Sustainable Housing Project

Thursday, December 17, 2015

What now?

     As part of a class assignment, I was recently asked what I plan to do with my PhD once I finish at Ohio State. Assuming that Angie and I are capable of working until the the age of 70 years old, I have about 10 more years of active ministry to do. Hopefully, we can still continue contributing to the educational work beyond that age as well.
     We are once again in a transition stage. The career motto of the missionary is to “Always be working yourself out of a job.” We have turned Choluteca regional project management over to others and are now helping mentor those people and support them in any way possible. I see my future support role as becoming involved in a couple of ways: facilitating US students in Study Abroad experiences, and helping to develop agricultural education in Honduras.
Adjusting a wheel chair.
Adjusting a donated wheel chair.
            For several years, we have hosted university students for short-term learning experiences in Honduras. Students mainly come during Spring break and during the Summer semester. We have hosted students from Cedarville University, Asbury University, and Taylor University. By far, the biggest group of students come from Ohio State. We have nearly 100 students coming every year from the Colleges of Nursing, Medicine, Linguistics, Engineering, and the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences. Now we are also having students traveling to Choluteca from Ohio High School FFA programs. 
     Our work with high school and university students has a two-directional purpose. These students who come from the US universities and high schools have a lot to contribute to Honduras. They contribute to local Choluteca projects that make lives better for Hondurans. We believe that the projects that they do are important but of secondary importance. More importantly, we have found that by simply coming and being there in Honduras, and by developing friendships with Hondurans, the Ohio high school students and university students have contributed in a way that they could never have anticipated. I know dozens of Hondurans who will proudly say, “I have a friend in the States.” Their faces light up and they can tell me their friend's name, how they got to know the student from the States, and, very likely, let me know when that friend is coming back. When the Ohio State medical brigade returns a second year to a village outside of Choluteca, they will likely be welcomed by a banner that says “Welcome back Ohio State”.
            All students traveling to Honduras expect to learn from the experience. We emphasize experiential learning. There is no way to adequately prepare students to anticipate what they will learn. Experiential learning cannot be completely planned. The syllabus has to be flexible. Students are initially shocked by what they see, hear, smell, taste, and feel. They quickly get their senses adjusted to the dramatic change from what they have been accustomed in the past and begin to see the assets and potential that exists among the Honduran people.
            I hope to continue facilitating this learning process of both Hondurans and US students. We have the advantage of being able to see the positive learning that takes place in both directions. Hondurans learn from North Americans and US students learn from Hondurans. Personally, I am fortunate to be able to learn something from both.
            Also, what I have learned by studying the history of agricultural and extension education in America has helped prepare me to do a better job in working with both Hondurans and US students who visit Honduras. By understanding the history of both countries I better understand some of the differences in development between them. If there had never been a Seaman Knapp, A. B. Graham, or a Rufus Stimson, there is no guarantee that agricultural education would look the way it does in the United States. On the other hand, if a decision or two had been made differently in Honduras a hundred years ago, agricultural education would likely be more advanced now in that country.
            Some ideas for my future involvement in agriculture education:
1. My dream for the future is be able in some way to facilitate the expansion of the Study Abroad experience of US students going to Honduras. I’m not totally sure what that might look like, but I can anticipate the development of new university courses focusing on experiential learning which would be done in Honduras and other countries. The advancement of today’s technology would allow for the proper supervision of course objectives. If we can have on-line courses or distance course, these courses would be even more valuable when done in an international setting.
2. By having studied the history of agricultural and extension education in America, I will be better prepared to host Ohio State students who are interested in doing graduate study research in Honduras. This research will lead to master’s theses, doctoral dissertations, and peer-reviewed articles within the discipline. There is certainly an opportunity to learn more through research done in Honduras.
3. I expect to apply what I have learned from classes at Ohio State to help initiate new programs in Choluteca and throughout Honduras. The US historical models of high-school agricultural education and of 4-H are models that should be presented as options to consider for adopting or adapting for future agricultural education in Honduras. The tri-part concept of classroom/laboratory instruction, experiential learning, and engagement through leadership training is a model that we have been introducing to several communities in Choluteca. It is not radically different than what many Honduran teachers are already doing. We are simply challenged to come alongside and encourage them. Using the 4-H model that “empowers youth to reach their full potential, working and learning in partnership with caring adults" (www.4-h.org) is an opportunity to prepare Honduran young people to participate in the positive transformation of their communities.

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