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Non-Profit, The Carrizo Project, Empowers Honduran Women

Mar 16, 2016 03:41PM ● Published by Shannon Ostrovsky

Gallery: Carrizo Project [8 Images] Click any image to expand.

Sometimes, Brook Courchaine has learned, the best thing you can give someone isn't a thing at all—but something far more valuable.

As a medical interpreter in Honduras, Brook Courchaine, of Elysburg, was familiar with traditional aid organizations and how they operated.  In 2009, she founded The Carrizo Project, a non-profit dedicated to improving the lives of Honduran women through empowerment.

"I saw an advantage to teaching skills as opposed to just giving them things," she said. Dz Empowering these women to help themselves really resonated with me."

Where do we start?
Teaching women basic sewing skills in order to produce baby blankets, purses and wristlets to sell was one of the first steps Courchaine's organization undertook to help village women learn to start them on a path to own and operate their own businesses.

"I thought, how could they not know how to sew?", said Sue Powers, a Michigan woman who took one of the Discovery Trips offered by The Carrizo Project. "It was because they don't have fabric. Everything they needed had to be donated."

What's it all about?
Powers, a devout Catholic, who has gone on missionary trips to Uganda and Mexico with her church, said the difference between traditional missionary trips and the Discovery Trips the Carrizo Project offers, in which village women teach a variety of classes to the American visitors, is huge.

"A lot of people go and paint something or help build something, but my perspective is why am I doing this when they're better at it and better qualified than I am?" she said. "Discovery Trips are interesting because they reverse roles. They think Americans can do so much they can't, but on these trips they teach us about things we don't know."

And that philosophy is at the heart of The Carrizo Project. "The trip is all about participation," Courchaine explained. "It"s for other people to learn what they can do. You can see it in these women—the realization that 'I do know how to do something.' That's really and truly empowering people and it's awesome to watch."

Who's on board?
While Courchaine serves as executive director, a full-time pro bono position, and travels to the region three times a year on donated miles, the project employs three villagers who shoulder the day-to-day work of driving to the villages to meet with women, and talk to them about running a business, including how to obtain a loan from traditional banks or how they can get a micro-loan direct from The Carrizo Project. Microloans, Courchaine said, are always paid back, frequently earlier than the due date.  

"They know the ground rules," she said. "We're not giving any money. We're not buying anything."

Vital statistics 
The Carrizo Project is based in the Department (similar to our states) of Santa Barbara, approximately halfway between San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa.  Among the local agencies working with the project are The National Department of Health, The National Hospital of Santa Barbara and the Governor of Santa Barbara.  

Powers said the culture clash could be entertaining at times.

"They don't speak English at all, and a lot of us on the trip didn't speak Spanish beyond a very elementary level," she said.  Still, language wasn't a barrier. "There was lots of laughing," she said. "Especially when I took a basket weaving class. We all learned I'm not a great basket weaver, and they got quite a bit of enjoyment out of the fact that they got to teach an American a skill they could do in their sleep."

Another memorable experience: taking a class to make chicken soup. "When we pulled up to the hut and I noticed there were three chickens running around in the yard, it suddenly occurred to me where we were going to get the chickens," shared Powers. "I thought, 'uh-oh...I know how this is going to end.'"

Ultimately, Powers got over her apprehension and even helped pluck one of the birds. "It was a fun adventure," she said.  "You come away with such a different view of people in another country."

Courchaine concentrates on raising funds for the project through a variety of sources. Private donations through the organization's Web site, www.Carrizoproject.org, and items made by women, as well as coffee grown by villagers, are sold to help defray costs. Matching fund programs are set up with businesses that include Mobil/Exxon and Fidelity Bank. A recent fundraiser at a local winery went very well, she said, and they are hoping to hold another in the not too distant future.

"Taking people [Americans] who know what hope is, who know what success is—just standing elbow to elbow with them—is very empowering." Courchaine said. "Sometimes doing good means just being present."

By:
Robin Crawford is a freelance writer based in State College. 

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    Illuminated Letters CE 206, Monday, January 29 - February 26 6 p.m. - 9 p.m., $195 Matt Chapma...


  • "The Blues Show"

    02/13/2018
    10:00AM — 06:00PM

    What does "blue" mean to you? Make work that shows it -- the color blue, Blues music, blue in th...


  • Homeschool Art Studio Ages 6-13

    02/13/2018
    10:30AM — 11:30AM

    Homeschool Art Studio Ages 6-13 YS 40, Tuesday, January 30 - March 20 10:30 a.m. - 11:30 a.m....


  • Books Undone

    02/13/2018
    11:00AM — 07:00PM

    Books become the canvas for contemporary artists in this national juried exhibition. Exhibition i...


  • Homeschool Physical Education

    02/13/2018
    01:00PM — 02:00PM

    Students engage in moderate to vigorous physical activity through a variety of enjoyable game...


  • Business Practices for Creatives

    02/13/2018
    06:00PM — 09:00PM

    Business Practices for Creatives DES 200, Tuesday, January 30 - April 3 6 p.m. - 9:00 p.m., 1 c...


  • HTML5 & Website Design

    02/13/2018
    06:00PM — 09:00PM

    HTML5 & Website Design DES 155, Tuesday, January 30 - April 3 6 p.m. - 9 p.m., 1 credit, $475 ...


  • Drawing (Portrait & Figure)

    02/13/2018
    06:00PM — 09:00PM

    Drawing (Portrait & Figure) CE 91, Tuesday, January 30 - March 20 6 p.m. - 9 p.m., $245 Evan ...


