In 2000 a photographer named Nancy McGirr came to Honduras looking to plant the seeds for an education program based on photography and environmental awareness. In 2002, with the help of Jose Herrero, Guaruma was formed.
Currently Guaruma runs education programs in the communities of Las Mangas and El Pital to the south of La Ceiba. The administrative office of Guaruma is located in La Ceiba. Guaruma’s location was chosen for several reasons. The communities of the Cangrejal watershed are found on the Eastern border of the 117,000 hectare Pico Bonito National Park. The watershed is home to a vast diversity of flora and fauna, many of which are endangered species, making this an area of unquestionable ecological importance.
Many of the inhabitants of the watershed live in conditions of poverty and rely on the fragile ecosystem for food, shelter, and a source of income. These communities are spread out along the main road that follows the river’s edge and throughout the surrounding mountains. The majority of the people work for large landowners, earning approximately $2.50 a day for farm labor and $5 for construction. There is little fulltime work available. Agriculture is the basis of the local economy and the lack of education leads to malpractice and poor treatment of the tropical land. Electricity and running water are only available to those communities directly on the unpaved road and, even so, cannot be afforded by all who live within access.
The children of the Cangrejal river valley live in a place that is still recovering from devastation caused by previous hurricanes and natural disasters that have greatly affected the area. When Guaruma began its projects in the valley in the year 2000, only 10% of the children had successfully passed six grade of their elementary education. After Guaruma’s inception approximately 96% of the children go on to study in middle and high school.