CULTURAL CONNECTION – Honduran resident Maria Nieves is one of many people that benefits from the assistance of Horizons of Friendship. Former Red Deer resident Tara Ward works with the Canadian organization that supports programs in Central America and Mexico.

International work keeps former City resident inspired

Tara Ward currently serving with Horizons of Friendship

  • May. 1, 2013 4:48 p.m.

Former Red Deer resident Tara Ward has certainly found her place in the world.

With a strong passion for international development, she has served with Peace Brigades International and also lived and worked in Guatemala for two years.

She is still on the board of that organization, and is now based in Cobourg, Ontario where she is the program coordinator for Horizons of Friendship, an international development organization that supports programs in Central America and Mexico.

Ward is currently on a cross-country trek with Patricia Rebolledo-Kloques, executive director of Horizons, and Teresa Lopez who works with Simiente Foundation of Honduras.

“Every year we have partner visits, because part of our role is to educate Canadians about the situation in Central America and Mexico,” explains Ward. “Our tour right now is also to raise awareness about Horizons and about the situation in Honduras. And to build new connections.”

Things in Honduras have worsened considerably over the past few years due to a 2009 coup d’état.

“The level of violence has increased significantly, and the economy has been incredibly impacted,” explains Ward, adding that the country has the second highest rate of poverty, after Haiti, in the Latin American/Caribbean region.

Of a population of eight million, 5.8 million live below the poverty line.

“We want to show Canadians what they can do to support communities in Central America and Mexico, by supporting Horizons of Friendship and by being aware of what’s happening there.”

Ward said it’s easy for people to forget about the ongoing hardships in developing countries.

“I think particularly with the coup in Honduras – we heard about it when it happened, but we forget that something like that doesn’t just happen and then things go back to normal. The impact is still being felt.”

But meeting with community groups on the tour has shown that Canadians are concerned. “Every time we’ve done a presentation, we’ve been really impressed by the questions people are asking. I do think Canadians are interested, but I think they don’t always have access to the information.”

Ward acknowledged North Americans may feel overwhelmed by the scope of the situation in Honduras. That’s partly why Horizons fly project partners in. That way, folks here can hear firsthand accounts of the issues – but also the possible solutions.

Lopez said that Honduras has always been an incredibly poor country.

And the coup d’etat further broke the fragile democracy that was in place.

While there have been some reforms, there is consistent suffering and oppression experienced amongst Hondurans.

Lopez said violence against women has really worsened as well – every 15 hours, a woman is killed in Honduras, she said.

Also, it costs about 7,000 Lempiras per year to have the basics in terms of food, but minimum wage provides about 6,000 Lempiras annually.

“A family can’t even buy what they need to survive,” she said. “We live in chaos.”

Ward explained that Horizons projects work mainly with women as women tend to be very subordinated with very little power and with huge responsibilities and levels of work.

“So we undertake training and education around human rights, women’s rights and the different types of laws so they are informed – all of this is to strengthen them as women in their identities.”

Saving money for micro-businesses is also encouraged.

Another emphasis is on families becoming self-sustaining with growing their own food as Lopez said the Honduran government promotes investment in terms of food production, but it’s food production to export.

Meanwhile, Ward said a good place to start for Canadians who want to help is becoming more informed.

Rebolledo-Kloques agreed.

“It’s about keeping Honduras in your sights and support what the locals are doing. We empower the locals – that is the most important part.”

On the bright side, she pointed out that although poverty is rampant in Central America, there is a ‘richness’ there too.

“There is a lack of material resources, but the people are quite rich in culture, in family life, in community life, in the solidarity they show in terms of sharing food and the resources they do have. There is a lot to learn and a lot to share between Canadians and Central Americans.”

For Ward, her passion for development work only grows stronger as the years go by.

“When I was in Guatemala, I fell in love with Central America. And I learned through the people I met – people who live in really difficult circumstances and who have lived through really horrible things, but have life, love and hope. I learn every time I go to that region.

“I also think a different world is possible – and if I don’t try to change it, who will try? We can’t leave it up to someone else to try and do it.”

For more information, check out

Just Posted

Parker Thompson makes a big splash to start the 2019 Road to Indy race season

Double victories in St. Petersburg indicate 2019 could be Thompson’s best season yet

NDP Leader Rachel Notley stops in Red Deer on campaign trail

Notley promises hospital expansion, cath lab, pipelines and energy industry expansion

Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer discusses thoughts on federal budget

New federal infrastructure funding likely coming to Red Deer

Alberta Election called for April 16th

Upcoming election will be about who is fit to be Premier, says Notley

After mosque attacks, New Zealand bans ‘military-style’ guns

The gunman killed 50 in a Christchurch mosque

Pot industry welcomes decreased edibles tax, but unhappy medical tax remains

Taxes can increase the cost of medical cannabis by as much as 25 per ceny

‘It has to send a message:’ Broncos families await sentencing for truck driver

Jaskirat Singh Sidhu pleaded guilty to 29 counts of dangerous driving and apologized in court

MPs continue voting marathon as Tories protest shutdown of Wilson-Raybould motion

Multiple MPs have resigned from Trudeau’s Liberal cabinet

Carbon tax, oil and gas investment dominate Day 2 of Alberta campaign

NDP pledges more oil and gas processing, UCP slams provincial and federal governments on carbon tax

Another gun seized by police in Wetaskiwin

Maskwacis RCMP arrest two youths, seize firearm in Wetaskiwin

Sundre RCMP looking for 4 missing bison

A Sundre bison rancher is missing four bison from January and RCMP ask for help from the public

Politicians hitting the road for votes in Alberta election campaign

NDP Leader Rachel Notley and United Conservative Leader Jason Kenney have officially launched campaigns

Calgary woman convicted in son’s strep death seeking full parole

The trial heard that Ryan was dead well before his mother called 911 to say he had stopped breathing

Most Read