Each May and January, students from William Jewell College participate in a Village Partners Project trip to Honduras in an effort to alleviate poverty in its rural villages. Village Partners is a non-profit created and based out of William Jewell that works to create sustainable change in developing communities through asset-based community development.
The Borgen Project’s Savannah Hawley also had the opportunity to interview Jeff Buscher, co-creator of Village Partners, who provided many insightful perspectives on the organization’s activities, purpose and successes.
Who Are Village Partners?
Since its founding in 2009, Village Partners has worked in three different rural Honduran villages, spending between three to four years working in each location.
Village Partners works with the communities in areas such as health, education, food security and social improvements. After creating a relationship with the people in the rural villages, the group makes a plan to help the community help themselves. That assistance can include anything from tilapia farming to starting schools.
Work in the villages does not occur only during the two 10-day trips taken by Jewell students. A director is employed year-round to oversee the progress in the village and ensure that improvements are always being made to the program. Village Partners also employs interns from a university in Honduras to aid in the year-round work in the village.
What Are Honduras’ Poverty Levels?
Honduras experiences the highest level of poverty in Latin America, with a poverty rate of over 66 percent. In rural areas, one of every five Hondurans lives below the poverty line on around $1.90 per day.
In 2017, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) listed Honduras’ GDP at $5,500 per capita. Their economy, in addition to other factors, ranks Honduras’ as 170 of 195 countries — a status that highlights its immense poverty.
It is for this reason that Jeff Buscher, co-creator of Village Partners, decided to target rural Honduran villages using asset-based work to alleviate poverty.
“The purpose of Village Partners is to work to create sustainable, healthy change in specific developing communities through cross-cultural experience…we work sometimes three to four years in each village to help them accomplish and realize their goals. We, for the most part, focus our efforts on community development work in rural villages where there’s a better opportunity for significant help and change,” he told The Borgen Project when describing the premise of Village Partners.
What is An Asset-Based Community?
Asset-based community development is a strategy Buscher and the other founders of Village Partners used to ensure that the work they do is both educational and sustainable to the villagers the group helps.
“First we listen to their situation, then we help them network to find partners who can help solve their problems. We do the asset-based community development in a way that it’s not dependant on Jewell students coming and staying with them…that way when we leave they’re still better off and not reliant on us,” Buscher said.
Hard Work, High Impact
According to the World Bank, around 45 percent of Honduras is classified as rural, which makes the work Village Partners does all the more crucial. Its focus on rural areas — especially alleviating poverty without significantly changing the village’s culture — is highly important.
Rural villages are more likely to be impoverished than city centers, where education and reform are implemented sooner than other parts of the country. With such circumstances, the work Village Partners does in rural villages is all the more critical and should improve the country as a whole.
– Savannah Hawley