The Women's Sewing Cooperative has had setback after setback. The women's tenacity is amazing.
A cutting machine and industrial fan were stolen. Their first big order has been delayed while the buyers look for organic cotton cloth (Nike bought up all the U.S. cotton for the next two years).
While they experience setbacks, they don't sit down. Instead they learn and perfect their sewing skills and their organization. They stay busy and they hope. They really want to earn some money for Christmas… to have chicken for Christmas Eve dinner, some new clothes for their kids and maybe even a toy.
The Concrete Construction Materials business may have some good news! The mayor of Ciudad Sandino has offered them the contract to make paving stones for some roads. This would be wonderful!
They are moving next door beside the Sewing Cooperative and their building has a roof, partial floor, and electricity.
The Filtrón business is sharing the new space with the Construction business. The filtrón is a clay filter designed and treated to purify water. This business is coming under our auspices to learn how to become worker-owned.
The filtrón is a wonderful creation. It's simple and easy to maintain. Made of clay, baked in a kiln, and then treated with colloidal silver, the filter cleans water. The Center uses them.
US AID funded a researcher from MIT to test the filters. She was very impressed.
The Agriculture Cooperatives have also had many setbacks. India and Africa have flooded the U.S. market with low-cost sesame. Growers here cannot produce sesame as cheaply. Ecologically, sesame is a good cash crop for Nicaragua because it needs little rain.
With the help of U.S. friends we have been able to find markets in Australia and Europe.
We continue to help coffee growers sell their coffee. Wonderful people in New York, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina have helped. An extraordinary gringa living here in Nicaragua has searched for and found many U.S. markets for us.
We are constantly amazed at how big businesses defeat small growers and businesses. We are also awed at how small growers and businesses keep plugging along, but then here in Nicaragua, it is plug along or starve.
The January Bucknell Brigade will start digging the foundation for the Second Stage of the health clinic - a Women's Center. We begin with much excitement and some trepidation. We trust that funding will come to operate this Women's Center. Bucknell University (Lewisburg, PA) raised the vast majority of the funds for the existing clinic.
The Women's Center will have a birthing room. Recently a mother in Nueva Vida labored at home for four days. She refused to go to the hospital until the last minute, so she delivered at home. Fortunately baby and mother were okay, but homes here are dirty because of the dust and lack of water (Nueva Vida only has water for six hours daily, and that is during the night). A clean place will give women more safe options. Also we will be able to educate and provide prenatal care.
Our volunteer nurse, Jane, is doing home visits. We have a list of malnourished and asthmatic children that she checks on at least monthly. Hopefully, with time, these visits will make a big difference.
As you plan your holiday giving, please consider an Alternative Gift to the poor in Central America through a contribution to the Center for Development in Central America in honor of family members or friends. We will be happy to acknowledge your gift to them with a card from here in Nicaragua. Please enclose a note listing each recipient's name and address, and the way you wish each card signed.
General Nicaraguan News:
The presidential and national assembly elections were held November 4th. There have been questions of election fraud but not to the extent that would change the presidential results.
Enrique Bolaños of the Liberal Party won with approximately 53% of the vote. He is currently vice-president.
Daniel Ortega conceded with 45% of the vote. He was the presidential candidate for the Sandinista party. Many thought he would win.
Bolaños, with the help of the U.S. government, ran a campaign that focused heavily on Ortega harboring terrorists. Most people here do not believe that Ortega has any connection with terrorism, but do believe that if Ortega had been elected, then the U.S. would treat Nicaragua as a terrorist state. They also believe that the U.S. would approve sanctions if not outright war. The general consensus among people we talk with is that the U.S. campaign scared people.
Bolaños has publicly stated that he wants to reinstate the National Guard and bring the stability of the 70's to Nicaragua. The 70's were during the dictator Anastasio Somoza's reign.
Hurricane Michelle hit Nicaragua's eastern coast the last week of October, leaving many dead and thousands homeless. It brought lots of rain here, to the western coast. There was some flooding, but not too much damage.
September 11th and the days thereafter were important days in our personal lives with our Nicaraguan friends and co-workers.
When we saw on television the jet from Boston fly into the second tower, we trembled wondering if Tiff, the JHC's adult son who lives in and travels weekly from Boston, might be on the plane. He wasn't, but it helped us connect with victims' families.
