Love As a Survival Tool
Finding ways to help a community of Hondurans displaced by catastrophic flooding was a difficult task. Significant efforts went into providing a reliable source of fresh water -- a critical need identified by the locals -- but the efforts did not prove self-sustaining. So a Colorado researcher has moved on to the next important step: creating a cohesive community with the expertise and shared purpose needed to sustain the fledgling village.
The project, supported by the Fetzer Institute, aims to establish that sustainability comes as much from applying love, dialogue and forgiveness in a social ecosystem as it does from building systems with tools; that in fact, the two go together.
Homes within the village of Colinas de Suiza were created from scavenged materials as a home for residents who were displaced after Hurricane Mitch caused flooding that destroyed their previous homes. Colorado School of Mines Engineering Prof. David Munoz worked with his engineering students to design and help build a potable water system for the community starting in 2004 The project was completed in 2011.
But the water system and the village of 10,000 residents have since suffered from a lack of upkeep and even acts of vandalism, suggesting the need for an infusion of both engineering expertise and community spirit.
After some reflection, Dr. Munoz came up with a plan to lift up the positives of the project from conception to its current state while also addressing social infrastructural issues that require the full engagement of the community.
The path to sustainability has included forming 38 circles of trust within the community, building a hub for engineers to share expertise, involving children in creative exercises of love and forgiveness, planning a community-wide fiesta and linking into regional and national networks.
Dr. Munoz sums up his group’s hypothesis in these terms: “If we approach Engineering work that necessarily involves community development, on a basis of love and forgiveness, in addition to or perhaps even more than other traditional forms of obligation, then we will realize lasting positive impact within a large community of displaced people, that are in the process of healing and rebuilding their lives.”
Program results will be communicated via a web site established as a hub for the effort and at professional conferences. Learnings will be shared among circles of trust, then spread outward to other NGOs and civic organizations.
This is a project of the Fetzer Advisory Council on Engineering.