February 2000

Fire hit the CDCA! On 10 January, we fought a field fire next to the Center, getting it under control before it came into our yard and near the 1,000 gallon propane tank. A group from Winthrop University was here in Nicaragua and the ones who were at the house helped. We donned bandanas and filled buckets from the pool and stomped. The fire department never came.
    THEN, late on 15 January, the motor home that we used for storage and for housing our generator caught fire. A group from Bucknell University was here, and all 26 of them formed the now infamous "Bucknell Bucket Brigade." We carried over 3,000 gallons of water in 1½ hours while waiting for the fire department to come.
    That group worked from 1:00 - 3:30 AM. They had one tall doctor and two strong football players who could sling the water high. Several others stood chest-deep in the COLD swimming pool to start the water on its way to them. Our kids found toy buckets and trashcans for hauling water. The storage was destroyed, BUT the Center (and our home) 20 feet away was untouched. It was scary.
    And sad.... We lost thousands of dollars' worth of medicines housed here because the clinic is not secure... school supplies, here waiting for the school year to start again... tools for construction and the concrete business, being kept safe from thieves... and so forth.
    If you want to help us replace these supplies, please mark "fire help" on the reply form.

Nueva Vida is growing and changing.The repositioning of latrines in the Stage 1 neighborhood is going slowly, but surely. The community doesn't see the need to move them, but the Ministry of Health declared that the ground water would be contaminated otherwise. So we and the community dig.
    A Wesley Foundation delegation from Winthrop University in South Carolina and a delegation from Bucknell University in Pennsylvania dug on this project in January. Winthrop kept a running daily total of feet dug. Six meters is a long way down by hand.
    The housing project with the Rotarians is still in the process of being worked out, and the time is about to run out, while 125 families still wait for their permanent homes, so we struggle on. The plan is for local Rotarians to raise money, which will be matched by Rotary International and funneled to us through a Rotary Club here.
    The Nueva Vida microenterprise business making pre-fab concrete housing slabs has sold some of its slabs. It is making slabs which are ready to use in building houses when the money is funneled our way. They lost over $1,000 of tools in the fire. The sewing cooperative is hopefully beginning to generate interest and, what is actually needed, investment to start it up as a source of employment for Nueva Vida women.
    The temporary health clinic is going full force in the afternoons. We are still able to give medicines and treat those who come. The hospitals are turning more and more people away -- two-week-old babies with pneumonia, for example. Unfortunately, we lost lots of medicines in the fire.
    The Clinic receives lots of volunteer help. We've had a doctor, two nurses, two data entry people, and pharmacy helpers. This also does not include Nueva Vida volunteers. We have 1-2 people daily from the community. With new help through the Crisis Corps, we will be expanding our Public Health component, a desperate need.
    The permanent health clinic appears to FINALLY have a plot of land, but there are still a number of details to be worked out. We hope groundbreaking will happen in March. The dream is a project in four stages:

The buyers for most of our organic crops came down here in January. They came once again to negotiate with the growers face-to-face. They talked about loan repayments (we still owe over $80,000 up-front money that was to have been paid off with crops destroyed by Hurricane Mitch), crop management, and responsibility.
    Another Crisis Corps worker is helping us enable PRONIC to become independent. His specialty is agribusiness. We are really struggling with how to get the growers independent from us, empower them, yet keep them afloat, and keep them responsible, all at the same time.
    PRONIC is a cooperative business which involves about 2,000 growers, that could be marketing about half a million dollars in product this year. There is still a long way to go.

The Community enjoyed having the adult children, Tiff and Jessica, home for the holidays. The younger children doted on them. And speaking of younger: Joseph has turned 4 years old and Coury, 11. Coury and Daniel (7 years old) have started the new school year. Pat and Kathy tutored them during school vacation in Spanish and German.
    Sarah, Mike, and Kathleen's parents have had or are having surgery: Sarah's mother and Kathleen's father, back surgery and Mike's father, eye surgery. The miles between the U.S. and Nicaragua seem longer these days.

Reflection...
    Life is tenuous with us and there is no security.
    Wages, livelihoods, are all based on the goodness of the givers.
    We have no health insurance ... no life, no home-owners, and no fire insurance. When we had the fires all I could dwell on was "Please God don't let it get to the house!" Now that it's over, we think, "I'll go get the [fill in the blank] -- Oh, no! It's gone. It was in the fire."
    These days the cooperative we live on is trying to sell out. We have a strange, uniquely Nicaraguan agreement to buy this property and although we have the law and justice on our side, it may not be enough. It's all frightening.
    But -- and it's a big "But" -- our lives are so much more secure than that of most Nicaraguans. We realize how "security," "insurance," the "future" IS, in fact, tenuous for us all.
    We can only live by grace. "Grace"-- it's a gift. Life, home, health, children, food, love -- it's all a gift. It's all grace and we are able to live "gracefully" when we take this reality to heart.

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