The Women's Sewing Cooperative is off and running full speed. Unfortunately it takes them more money to produce a shirt than they get paid! They need a production manager with experience in cut and sew shops and with creativity to work in an environment that doesn't have all the machinery desired.
They need more capital than we can provide to hire this person and to buy some more equipment. Their capital at the moment comes from us - we're their "bank" to make this amazing venture work - so we eat further and further into our budget. We don't have the money coming in to match what needs to go out. So we scrimp and cut and make hard, hard decisions.
Kathy, our bookkeeper, said, "I'm just praying for someone to give us $30,000 for the general budget soon."
The Loseta Cooperative is also getting business making construction materials. They have sold 30,000 paving blocks to the city of Ciudad Sandino. Unfortunately most of the money from the sale will not come back to our books - the "bank" - but will go to fix their machine that pounds the concrete to make tight, strong blocks for roads.
The Filtrón business (clay water filters) continues to sell their products. Except for thefts they are doing well and are stable. Hooray for good news!
Other good news is: an organization in Pittsburgh, Building New Hope, is selling 30,000 pounds of coffee from El Porvenir. If they sell all the coffee, it will bring the cooperative at least $90,000 which will, among other things, pay their loan to a real bank (so they will not lose their land) and allow them to begin to plant new coffee bushes because many are getting too old to produce.
Unfortunately for El Porvenir and our other growers, meteorologists are predicting a drought this year. We are praying/hoping they are wrong. Nicaragua does not need this. Nicaragua needs a break.
We hosted 2 delegations back-to-back in March. The first was students and teachers from the Peddie School in Hightstown, NJ. They brought donations to give to the women associated with the CDCA on International Women's Day.
Their gifts to the women in the sewing cooperative were especially appropriate. International Women's Day is set on March 8th when, in 1857, hundreds of textile and garment factory women marched in New York City to demand better wages and humane working conditions. Violence broke out with the police.
It felt right to acknowledge the women here struggling to claim their own and make their own business work on a day when other women marched 145 years ago demanding a living wage.
The other "big" thing that happened while the Peddie group was here was that 3 kids got into the center and robbed them, us, and the project. Though no one was hurt or molested in any way, what did happen was: (1) We were spooked because they came into our bedrooms while we were asleep. (2) They stole a bunch of stuff, most importantly our two laptop computers with a lot of vital information (up-to-date contribution records, mailing list, etc.). (3) We were spurred into action: changing our night watchpeople (who did more sleeping than watching) and getting our security wall finished. And … (4) People flooded us with love in notes, and Bucknell and Peddie replaced the laptops. How wonderful!
The Bucknell delegation brought us a laptop to use right away as well as medicines. They worked hard on the International Training Facility and the Women's Health Center.
The construction of the Women's Health Center is slow due to lack of funds, not lack of need. On her way home April 8th Sue, our nurse practitioner, picked up a 15-year-old in labor. She had planned to take the girl and her family to Ciudad Sandino's little hospital but heard her push and so turned back to the clinic. A baby girl was born in Sue's jeep. Jorge (our doctor), Sue and Henry rushed around. They finished up the birth and then took her to the little hospital for eight hours of observation. The hospital did not even feed her or give her much care at all.
Women need safe places to give birth … babies need safe places. A women's center can give those babies a head start with prenatal care, clean birthing rooms, and the encouragement to breastfeed.
I've recently read Taliban by Ahmed Rashid. He gives a political, social, and economic history of how and why the Taliban came to power in Afghanistan. I highly recommend it.
An important factor of Afghanistan's history is violence. One warlord would conquer a city and massacre the people opposing him. So when another warlord won it back, there would be retaliation, and on it went. Afghans were so tired of the violence and bloodshed that the Taliban appeared to be their hope for "law and order." Then the Taliban massacred people as well.
I'm no student of the Koran, but from what I understand, this is unacceptable. Self-defense is the only reason for violence, yet the Taliban and others defined the massacre as self-defense. With this definition there is no end to violence.
I may not know the Koran but I am a student of Jesus' teachings as written down in Christian literature, and he taught a way to stop the violence.
"When someone hits you on one cheek - turn the other."
Trust me, I am not saying that Christians do this any better than anyone else. No, Christians have ordered bombings, killings, massacres right along with the rest of the world. But it does offer a solution … a solution Christians at least ought to consider most seriously. As seriously as "Unless you are born again you cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven."
What if all those in power who claim the Christian faith - and only those people - said, "No, I will not hit back. I will find a way for us to live in peace"? What if the rulers actually followed through and really worked at loving our enemies, not killing them or using them for our own purposes? What if all the Christian leaders of the world tried to change enemies into friends?
What a different world we would live in. I recognize that it would be an uncertain world, because we would probably be struck across our face again and again. The anger out there is deep. But nonviolence can win when coupled with the desire to seek change, compromise, and harmony.
Violence begets violence. Look at history. Look inside homes. It is when we stop and say, "no more," and go another way that violence can end. Who will say that? Who will turn?
Can we as Christians be the first?
The Community moved down here to Nicaragua eight years ago. When we moved, Jessica still lived at home with us (now graduated from college and living in Boston). Tiff was a senior in high school at the North Carolina School of Science and Math (now graduated and works with computers). Coury was a cute five-year-old (now he is a striking teenager). Daniel was 1½ years old and in diapers (now 9 years old and speaking German and Spanish). And Joseph wasn't even born (now struggling with First Grade).
When we moved we never anticipated what direction our work would take. Then we started growing organic sesame with 13 growers, taught English, helped small, rural communities with some projects. Now we have over 400 growers in an established cooperative growing sesame, coffee, peanuts, and honey. We have three more cooperatives hiring 51 people. We run our own health clinic. Then we had our first delegation a year after we arrived, and had five volunteers. Now we host around six delegations per year and around 50 other volunteers. Then it was us and César working. Now we have us and 17 other people on staff. A lot has happened to our community in eight years - a lot.
Yes, I want to help support this work....