feedback that has helped us improve the curriculum for future trainings.

Getting Hondu-12 and Hondu-14 health volunteers trained and Honduran institutions to buy into the methodology will be my focus from now until I leave on May 1. We have three more trainings planned in April, including one in Tegucigalpa with support group leaders from all over the country. If all goes according to plan, we'll leave behind a proven training curriculum for support group leaders that can be implemented not only by Peace Corps Volunteers but also by Hondurans. If that happens, then there's at least one project I point to that has achieved the elusive goal of sustainability.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

2 Years

This week marks two years since I left for Peace Corps. I flew from SF to DC on February 11, 2007, tried to get to Honduras on the 14th, and finally made it down on the 18th. It's hard to believe so much time has passed.

It's also hard to imagine leaving Trujillo. I'm looking forward to returning to SF, sure. But Trujillo has become home, and I'm reminded of that everytime someone says hi to me on the streets, everytime I watch the sun set, evertime I lie in my hammock with an iced coffee and a good book.

Luckily, work is keeping me from getting too emo. This Friday, I'm facilitating a 3-day training of PLWHA on how to organize and run support groups. After that I do follow up with the support groups in 4 different municipalities during the month of March. Plus my parents are coming to visit. April is semana santa, a possible visit from my brother, packing up, moving out, training the new health volunteers, and doing my exit interview and mountains of paperwork. Then I'm on a plane to SFO on May 1st!

I'll try to update a bit more before I leave. Thanks for reading.

Hondu-10 (my training group) at our COS (Close of Service) conference in late January:

There were 50 us two years ago. Now there are 36.