Making a Living: Struggling to Survive in Honduras
|Breakfast in a Traditional Kitchen|
in the 'Campo' (the Country)
In Copan, I had an extensive opportunity to talk with Norfa, my Spanish teacher, about what it takes to earn a living in Honduras.
Minimum wage in Honduras was, until recently, about $250 a month. It was recently raised $336 a month, but unless you work in a large company, you will make much less.
For example, if you work as a cook, maid or gardner, you will probably earn around $100 a month. With unemployment over 50% in Honduras, these are the only jobs available for many Hondurans.
If you have a family of four or five, that is not going to be enough.
For example, in town, you will end up paying $200 month for rent and maybe $250 month for food, a basic diet consisting mostly of tortillas, frioles (red beans) and eggs. Possibly, you can save some money by raising chickens in your back yard, as is common in Copan. Then throw in $150 a month for children's clothing, school supplies and household necessities. You can see, with this budget of $600 a month, there isn't much money left over for you !
Fortunately, health care for the poor, another necessary expense, is provided by the government free of charge. But the bad news is that the system is overburdened and hospital employees, from orderlies to doctors, are overworked and burned out.
If you end up in the hospital, you may find yourself sharing a bed (not a room -- a bed! ). Private care is better, but you have to pay for it directly or buy health insurance, both of which costs money that you don't have.
So in order to meet the $600 a month budget, or $7200 a year, at least three people in the family have to work. But with the high unemployment that may be difficult.
In the country, people are much poorer. Neverthless, they do have the advantage of owning land and growing their own food. Yet, crop failure, caused by excessive rain or drought, can cause extreme hardship.
Jeannie Loving, a SAMS missionary, told me that the people of San Lorenzo, a village outside of Danli, have survived on just tortillas and salt for months, waiting for the harvest to come in. In fact, Jeannie has had to buy beans for several families so that they could survive.
It's typical for families to survive on $2.00 a day in these cash-deprived rural communities.