Becca - Pacific Northwest
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So far, the rains have been steady and good! Nicaragua has two rainy seasons: mid-May to mid-July, and August into November. Note the short dry period which is when farmers use the time to harvest crops from the first rains. This year we have skipped that dry period and have just gotten rain. Despite the lack of the dry period, organic sesame was harvested and is coming into the sesame processing plant… we expect about 400,000 pounds.
Meteorologists are predicting that the rains will stop in October. COPROEXNIC, the organic agriculture cooperative, is hoping that this early halt in the rains will not affect the organic peanuts (about 2 million pounds) or the second growing season of sesame, which is usually double or triple the first season, because the seeds grow fatter. We are knocking on wood that the rains will continue.
• two folks from Once Again Nut Butter (Nunda, NY) came and measured a building to decide about creating a tahini processing plant here;
• maintenance on the sesame processing plant operated by COPROEXNIC has been done to make sure all is functioning well for when the crops arrive to be processed;
• issues with the peanut processing plant, NOT operated by COPROEXNIC, have been resolved… or so we believe… for this year’s crops; and
• COPROEXNIC’s Board of Directors continues to meet monthly and is absorbing more responsibilities.
Since our May newsletter was written, we have hosted five delegations which have worked in the Nueva Vida Clinic.
learn a great deal inside our clinic
and outside in the community. We make sure to send them forth with our nurses and/or health promoters into people’s homes.
One delegation from Massachusetts General Hospital Physician’s Assistant programcame for a second year on their own, but this year they also had one faculty member who came for a day-and-a-half to see the clinic and what the students were learning. PA students not only shadowed our doctors but also did home visits. After seeing our medicinal herbal garden, they were visibly excited to return to one patient’s home with a cutting of aloe vera to treat her terrible hemorrhoids.
Overlapping with the PA students were Ohio State nursing students
. Besides the above activities, they also taught classes for our new mother’s program
, mothers with toddlers program, our chronic care patients
, and our health promoters
. They were eager to learn how to better communicate culturally and to involve the attendees. A professor from each school is looking for HPV vaccine sources for our clinic’s patients.
Our most recent class was of public health students from East Tennessee State University’s graduate program.
The professor, Dr. Megan Quinn, has been bringing students to Nicaragua for five years and they share the research they do with us. This is seldom true for other students even if they have great intentions.
This year, the ETSU students, together with our lay health promoters, held block meetings
in Nueva Vida
and asked them about the problems they saw in their community. As the meetings wound down, they asked the participants to prioritize their problems. Each evening, the students compiled the information and then developed a survey
to go door-to-door asking the community which of those problems did they see as the most important.
We learned there were some health issues that we could easily address with small grants; such as, providing insulin at cost and helping one area to get rid of lice. Then there were other issues with our clinic; some of which are doable, and some we cannot do for lack of funding.
The issue that was almost universally prioritized was the lack of a sewage system. This is a huge problem because of:
- Standing grey water breeding mosquitoes because there is nowhere else for the water to go, especially in the rainy season;
- Latrines collapsing or not perking because they are too close together; and
- Some people not even having latrines and thus relieving themselves in public spaces such as under electrical lines. How would you like to poop in the grass like that? Or send your children into gross underbrush to relieve themselves?
Megan is helping us to start the process of writing a Rotary grant, while we start working with the mayor’s office and looking for other funding to help alleviate this enormous health issue.
The desperately needed construction on the clinic’s third building
progressed with a class from Bucknell University
(Lewisburg, PA). The class was here for three weeks learning and working.
And last, but definitely not least, the clinic and the local Rotary Club, hosted a delegation from East Chapel Hill Rotary Club
and others. Ten dentists, a pediatrician, and a plastic surgeon saw patients for four days…1,037 patients
…in four days
!!!! Plus…and yes, there is a plus... filmed a video, taught our lay health promoters about oral triage, talked to teachers in rural schools to see how they could help in the future, and survived some hot, hot, hot weather.
Our cooking staff of three cooked 75 lunches in our kitchen each day, packed them up, and sent them with drinks to the clinic. Our non-doctor staff worked outside under tarps checking in and organizing the children who came to see the dentists. One dentist said, “I hope someone is filming this to get the idea of the chaos.”
