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May 17, 2004

Honduras internship photo

Jaime Carlson (left) and Byron French (right) give computer lessons to an Amapala teacher who will in turn teach the student population. At this site, the teacher and four assistants were chosen for this project.

Exporting Goodwill
Interns open their hearts to Honduras

This article was reprinted from the spring 2004 edition of The Record

In Central America last summer, three LBJ School student interns donated their time and skills while opening their hearts to the people they made contact with during their work in some of the area’s most impoverished regions.

Officially, Jaime Carlson, Colby Clark and Byron French were in Honduras to help establish medical databases and to evaluate U.S.-funded water treatment projects. But along the way, the trio also collected and packaged donated school supplies; worked with a team of doctors, dentists and optometrists as translators and assistants; helped a number of orphanages and NGOs by building adobe houses and forecasting needs; and acquired computer equipment to improve education and medical service delivery.

“Nothing was done in a vacuum,” said Carlson, who organized the project. We found opportunities to help, and we did just that, helped.”

Honduras internship photo

Children flock around Colby Clark, who handed out toys and learning incentives. The knickknacks and school supplies were collected in the United States by the interns and then shipped to Honduras.

The idea for the project had been brewing in Carlson’s head since 1999, and in 2000 he established, a think tank and a vehicle for designing and implementing these types of projects. In 2002 Carlson was inspired to make a more permanent impact on the problem facing the poor in Honduras after accompanying his father, a pediatrician who was on a medical mission sponsored by M.E.D.I.C.O. (Medical, Eye, and Dental International Care Organization, Inc.).

“I finally wrote a funding proposal during spring 2003,” he said. “The details worked themselves out as I was leveraging past connections with people I had met on previous M.E.D.I.C.O. trips to Honduras.”

Honduras internship photo

Jaime Carlson and his companions helped a group of doctors, dentists and optometrists who were in Honduras as part of a M.E.D.I.C.O. project. During this stop, the interns provided recommendations to the M.E.D.I.C.O. team to improve efficiency.

According to Carlson, he initially contacted Clark and French because he needed someone to proofread his funding proposal. After reading the proposal, both Clark and French became interested and, as Carlson put it, “inspired me to get my act together.”

Eventually the internship allowed the three students to implement a number of projects in the areas of rural health care, water supply, nonprofit strategic planning and computer technical assistance.

When asked to evaluate the impact they had made, Carlson said that they had come into contact with over 3,000 people, and “I like to think that we helped them all.” He added that the interns represented a group that was working on water supply improvements that will benefit future generations. “I’ll have to work out the growth function and calculate those benefits,” he said teasingly.

In the area of computer education, Carlson said some of the people the students trained had never heard of computers. “We want to find more funds so we can go back and see how many students really have a strong understanding of the skills we attempted to teach,” he said.

Calling the project “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” and saying the work is “challenging and highly fulfilling,” Carlson said that he would like to go back if he can find the funding.

Related Links:

The LBJ School Internship

Community building through technology:LBJ School connects nonprofits with affordable IT tools (April 12, 2004)

Technology as a tool for real global change (March 10, 2004)

© Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs
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Austin, TX 78713-8925

17 May 2004

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