By Thomas Mangham, Deputy Country Director for Samaritan’s Purse in Honduras.
The Garífuna is a minority group of African and native descent that is settled across coastal areas of Central America, as well as a number of Caribbean islands. The Garífuna have a very strong sense of ethnic identity, which they preserve through their own language, art, and lifestyle.
However, they are also severely marginalized by the societies in which they live. There are about 45,000 Garífuna in Honduras, concentrated in small communities along the north coast. These communities are situated amid tremendous natural beauty, but the living conditions are primitive with no electricity or basic sanitation in many areas. Educational and employment opportunities are severely limited , and their land is under constant threat of being taken over and developed for tourism by the wealthy and powerful.
Over the past eight years, Samaritan’s Purse has been working with the Garífuna to address important community health issues and to provide opportunities for employment through micro-enterprise development.
We have also worked with the American Bible Society and local churches to make the Bible available on wind-up cassette players in the Garifuna language, since many community members can’t read and don’t speak Spanish well.
Samaritan’s Purse recently began working with one community to start a fishing cooperative, benefiting 21 families. There was a great sense of excitement among all the beneficiaries as the first of the two fishing boats was delivered.
They had spent the previous weeks preparing shelters for the boats and organizing roles and responsibilities for each member of the cooperative. Our staff then worked with them to haul the 25-foot boat several hundred yards to the ocean, using palm branches to help lessen the friction.
After they had a chance to test the boat on the open water and bring it to the shelter they had made, everyone wore a huge smile as they realized that this asset will provide significant help for the community.
The time ended with a prayer from Reyes, a local pastor, who is also the coordinator of the cooperative. He gave thanks to God for His gracious provision and for all those whose generosity made this work possible.