Let me add, though it was chaotic with crying children, it was amazingly organized chaos, thanks to the dentists and their capable assistants seeing one child after another; to our volunteer lay health promoters who worked their tails off; and to the local Ciudad Sandino Rotary Club.
Their plastic surgeon performed 107 minor surgeries in our clean room (mostly skin growths) and also evaluated, with our orthopedist, future patients with more serious problems. Now we need to locate what he needs for performing those surgeries when he returns.
The pediatrician treated 144 children in four days! AND maybe the most amazing thing of all, the delegation wants to return…in February! Yay!!!!
My! So much news! Let’s do what I callNews in Brief when I have little time to write family and friends:
- We hosted an afternoon of haircuts provided by celebrity hair stylists from New York. It became the social event of Nueva Vida!
- We continue to train Nicaraguan interns in the clinic…currently a nurse and a lab tech.
- One of our health promoters, Cristina, is working with Pat and Becca to learn how to grind lenses and measure people’s eyes for glasses.
- We have expanded our dental services for ORPHANetwork to children in León, a city about two hours away.
- We have put in over 100 birth control implants (still have a waiting list of 100 women) thanks to many of you who donated $50 for each implant, which protects a woman for five years!
The water project for two rural communities is progressing.
The project is in partnership with the local Rotary Club, other U.S. Rotarians, and the mayor’s office. The well is dug. The pump is installed. There is 70,000 gallons of water storage in place.
We are now working with El Porvenir… not the coffee cooperative, but a non-profit (NGO) group that works with water projects… to complete water distribution plans to move the water from storage to people’s homes, schools, and clinics. We have verbal agreement from four property owners for right of way… now we need written agreements.
Nicaragua in the news:
We know that the news seems to be more laden with crises, politics, and sometimes just plain craziness than it has in the recent past, but we ask you in the U.S. to please pay attention to one particular bill that has passed a House committee, called the NICA ACT
. This bill is designed to block Nicaragua from getting loans from international lending sources.
Nicaragua’s economy is growing. It is at peace. It is working hard to make 75% of its electricity generation renewable by the end of this year! Its social programs for the poor are working and receive praise from the World Bank. Its middle class is growing. It is repaying its debts. So why would some in Congress want to halt its progress?
There is a misconception that Nicaragua’s elections are not fair
We think it is more accurate to say that the opposing parties do not have the majority of the base of the voters (the people with whom we work) nor do WE see the opposing parties trying to win those voters over, which leaves the government in the hands of the Sandinista party, and the leadership of that party is mostly in the hands of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo.
Whether we are wrong or not: the United States government does not have the moral high ground or the ethical right to dictate whether this small country, which is not meddling in other nations’ affairs and is doing better by its people, can receive international loans, especially after the decades upon decades when the U.S. meddled in Nicaragua’s elections and government, including propping up a cruel dictatorship and funding a war against Nicaragua. Please watch for the NICA ACT
and respond as your conscience guides you.
Sarah had a successful spring speaking tour covering much of the Southeast of the United States. She spoke at 50 events in 6 states as well as visited with her daughter, grandchildren, brother, and extended family.
Becca, Paul, Eibhlín and Orla attended family reunions in California and Idaho (her father and his 12 siblings lost their mother last year). It was the first time that they had met many of their cousins.
Daniel and Claudia visited in Chile with their good friend, Neil, who does graphic design for us. This was their first long get away as a couple and to see a culture different from Nicaragua or the U.S.
We have enjoyed having Joseph home from college. His girlfriend, Alex, surprised him by coming for a visit. Her parents live in Senegal.
The Community enjoyed a visit from Shigeo, who volunteered with the JHC in 1984-85 when we ran shelters. Mike, Sarah and I especially LOVED seeing him again after so many years. Shigeo lives in Japan.
Kathy went to celebrate her best friend’s 70th birthday near DC. This is the first time Kathy has seen Sandy in nearly 20 years!
REFLECTION: (as of 16 August)
We have been watching on television the atrocities happening in Charlottesville, VA, supposedly over the university taking down a Robert E. Lee statue on its own private property…a general on the losing side of a civil war…BUT in the words of the leader of the march, and member of the Ku Klux Klan, David Duke, “We’re taking our country back.”
