January 31, 2003 - American Planning Association: RPCV Ken McMurray leads training program in Honduras

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RPCV Ken McMurray leads training program in Honduras

Read and comment on this story from the American Planning Association on materials for a training program in northern Honduras to understand hurricane mitigation and redevelopment issues, important factors to consider when planning and constructing housing in Central America at:

Central America-Caribbean Training Goes On*

* This link was active on the date it was posted. PCOL is not responsible for broken links which may have changed.

Central America-Caribbean Training Goes On

APA's program Los Fundamentos de Planificación de Sitios ended in 2001, but fortunately the effort to promote environmentally sensitive site planning didn't. A Peace Corps volunteer in Honduras has used APA's training materials to create a vision and plan for a new housing project.


In 2000 and 2001, APA's Research Department had the rare opportunity to develop and facilitate site-planning workshops in Central America and the Caribbean. Funded as part of the post-Hurricane Mitch relief effort, APA was able to reach nearly 300 planners, engineers, architects, public officials, and representatives of the building community in nine workshops, each a day and a half long, using Spanish-language materials developed and designed by APA to address specifically the opportunities and constraints of the region.

One of the goals of the program was to design these and other materials in such a way that others in the region could continue the education process beyond the life of the project. The team hoped that somehow the workshops could continue in some capacity, led either by one of the in-country trainers or by others familiar with the subject. In Honduras, we got both.

Peace Corps Takes the Lead

Ken McMurray, a Peace Corps volunteer and former county-level urban and regional planner in Florida, contacted Megan Lewis, the APA project manager, in October 2002 to inquire about using the materials for a training program in northern Honduras. His experience in Florida provided him with the background necessary to understand hurricane mitigation and redevelopment issues, important factors to consider when planning and constructing housing in Central America.

APA provided Ken with the trainer's guide and workshop agenda, and connected him with Carlos Aguirre, our in-country trainer for the Honduras workshops, who advised him on teaching the workshop and using the materials. As a result, in December 2002 Ken conducted a shortened version of the workshop in two afternoons. He had seven people participate from the community of La Cañada, a village that desperately needs to relieve overcrowding in their community. Also in attendance was the local director of the property appraiser's office. Ken was assisted in the workshops by another Peace Corps volunteer, Mark Jackson.

"The people of La Cañada are farmers with little or no previous exposure to site planning and design issues," says Ken. "Many of them have probably not completed high school," which was one reason for the shortened, simplified workshop.

Among the benefits was giving the group a general introduction to planning and design issues. "One of the constant challenges here is helping people learn to think beyond the immediate short term and begin to think in the broader context of the future and longer term issues. I think the APA course was a good tool in that direction."

It also provided a context for members of the community to participate in the planning and design of their new community and talk about the things they wanted. "During the workshop we discussed their vision for the project and then saw how that vision could influence the designs for their community. This is another of the challenges here, to help people see that they can play an active role in decisions affecting their future, rather than depend on others to make all the decisions."

Building a New Community

An additional benefit of the course was that it provided Ken with a framework that he could use with the community that would carry through to the development of the housing area.

And develop it did. The first week of January, Ken worked with the farmers to start staking out the site. "The design they decided on includes lots for 30 families as well as a small central park area with community buildings, a green entrance from the highway with a small common commercial area owned by the community, and pedestrian areas." This is a tremendous break away from typical housing construction in the region, which often focuses on getting as many buildings on a site as possible and doesn't focus on the elements that create a community, such as public spaces and access to transportation.

As with any planning project, it is not following a completely perfect and logical process. "But it really helps to be working in the context of resources like the APA course as well as access to human resources such as yourself and Carlos Aguirre, who even reviewed site designs with me on Christmas Eve!"

Learn more or lend a hand

To learn more about the project and download the materials, which also include a university course syllabus, bibliography, and glossary of terms, please click on www.planning.org/cac/

If you are interested in learning more about the project in La Cañada and assisting them with financial donations, building materials, labor, or in any other capacity, please feel free to e-mail Ken McMurray at honduraken@yahoo.com.

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This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Honduras; Special Interests - Planning



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