  • Intro to Social Media Marketing

    02/13/2018
    06:00PM — 09:00PM

    Intro to Social Media Marketing SM 101, Tuesday & Thursday, January 30 - March 1 6 p.m. - 9 p.m...


  • Acrylic Painting and Mixed Media

    02/13/2018
    06:00PM — 09:00PM

    Acrylic Painting and Mixed Media CE 238, Tuesday, January 30- March 6 6 p.m. - 9 p.m., $215 Ju...


  • "The Blues Show"

    02/14/2018
    10:00AM — 06:00PM

    What does "blue" mean to you? Make work that shows it -- the color blue, Blues music, blue in th...


  • Homeschool Hangout

    02/14/2018
    11:00AM — 01:00PM

    Every other Wednesday 11-1p.m. during the school year beginning Jan. 17th-Apr. 25th.Parent/child ...


  • Books Undone

    02/14/2018
    11:00AM — 07:00PM

    Books become the canvas for contemporary artists in this national juried exhibition. Exhibition i...


  • Adobe InDesign

    02/14/2018
    06:00PM — 09:00PM

    Adobe InDesign DES 154, Monday & Wednesday, January 29 - February 28 6 p.m. - 9 p.m., 1 credit,...


  • From a graffiti artist in the favelas (slums) of Brazil raising awareness about domestic violence...


  • "The Blues Show"

    02/15/2018
    10:00AM — 06:00PM

    What does "blue" mean to you? Make work that shows it -- the color blue, Blues music, blue in th...


  • Books Undone

    02/15/2018
    11:00AM — 07:00PM

    Books become the canvas for contemporary artists in this national juried exhibition. Exhibition i...


  • iMAKE

    02/15/2018
    04:30PM — 05:30PM

    This a-la-carte class series offers both art and science projects for children ages 6-12. String ...


  • Intro to Social Media Marketing

    02/15/2018
    06:00PM — 09:00PM

    Intro to Social Media Marketing SM 101, Tuesday & Thursday, January 30 - March 1 6 p.m. - 9 p.m...


  • Intro to Video Production & Short Film

    02/15/2018
    06:00PM — 09:00PM

    Intro to Video Production & Short Film DES 178, Thursday, February 1 - April 5 6 p.m. - 9 p.m.,...


  • Design Principles & Typography

    02/15/2018
    06:00PM — 09:00PM

    Design Principles & Typography DES 150, Thursday, February 1 - April 5 6 p.m. - 9 p.m., 1 credi...


  • The Art of Felting: 2-D Composition

    02/15/2018
    06:00PM — 09:00PM

    The Art of Felting: 2-D Composition CE 239, Thursday, February 1 - March 22 6 p.m. - 9 p.m., $...


  • Oil Painting

    02/15/2018
    06:00PM — 09:00PM

    Oil Painting CE 169, Thursday, February 1 - March 22 6 p.m. - 9 p.m., $245 Michael Allen Ex...


  • "The Blues Show"

    02/16/2018
    10:00AM — 06:00PM

    What does "blue" mean to you? Make work that shows it -- the color blue, Blues music, blue in th...


  • Music Together Family Classes

    02/16/2018
    10:00AM — 12:00PM

    Runs for 8 weeks on Fridays Session A: 10-11am Session B: 11:15-12:15pm Music Together® is a f...


  • Books Undone

    02/16/2018
    11:00AM — 07:00PM

    Books become the canvas for contemporary artists in this national juried exhibition. Exhibition i...


  • Homework Happy Hour Tutoring

    02/16/2018
    03:00PM — 04:15PM

    Fridays 3-4:15 p.m. during the school year beginning Feb.9th.  Bloomsburg University Education...


  • The 5th annual Destination Blues Music Festival comes to 18 venues in Columbia and Montour Count...


  • "The Blues Show"

    02/17/2018
    10:00AM — 06:00PM

    What does "blue" mean to you? Make work that shows it -- the color blue, Blues music, blue in th...


  • chttp://engage.pcad.edu/winter2018

    02/17/2018
    10:00AM — 12:00PM

    Young Artists Academy for Grades 6.7.8.9 YS13, Saturday, January 27 - March 17 10a.m. - 12 p.m....


  • Youth Studio Art I for Grades 1.2.3

    02/17/2018
    10:00AM — 12:00PM

    Youth Studio Art I for Grades 1.2.3 YS11, Saturday, January 27 - March 17 10 a.m. - 12 p.m., $1...


  • Youth Studio Art II for Grades 4.5

    02/17/2018
    10:00AM — 12:00PM

    Youth Studio Art II for Grades 4.5 YS12, Saturday, Saturday, Saturday, January 27 - March 17 10...


  • Intergenerational Drawing (8 & up)

    02/17/2018
    10:00AM — 12:00PM

    Intergenerational Drawing (8 & up) CE 189, Saturday, January 27 - March 3 10 a.m. - 12 p.m., $1...


  • Short Story Writing

    02/17/2018
    10:00AM — 12:00PM

    Short Story Writing CE 208, Saturday, January 27 - March 3 (no class on February 24) 10 a.m. - ...


  • Sit Next to Me

    02/17/2018
    03:00PM — 04:00PM

    Wouldn’t it be nice to hear a positive, interesting, heartfelt, sad, weird, and even funny sharin...


  • The 5th annual Destination Blues Music Festival comes to 18 venues in Columbia and Montour Count...


  • Books Undone

    02/18/2018
    11:00AM — 07:00PM

    Books become the canvas for contemporary artists in this national juried exhibition. Exhibition i...


  • The 5th annual Destination Blues Music Festival comes to 18 venues in Columbia and Montour Count...



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