Reading about Honduras & about volunteering

Honduras, general

Marisa O. Ensor. The Legacy of Hurricane Mitch: Lessons from Post-Disaster Reconstruction in Honduras (Univ of Arizona Press, 2009).

This book uses longitudinal ethnographic studies to argue that disasters and disaster relief must go beyond simply treating the immediate problems and “confront the root causes of the vulnerability that prefigured the disaster.” A lesson that seems not to have been learned yet . . .

Eric Llamovitch. Honduras (Ulysses Travel Guides)

There are several other tourist-type guides of Honduras. This one contains maps of Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula, useful addresses, and lots of general information about the country. And pictures of course!

Peter Dale Scott and Jonathan Marshall. Cocaine Politics: Drugs, Armies, and the CIA in Central America (Berkeley: Univ. of California, 1991).

Chapter Three provides a larger history of the relationship between the US and Honduras from the “Banana Republic” days to the present. The rest of the book puts this into the larger Central American context.

Andrew Ross, ed. No Sweat: Fashion, Free Trade, and the Rights of Garment Workers (New York: Verso, 1997).

From Kathie Lee to Disney, everyone is making use of Honduras’ Free Trade Zones to produce goods for the US market. This book tells you more than you wanted to know about that, and more important, offers some suggestions about what you can do to help.


Robert Coles. The Call of Service: A Witness to Idealism (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1993).

A discussion of the various forms of volunteerism Coles has studied, and a celebration of “service” in all its forms. Coles describes what he learned from volunteering everywhere from SNCC to soup kitchens, and speaks bluntly about the reactions of those who are being “helped” and the possible pitfalls for volunteers–in addition to the benefits for everyone.

Michael Maren. The Road to Hell: The Ravaging Effects of Foreign Aid and International Charity (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1997)

A more chilling look at the business of charity from a former volunteer who served over nineteen years in various African nations working for several different aid organizations. Maren touches on some of the same dangers as Coles, but on a much larger scale. This book isn’t about Honduras, but it should make you think about the long term implications of every kind of charitable aid you offer.

Janet Poppendieck. Sweat Charity: Emergency Food Aid and the End of Entitlement. (NY: Penguin, 1998)

Another chilling look at charity; this time in the United States. Poppendieck describes the volunteer “industry” that has grown up around food banks and food pantries, and explores the local and national implications of our commitment to providing charitable food aid. Like The Road to Hell, this book is not about Honduras, but it has direct relevance to the kinds of aid programs we establish and support at home and abroad, and to the relationship between behavior and attitude.