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Collaborative empowerment for sustainable health and well-being
May 2015 Newsletter
The Tree of Sustainable Development

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This tree grows in the front yard of Professor Iris Villanueva’s home in Camasca. This species does not grow upright, rather its trunk snakes along the ground with its branches shooting out all over. Many years ago Iris and her husband Julio, mayor of Camasca, faced a choice.  Cut down the tree and plant another, or prop it up. Rather than killing off a beautiful tree, they chose the second option. Today, the tree grows strong, providing an abundance of shade, nesting, and beauty. A few cinder blocks and home-made crutches give this tree a permanent place and purpose.


The tree is a metaphor for sustainable development. There is a collaborative effort, a mutual respect, and a long-term commitment. The family enjoys its shade and beauty and marvels to see it thrive. The tree grows proudly, having found dignity in its relationship and service to the family. The supports remain after many years.  But the tree's growth has dwarfed them to the point that they are almost unrecognizable. Someday, when the family has moved on, the supports will fail. The tree, however, will still grow; its integral beauty a testament to the sincerity of the family’s charity.     

The Growth of the Tree: Health Care Convenio


The inaugural celebration of the extension of StoS’s Health Care agreement with the Honduran Ministry of Health on Tuesday, April 28, 2015 in Camasca, Intibucá was quite an event. Officials from the Ministry of Health, mayors and/or their representatives, our CEO, key staff from Shoulder to Shoulder, and a plethora of health care professionals were all present. Literally overnight, our health care reach and responsibility has doubled.  Camasca and Colomoncagua are now included in our system, stretching coverage from Yamaranguila south to El Salvador, from 37,000 to 69,000 persons. Two major clinics in Camasca and Colomoncagua, a birthing center, and three satellite clinics have been assumed in StoS’s health system. Four doctors, six health promoters, three professional nurses, two dentists, two lab technicians, and 16 auxiliary nurses have joined our health personnel.


Our mission, “To work together with our communities to create, implement, and operate equitable accessible, sustainable health, nutrition, and educational services,” is thriving. Why we are expanding when our budget is tight and our resources thin? Our mission is organic, not static.  The tree continues to grow.  But don’t worry -- nature always finds a way. This tree grew from a tiny sapling.  She endured droughts and tempests, yet stands noble. She pulls nutrients from the soil; the soil of our partnerships and commitments. But she gives back by sharing her life with us, yielding health, well-being, and empowerment for all who rest under her shade.

Branches: The Good Shepherd Bilingual School

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Laura and I generally travel once a week to The Good Shepherd Bilingual School. We hop on Wilson’s van in the center of town at 7:15 AM. Wilson is the father of Emily, a first-grader at the school. Wilson picks up another seven children in the town and another four more along the way. On our ride, we sing songs and play games in English. The children’s happiness, confidence, and sense of self-esteem are apparent and contagious, a testament an educational experience of excellence. Unfortunately, it is quite rare in Honduras. These children’s experience, however, may just be the opportunity to change that reality.


Perhaps we never envisioned how extensive our involvement in education would become when Shoulder to Shoulder began. But now, in hindsight, we realize how critical this mission is. Education that nurtures the brain, heart, and body is essential to individual and communal development. In committing ourselves to working shoulder to shoulder with the people of southern Intibucá, it was inevitable that this branch would sprout. 


The school is public, fully accessible, a partnership between StoS, the Honduran Ministry of Education, and the municipalities of the surrounding area. This is unique in all of Honduras, a model of education that offers hope to a system that, quite frankly, has had little success. It presents difficult challenges, this working shoulder to shoulder. But opportunity is born from challenge.


We are also building. Thanks to the community of the Good Shepherd Church in Cincinnati and other generous donors, a new state-of-the-art building and three new classrooms will shortly be added to our campus. Our branch into education is extending, providing nesting space for children and coming generations.


Deep, Healthy Roots:   Brigades

Shoulder to Shoulder was founded in the modest outreach of university brigades who offered medical service and health care to persons who had little to none.  This seed germinated and grew roots. Unfortunately, our brigade work has been severely challenged in recent years.  As security concerns heightened in Honduras and the US State Department issued a travel warning, universities reasonably became cautious about sending their students and staff to Hondurans.  We lost many brigades.  But despite this, brigades are returning.  While the US travel warning is still in effect, its degree has lessened as indicators of violence have been reduced in Honduras.  Universities, other groups and associations, and individuals of good will see the need in Honduras and are responding generously.


Brigades, like roots, secure our mission in Honduras.  Our vitality depends on deep, healthy roots.  We are revitalizing our service to brigades.  A newly formed Brigade Team in Honduras has set ambitious goals, but we are confident that we can meet them all.  A meaningful brigade experience, coordinated with our ongoing missions, will be of maximum service to those in need.  The brigade experience will be reasonably priced. The number and scope of brigades will be increased.  In addition to continuing medical brigades, we will search out partner groups and organizations in the areas of education, social service, and construction, to name a few.  The increased quality of our brigades, and the widening of their reach, will strengthen our roots, drawing greater nutrients for the growth of our tree.

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You have the time, if you make the time. Being a long-term volunteer will enrich your life beyond your imagination. 


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Education is the most powerful weapon with which you can change the world.

- Nelson Mandela

Educate a Child -- Save the World!


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Support teenage girls to learn life and vocational skills, grow in self-esteem, and make decisions that open up doors to success.

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Support a young person continue his/her education beyond the sixth grade. Without your compassionate response and assistance, the cycle of poverty remains unbroken. 

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Your Donation is Absolutely Necessary and Appreciated!

We really do work shoulder to shoulder.  If we didn't work alongside the people in Honduras, our mission would become irrelevant.  If people cannot find a sense of dignity and liberation in caring relationships, then charity becomes as enslaving and dehumanizing as poverty and oppression.  Our mission is not simply to give, it is to honor.  That is what it means to be shoulder to shoulder: equal, committed together, journeying, in partnership. That is what we ask of you.  It is not your money we are looking for.  We want your heart.  We want you committed in a relationship of enrichment, empowerment, and liberation.  Enrich and be enriched, empower, and be empowered, liberate, and be liberated.  We depend on you as one would depend upon a shoulder.  We respectfully invite you to be part of our ongoing journey.

Ways to Honor:

Educate a Child -- Change the World!
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Shoulder to Shoulder
Pohlman and Talmage CPAs
3445 S. Dixie Dr. # 200
Dayton, OH 45439

Keep us in your mind and heart.

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