Most Blacks and Latino/as would argue that the White race has never lost their country, because we - White people - are still very much in charge… I mean, look at our mostly White government leaders. There is a growing boldness in the White Supremacy movements in the United States and in parts of Europe. It seems that throughout history whenever there is a level of fear, whether it is a legitimate fear or a trumped-up fear, racism comes into the sunlight and is like a nasty weed that starts taking over the garden. The weeds are always there…always…but fear makes the weeds grow ever stronger... bolder.
Racism is everywhere. This white skin of mine entitles me to privileges and safety that people of darker skin do not have. This proves true either when I was growing up in the South or now living here in Nicaragua, where the darker skin is also seen as less appealing.
Our daughter-in-law, Claudia, is blessed with beautiful mocha-colored skin. At least once when she and Daniel were dating, she was told by a Nicaraguan that Mike and I would not want brown grandbabies! I have heard Nicaraguans praise the lightness of skin color in new babies…here in the tropics no less, where the sun is strong!
Wealthy Nicaraguans tend to have lighter skin color and often refer to themselves as “European,” which is to say racism is alive and well in Nicaragua, but…but…there are no White Supremacy groups marching and killing people here.
Racism is a filthy, filthy stain on a country that lauds freedom as loudly as my homeland, the United States, does. I voted for Barack Obama in the primaries and in the general election mainly because I felt the nation desperately needed to have a president with dark skin…not only for my homeland but also for my current home, Nicaragua.
I felt it was important for Nicaraguans, both those of darker skin with less money as well as the so-called “Europeans” to experience a president who was not white in the White House. I knew racism ran deep in my homeland but I did not realize how prevalent it still was until the backlash of having a Black president came from many, many Whites.
The physical difference between men, women and children with darker skin and those of us with lighter skin is that they are lucky enough to have skin that is rich in eumelanin pigments.
They don’t burn as easily as I and my children do, although if we are careful, our skin will tan. Mike, on the other hand, is one of whitest men I know. He must constantly protect his skin. When he was younger he did not. As a result, he now has precancerous lesions all over his arms, face and neck. Why would ANYONE think this is a superior trait?
But we do. Racism resides in most of us. It should have been listed as one of the deadly sins by the Catholic Church. It eats at our societies across the world.
Even in Africa, the genetically taller Tutsi minority have slaughtered the majority, shorter Hutu peasants. In Japan, Koreans are oppressed and live in a climate of hate. So why all the racism?
We all want to think we are better than someone else. We all want power of one sort or another. And among the working class - it seems - it is easier to blame another with a different skin color than it is to challenge the rich who often feed the racism of the poor, so they, the rich, can accumulate wealth off the backs of the laborers.
When I was a girl, my daddy
spoke out against the Klan. He received death threats. The Klan scared me then and scares me now…and I’m White.
With that experience, I thought growing up that I was not a racist at all. In my senior year of college (1976), a professor asked my friend, Edie, and me to take his interim class on Black Awareness. It turned out that in our predominately white college, only the few Black students at Erskine had signed up. “Generously” signing up (“that was sure White of me”) was one of the best decisions I ever made.
Those students did not let this little White girl off the hook for anything! I learned how just being White made my life so much better. I learned how their background of slavery, bigotry, Jim Crowe, voting laws, and on and on and on kept them oppressed even after their Civil Rights were “achieved,” while giving ME a head start.
I was taken aback at their level of anger… no, rage…and was impressed at how they got up each morning and confronted all the white faces of their classmates and teachers and repeatedly heard subtle racist comments without going nuts.
Most importantly, I learned to Shut. My. Mouth. and LISTEN… just listen. It was one of the two best courses I had in all my 19 years of full-time school, including seminary.
I do believe that most of us have a level of compassion in us besides racism, but what seems to push that compassion aside is our need to justify ourselves. What we with white skin and the power must do is shut up and listen. We must hear the pain and agony…not try to excuse it away. We must get to know one another and one another’s children across the lines despite how much or little pigment we have.
We must recognize the fact that for us to have the power just because of our genetics is racism. Racism is alive in all of us and we must work to reduce its strangle hold on our outlook, our responses, our hearts, and our societies.
Racism is wrong. Racism kills slowly and quickly. Racism is sin.
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