Great News! The Women's Sewing Cooperative is drowning in success! They have more orders than they can handle right now. Forty-five people are working 9 1/2 hours a day, five days a week (half an hour less than the regular Nicaraguan work week). But that's not all...
- They have been featured in two national papers: El Nuevo Diario (a full page) and La Prensa (a half page). Because of this publicity, Telemundo is doing a half-hour television program in May on this project. Telemundo is a worldwide Spanish language network owned by NBC.
- They have organized into a Free Trade Zone business and are working hard to complete the legal, administrative, and physical requirements to get their Free Trade Zone status.
- They have a website of their own - thanks to much work by Becca and volunteers Kelly Doering and Mikel Waxler. http://fairtradezone.jhc-cdca.org
- We took the members of the cooperative on a play day to a laguna. It was in honor of International Women's Day and was a great success. The cooperative seems to be working better together, poco a poco.
- They are making new items of clothing other than t-shirts and camisoles.
- Probably most important - they grossed 140% more in the first three months of this year than they did in all of 2003!
Wow! Rejoice with them or do a little Snoopy, happy dance!
More Great News! The coffee cooperative, El Porvenir, has sold their 2003 coffee crop (44,000 pounds). Building New Hope is buying their crop at a price better than the organic fair trade price.
Tim Rogers of Tico Times (an English language Costa Rican weekly paper) wrote an article for The Christian Science Monitor that was front page on April 13, 2004. He focused on Fair Trade certification and the fact that it is in reality not so fair. He used El Porvenir as an excellent example. You can read it on their website: www.csmonitor.com. We hope that more attention will be paid to this issue in order to help small coffee growers worldwide.
Other cooperative news:
The Security Cooperative continues to be reliable and ease our minds lots. They have eight men working.
The Concrete Construction Materials Cooperative works hard, then has a long lag, but their ten workers are at least breaking even.
The sesame producers of the Organic Crops Cooperative are expecting a good year if a processing plant reopens. We do have a buyer who might buy clean but unhulled seeds.
Note: We do accept loans to help these cooperative and individual microenterprise endeavors.
The Health Clinic needs a laboratory, and we think with $4,000.00 we can get one up and running for a year. We have a teaching nurse helping us with equipment and a lab technician coming to help us see what's what. We anticipate that the lab will partially pay for itself.
The price of medicines here jumped as much as 26% on April first. We bought lots of medicines in March to stock our shelves but this is going to hurt our budget a great deal.
The Women's Center progresses albeit slowly. One major concern is the operational budget once the building is finished. In March the Bucknell Brigade (Bucknell University is in Lewisburg, PA) worked on the never-ending process of "repello"(putting a concrete finish on the walls).
Many volunteers are coming over the summer. We have a delegation in May, two in June, one in July, and one in August. We have at least seven individuals planning on working this summer.
We had a volunteer coordinator, Mike Tracey, with us for several months who was expecting to help over the summer, but was called to an interview to be a New York City firefighter. We're hoping his training starts in September and he can return. If not, we will be short-handed for three delegations.
The Community has been here for 10 years now. Another Wow! We came in several waves 10 years ago. Mike and Kathy made the infamous trip south by land (taking one full month) with Brian, Kayhan, Tío Max, Stephen, and Bobby all the way here, with three trucks, a bus, a minivan and all our stuff. They lost two drivers after the first day and two more in Texas as they took two weeks trying to cross the border. The tenacious seven arrived at Rancho Masilí, the Center's current home, on 26 April 1994 around 10:15 pm, along with César who met them at the Nicaraguan border.
Kathleen with Coury (age 5) and Daniel (age 11 flew in May. They had six HUGE bags, 6 carry-ons, and three hats that Coury wore one on top of the other.
Pat, Sarah, and Tiff, who had stayed behind wrapping up jobs and household things, came in June, also loaded with luggage. Friends - good friends! - helped finish the tasks of selling and storing stuff that were still left to do.
Jessica came in July with her grandmother, Jessie, after completing a summer drama program. And last but definitely not least, Joseph came almost two years later as a gift from God. He's now 8 years old.
It's hard to believe it's been 10 years - it feels shorter; it feels like a lifetime. In our next newsletter we'll reflect on what we've done in those 10 years.
One other and important community note: we've welcomed a goddaughter. Isamar de los Angeles was baptized here on 18 April with great celebration! She is the daughter of Henry, the Health Clinic's medic and our friend for these last 10 years.
Along with such wonderful news comes the reality that the future holds a frightening scenario for our projects and the people of Nicaragua. The scenario is as follows:
- The Clinic cannot provide help for the huge increase of patients as health care is privatized and the public clinics in Ciudad Sandino are closed.
- The Clinic cannot afford the increased price of medicines as the time on “intellectual patents on medicines' is lengthened from 7 years to 20 years. Nicaragua laboratories close and imported medicines are over-priced.
- The Clinic is inundated with more chronic illnesses as environmental laws are nullified so that foreign investors can make more profit.
- The Clinic will suffer from water shortages even though Nicaragua has one of the largest water tables in the region because there are plans for Nicaragua's water (its most precious asset) to be sold to Transnational Corporations as a for-profit commodity and export. The Nicaraguans will have to do without.
- The Concrete Construction Materials Cooperative will be in jeopardy when water is privatized and sold off.
- Our volunteers will have more trouble showering after long days, and we as well as the rest of the country will live as if we're in a desert.
- We will need to help schools even more as they are privatized. Illiteracy rates will increase tremendously, which is a plus for foreign investors because the specific goal is a "cheap, docile workforce". That is more easily accomplished if the workers have no reading skills.
- Our farmers will have to raise more crops for export and fewer crops for in-country use as U.S. subsidized food floods the Nicaraguan market. A Nicaraguan cannot grow food for sale cheaper than a U.S. farmer with all the U.S. government subsidies.
- Their crops will eventually become genetically altered because of cross-pollination, something none of our farmers want.
- Small growers will not be able to survive. They will lose their land and move to "employment" in cities like Ciudad Sandino, already grossly over-populated.
- The women in the sewing cooperative may have to fight legal battles to sell their garments at fair prices EVEN THOUGH they have buyers, because fair prices don't allow for a free market!
- Our staff, their families, and all the people we serve will have a lower standard of living as they have to pay for rights guaranteed under the Nicaraguan constitution but nullified by international trade policies.
Where does this scenario come from? CAFTA - Central American Free Trade Agreement.
We know you've heard what the possibilities are to U.S. workers and the U.S. unemployment rate. Well, the above is only a tiny bit of what it will mean for Nicaragua. This is how it will impact our projects alone.
I'm a white southerner. I've learned about slavery. I've learned and relearned. I've learned who benefited, who lost. I relearned about the dehumanizing of people - their indignities, their loss of determining their own destinies, their hunger, their labor, their poverty, their loss of family, their loss of their homeland, their loss of their very selves.
CAFTA is another form of slavery. Not so blatant more subtle more devious. But the impact is much the same -- people of power (mostly white) using people of color to make a lot of money. Only these masters don't even live in the same country as their slaves. They NEVER have to see the people they abuse and then go to sleep. It's too easy it's too clean for them.
Nicaraguans as well as other poor Central Americans are going to lose... lose big time. While the rich, powerful corporations are going to benefit... benefit big time. If the profit is not large enough, then no skin off their noses - they leave an environmental, economic disaster and go to a place where "slavery" is a bit easier.
CAFTA is horrific. It's scary. It's wrong. It's evil. It has to be stopped. We ended slavery - we, as a people, grew to publicly proclaim that slavery is reprehensible. It's time to say it again.
Yes, I want to help support this work....
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