We are in our new health clinic! What joy! What wonder! What work!
The construction of the clinic went so slowly after most of the gringo summer volunteers went home. We had the hardest time motivating people.
We decided that people had to work in the construction to receive a 'bono' (or coupon) before we would see them in the existing clinic. Then we had to put the community promoters to work on getting folks to turn out.
We'd been told that we needed to change our policy from handing out free care to requiring something in return. Our Nica staff and we decided that if this was to be a community clinic - of the community and by the community - then the community needed to be responsible.
Our staff and Nueva Vida people worked seven days a week... worked Purisima (BIG holiday), Christmas, and New Year's Day and on January 13th the Bucknell Brigade moved us in.
The building is spacious, cool, wonderful, and not done - but hey, can't have everything!
We have a new nurse volunteer, Jane Thomas, who is working with us for a year. She is invaluable in getting us organized in the new building.
You should see the clinic. It is great!
Juan, 13 years old, came to work in the construction of the clinic in its beginning stage when the "gringo volunteers" worked this past summer. He worked beside them/us. When the push was on to finish the clinic, he came daily. He was the most faithful volunteer worker of all the Nueva Vida community. How could we reward his diligence, his hard work, his time, and his labor? We gave him more than a 'bono'; we gave him a job - 13 years old. He is so proud.
The job comes with two conditions: he has to go to school and keep his grades up. We pay him a full-day's wage and after morning work he goes to school. He is attending school for the first time in his life.
This is empowerment on a small scale. His hard work for the community enables him to have what he needs and wants: a job, an income, integrity. These give him a small measure of control - of power. Yet real empowerment goes one step further: it plans and aids for the future - in Juan's case, an education is included.
The old saying is "It is better to teach someone to fish than to give them a fish to eat". Move it one step further... help them plan a way to always have a supply of fish and work within the community to create a future. Power and control over their own lives now and in the future - that's what development work is all about.
Juan is empowerment on a small scale. On a larger scale...
Let us introduce you to our Enterprise Development Team. They have great plans for themselves.
Rodolfo Acevedos is a business consultant who is currently focusing on business plans for the Women's Sewing Cooperative (a future worker-owned free trade zone, sewing organic cotton clothing for export); for the Construction Materials Cooperative (currently making losetas and posts); and some plans with PRONIC, SA (a cooperative of farmers who grow organic products).* He is also training the Women's Sewing Cooperative and Construction Cooperative members in business.
Lisa Spicka is working to get organic certification for seven community grower groups that we, the CDCA, support. These are the new groupings formed out of all the old 20 grower groups of PRONIC. She is getting peanut and sesame processing plants certified organic - neither currently exist in Nicaragua after bankruptcy.
Jeremy Thaler and Connie Potter are working on the business aspects of these projects. They are sharing their 30 years of experience working in cooperatives with the rest of the team and with our cooperatives. Connie is doing the initial bookkeeping of the businesses. Jeremy is working on the start-up of the Women's Sewing Cooperative and of a worker/grower-owned processing facility.
We welcome them and are grateful for their efforts and to Children's Haven Foundation for the funding.
*all of which are projects of the Jubilee House Community's Center for Development in Central America
We have four volunteers with us this winter and spring - Jane, Becca, Cynthia, and Wendi - and will have a total of four delegations: two from Bucknell University in Lewisburg, PA, one from Lopez Island, WA, and one from Winthrop University in Rock Hill, SC.
Engineering students from Bucknell are designing a trash incinerator for Ciudad Sandino for their senior project. We hope it can come to fruition because trash is a major problem in our area. On January 10th, Ciudad Sandino became its own municipality and elected a Sandinista government. Ciudad Sandino has an approximate population of 147,000 (including Nueva Vida) with a tax base of $345,000 which means about $2.35/person for schools, trash, sewage, police, fire, roads, etc.
The government wants to do much but has no money, so it appreciates all the help it can get. Cynthia created this map of the city for the engineers.
The Community enjoyed having Kathleen's parents, Bob and Peggy Murdock, here at Christmas, as well as Mike's dad, T. Earl Woodard and Tiff and Jessica.
Pat has turned the Big 50 while Joseph has turned the Big 05. The Nicaraguan school year has started and he now goes to school with his big brothers, Coury and Daniel.
This will be our year for 50th Birthdays - Sarah, soon, and Mike, later. Kathy, our "matriarch-who-gets-no-real-respect", will celebrate her 52nd birthday on February 21.
The time of Lent is soon to be upon those of us who recognize the Church Year. It's a time when many give up something as a reminder to reflect and pray... and as a penance. Lent moves us to Good Friday and the death of Jesus. Lent ends and Easter begins at daybreak.
Jesus told us to look for him in the suffering of others. In pain and oppression we see the dying of humanity and the divinity. Here in Nicaragua the pain, the poverty, the oppression are so prevalent. The dying of Jesus is easy to see - not hidden away.
You, who live in the U.S., can see the pain as well. People are suffering and hurting. Children, there, kill each other. The cross is not just on Good Friday or on Fridays, but is there in front of us every single day. All we have to do is open our eyes and see it. Open our hearts and touch it. Open our arms and embrace it. Reach out and carry it -- ease the pain we encounter through love and kindness.
But Christians don't stop with Lent and reflection, or Good Friday and suffering; we move to Easter and the resurrection. Each day is resurrection. As the sun lights up the sky there is hope. Each breath is life. Each laugh is joy. Each song is heaven. Each dance is wildness.
Every day could be Lent, Good Friday, and Easter all rolled into one. If it were, I believe the world would be a kinder, more whole, and more joyous place.
Maybe for Lent we could give up the season and daily embrace the whole.