Coury, the only gringo child in his class, felt important. His classmates and teachers talked to him and expressed their sympathy.
Our co-workers said how sorry they were. Some cried. A Cuban doctor teared up and commented on all the loss and the pain.
When I bought magazines in the store, strangers would ask me where I was from? "Oh, how terrible," "You have our sympathy," were their responses.
Thinking only for minutes that Tiff might have been there helped us to connect. Going through the Contra War in the 80's - the bombings, the mines, the terror - connected the Nicaraguans to us.
I marveled at how these people reached out to us. We know their history. We know the terror they felt during the U.S.-backed Contra War in the 80's. We know how the contra targeted innocent civilians and how sanctions devastated the economy and poverty took many innocent lives, and yet they did not in the slightest rejoice to see "the U.S. get theirs." No, they grieved with us, worried with us, and tried to ease our burdens.
We have much to learn still from these people.
Other news re the Community and staff:
Coury, Daniel, and Joseph successfully finished their school year. Pat and Kathy just completed their fall tour.
Josue Jaime "Cabeza" graduates from secondary school in December. He went back to school with the CDCA's financial support and now, five years later, is graduating.
Juan, the boy who worked so hard on the clinic that we pay his schooling, has finished his second year.
Maria, who has 11 children, continues to work in the clinic and go to night school. Moises, her 11th child, is 1-1/2 years old.
Not counting the five of us in the Community, the staff of the Center numbers 23: this includes people who organize, clean, fix, build, watch, heal, and teach.
I am a Christian and the message of the angels in the Christmas story seems more poignant in this year of terror, bombs, war, and death than any other time in my life.
"Be not afraid for I come to bring you good news…." Is it "shepherds be not afraid now but later it's okay to be afraid" or is it "be not afraid for all time because of this news - this good news"?
Fear is everywhere. U.S. citizens are afraid to fly… afraid to travel… afraid to open mail… afraid of their Arabic-looking neighbors. Afghanis are afraid to go to sleep… afraid to go plow their fields… afraid to flee their homes… afraid to leave their children.
Nicaraguans, too, are afraid… afraid that if they voted Sandinista the U.S. would bomb them… afraid of another U.S.-backed war… afraid of U.S. sanctions.
All this fear - real fear with real reasons creates bad news… creates more fear… creates terror that moves across borders, across hemispheres and into homes and hearts. The terror feasts on our souls.
"Be not afraid for I come to bring you good news. For unto you is born this day in the City of David a child…."
In the City of David - in Palestine in the hot bed of hate and fear. Jews hating Muslims. Muslims hating Jews. Christians hating Muslims and Jews. And Jews and Muslims hating Christians.
A child - a baby - an innocent. How many innocents have died? In New York City? In Washington? In Kabul? In the country-side of Afghanistan? In the Middle East before September 11th? In Latin America? In Asia? How many? In the news it seems like the Holy Day of the Slaughter of the Innocents has reached world-wide proportions.
"Be not afraid… a child who is Christ the Lord."
This child, this innocent, grew up to teach love… to teach forgiveness… to teach reconciliation… to teach justice (not punishment but justice)… to teach us shalom - salaam - wholeness - peace. He died to save us from our fear and our hatred and our sins.
The story continues as the angels leave the poor shepherds singing "Peace on earth and goodwill to all."
Peace and goodness are what the heart of the world craves. So why did the angels come to shepherds and not kings like President Bush or the powerful religious leaders like the Taliban? - why to shepherds - people like you and me? The shepherds, like us, are ones who go through life doing what we can, where and when we can. They were not the powerful or the rich, they were like you and me.
Why did the angels pick the shepherds? Why pick lowly people? Maybe because lowly people are able to receive the news as good news. To the lowly, the news does not threaten their power-base, their influence, their polls, their "mission from God."
If you and I can hear the message starting with
Be not afraid
Then you and I can change this world. We are able to hear the angels, hear their message.
We are able to see the love of God in the innocent.
We are able to halt the slaughter of the innocents.
We can proclaim the desire of The One whom Jews, Christians, Muslims alike worship - the desire for there to be
Peace on earth and Goodwill to ALL.
May your holy days / holidays be filled with peace, goodness, and courage.