The Center for Development in Central America (CDCA) is a non-profit organization seeking to address human needs created by poverty in the Western Hemisphere’s second poorest nation by helping communities become self-sufficient, sustainable, democratic entities; by working with Nicaraguan communities to help them realize their own goals, rather than bringing in “ready-made solutions.” This involves community organization, a flexible approach to needs and priorities as they shift over time, identifying areas where the CDCA can be of service, and following through in those areas, while empowering Nicaraguans and gradually phasing out the need for the CDCA’s assistance.
What does all this mean in real life?
First, we work with poor people. Our projects are focused in the municipality of Ciudad Sandino, which has been a dumping ground for victims of natural disasters, and is located just outside the capital city of Managua. Ciudad Sandino is the most densely populated area of Nicaragua (over 7,700 people per square mile) and the poorest urban area in Nicaragua with an estimated 80% of the population lacking formal employment, and many living on less than $1.00 U.S. per day. Responding to grassroots needs, we work with worker-owned cooperatives, with organic farmers, and with poor people to provide health care.
Secondly, we help communities. We do not choose individuals and help them. We believe life is sustainable within communities; therefore, we help them organize, if needed, into democratically elected entities (which means we do not go into a community and appoint leaders or work with self-appointed leaders). We help these communities identify their needs and their priorities so that we are not imposing our "outside" values or ideas on them. We help them plan, identify resources, and carry out their goals. It is their job to create their own lives. It is our job to aid.
Thirdly, we want the communities to become self-sufficient and sustainable. It is not helpful for people to become completely dependent on aid, and so our work has grown into the following areas:
Since 1994 we have organized 1,600 small farmers into a cooperative business to market their organic crops. We have built three health centers and one school in rural communities. We have built a preschool/feeding center in a community where we also got water and latrines to every house. We have organized five cooperatives of workers from the poverty-stricken resettlement community of Nueva Vida (created in response to Hurricane Mitch in 1998). We have started a full-time health clinic to meet the health care needs of poor people in Ciudad Sandino. We have hosted approximately 125 delegations and 450 individual volunteers in Nicaragua, all of whom go back to their homes and teach people about Nicaragua. We have developed solar composting latrines, stoves that use less wood, and a bio-diesel project.
The one area of our work that will always need outside funding is health care... poor people cannot afford expensive health care; it has to be provided at low cost. With nearly 80% of the population in Nicaragua living on less than $2.00/day and nearly half the population living on less than $1.00/day there is no way they can pay for medicine... let alone a medical consult. Currently Nicaragua has a government that is trying to reverse the privatization of medicine but it will take a long time and a large budget to repair the damage that has been done to the Nicaraguan health care system.
The CDCA is made up of Nicaraguans, the Jubilee House Community, and people like you. The Nicaraguans working with the CDCA are very fine people including a few who are geniuses in the fields of community organizing and development, and construction. All of the cooperatives are made up of Nicaraguans who work hard to create successful businesses. We work closely with leaders of the communities to discover needs, to prioritize, and to evaluate the projects in which we become involved. We do nothing without these people's guidance. Many projects have already been turned over to Nicaraguans and are self-governed by Nicaraguans. Our hope is that all projects eventually will be turned over to the communities. We feel that the operation of the CDCA will continue to be a joint project of Nicaraguan communities and foreign groups and individuals, because projects will need U.S. and European contacts and fundraising support.
The Jubilee House Community is eight adults and our children who began working on this project in 1992 and then moved to Nicaragua in 1994 to set up the CDCA at the invitation of FUNDECI, a Nicaraguan development foundation based in Managua. The CDCA is a project of the Jubilee House Community, Inc., a non-profit organization [501(c)(3)] established in 1979 to work with the poor. (From 1979-1990 the JHC worked with the homeless and battered women in North Carolina, USA.) The JHC, Inc., also has International Mission status within Nicaragua.
It is also you. We cannot operate without the help and support of people like you. We are not financially wealthy as individuals and cannot support a program of this size (or any size for that matter!). Nicaragua is poor, extremely poor.
Here is a video that a former volunteer put together for us in 2009.
For more information, please contact us.
If you want to help...
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