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Sarah - N.C. to Maine
Nicaragua has the largest fresh water island in the world. One of our first cooperatives to receive organic certification to grow sesame lives on that island and has now been denied certification.
This cooperative of 33 growers, headed by a woman, now has tobacco fields abutting their land. Correctly, the organic certifiers are concerned about the chemical run-offs from the tobacco affecting the surrounding sesame plants. We have worked with this cooperative for 20 years!
This cooperative, which has always grown organically, cannot up and move, nor should they. They did nothing wrong, but even though they continue to grow organically, now they can only sell their sesame at non-organic prices, which are much lower.
The actions of others affect the poor.
COPROEXNIC, the organic agriculture cooperative, combines the resources of about 3,000 small growers to enable small farmers to obtain organic certification and financing
. As a combined unit, they can process, market, and ship their crops to buyers throughout the world. COPROEXNIC continues to take steps to operate independently apart from the Center for Development in Central America.
has contracts with all the farmers and has gotten $1.1 million in finances for harvesting, but that still falls short of their funding needs
. The sesame and peanut crops are expected to be good this year, because thankfully Nicaragua so far has had good rains. Unfortunately for peanuts, it might end up being too much rain! Recently there have been downpours resulting in up to 2 inches of rain in a few hours.
The peanuts are still being processed at a plant in León with the future hope of COPROEXNIC having their own plant; while the sesame continues to be processed at the COPROEXNIC plant which hires 30 people seasonally.
As its machinery ages, it needs more and more repairs and replacements. As I write, the water pump and electrical system are being repaired poco a poco, but the systems need more extensive repairs that will cost in the tens of thousands of dollars. Normally the plant should be processing 2-3 containers of sesame a week but instead it can only process one.
Just getting by is how the poor live.
The coffee harvest of El Porvenir, a cooperative of 52 families, is expected to be lower this year
because high winds knocked trees down that shaded the plants. Thankfully they also plant sesame, which will bring in cash for the 223 people who live in this remote area of Nicaragua. Besides helping the cooperative with their livelihood in the agriculture area, we also help with medical care.
Two veterinarians and an aide from Texas and Alaska went to El Porvenir for a week to help with the health of their animals. The last two days of that week, an Alaskan delegation went to treat patients, including providing medications. Our health brigades are the only doctors who go to the top of the mountain to treat the people at the remote cooperative. Otherwise they have to make the arduous trek to get to a public health clinic.
Access to health care for the poor is not a given.
In July, unbeknownst to us, Orphan Network (ON) sponsored a survey in Nueva Vida to see which clinic the people in Nueva Vida preferred to attend. 80% of those surveyed said our clinic! Why? Because of the space, the various specialties, the lab, the counseling, and the care they receive. ON took this survey because they were seeing fewer people in their own health clinic. As a result of the survey, they closed their clinic and offered to lend support to us. This is a unique approach for non-profits.
What do we offer that other health clinics do not? Here are a few examples:
Our New Mothers’ groups and our ob/gyn offer comprehensive care to pregnant mothers.
One of our hypertensive patients who is a member of our Chronic Care program
forgot to take her birth control pills. She became pregnant with her third child. Her hypertension scared her and rightly so. Not only is our ob/gyn monitoring her closely, but our health promoters
and nurse make home visits to even more closely monitor her to prevent preeclampsia.
Another pregnant mom had pain in her wisdom teeth. She had waited a month-and-a-half for the public health clinic to remove the teeth.
She shared this information with the leader of the mothers’ group and got an appointment right away in our dental clinic to remove the wisdom teeth, not only to ease her pain but to prevent infection.
Through our New Mothers’ groups, we are able to identify problems that might go unchecked. The key element for success in these groups and in many of our programs are our lay health promoters. On many occasions they participate in the clinic’s programs themselves and are the clinic’s best PR. They are closely connected with their neighborhoods and spread the news. An example:
A health promoter had been waiting a long time for a tubal ligation from the government. She fit all the criteria…she was over 30 years old and had 4 children. She came to the clinic for a birth control implant
and she was convinced! She began gathering women who had also gotten implants from our clinic; then she organized meetings so these women could tell others how freeing the implants are! Not having to worry about feeding a child you’re not ready to have reduces stress and helps parents be better parents to the children they have or allows them to become parents when they are ready.
Our clinic has various programs that range from the support groups and classes to seeing specialists like a pediatrician, orthopedist, ob/gyn, and radiologist. We have a dental clinic, a laboratory, a family counselor, and a vision clinic. All in one spot… this is unique.
The poor often wait and wait and wait to be seen by a specialist.
The other aspect that the survey showed is that our patients recognize that our staff does care.
Our dentist, Inya, took her own money, when the CDCA had none, to pay for a partial denture for a 12-year-old who fell and broke her front permanent tooth in half.
A health promoter, Cristina, learned to use our auto-refractor to measure people’s eyes to provide vision correction
through eye glasses. She works in our clinic three mornings a week. She cuts lenses for new frames so that people can have nicer looking eye glasses. A two-year-old could not see well.
Her mother had taken her to the public health program, but the prescription they gave her didn’t help. Cristina measured her eyes. She took donated glasses, popped the lenses out, cut new lenses, and put those lenses in the frames. The two-year-old can see now! Mama and child are thrilled!
The poor often have to just make do with what they are given.
Our general doctor, Elizabeth, goes into the homes of TB patients to make sure they are doing well. We now give support to 10 TB patients and 6 HIV positive patients.
Two of our TB patients are a couple who both have hypertension as well as diabetes and need frequent monitoring and good nutrition. Two of our current HIV positive patients are children. Two more children have been identified but their parents are afraid the neighbors will learn they are HIV positive, so most of their care comes in the form of home visits. Our paid health promoter, Jessenia, and our nurse, Martha, help to get these families what they need.
Our chronic care program is mostly adults but we do have some children
. One 7-year-old has heart and kidney issues and is bed-bound. Her mother washes and irons clothes to make a living. For a while, they went to the public health clinic for her care but the clinic is a long walk and the wait is long. The mother has to work to feed the family, leaving a daughter, not very old herself, to care for her bed-bound sister. Our pediatrician now cares for the girl and does follow-up in the home.
Another chronic care patient
who is a teenager has epilepsy and muscular atrophy.
His costs in our clinic are exonerated along with those patients who are too poor to contribute the $2.00 symbolic fee. That $2.00 fee includes a consult with the doctor, lab tests, and medicines, but falls far short of the actual cost of treating our patients. This family of 12 people live in a thrown-together tiny home on a piece of land to which they do not have title. We are getting him a wheelchair as well as give him medication to control his epilepsy. The mother is extremely happy that we are there for them.
The children of the poor suffer the most.
How do we hear of these people who cannot come to the clinic? Through our health promotion program.
Over 30 women and men volunteer their time to serve their communities. We give them a very small token of appreciation each month.
These wonderful volunteers not only identify people like the epileptic teen, but also do home visits and receive people with health needs into their own homes while they also struggle to feed their own families.
They help us locate pregnant moms for our New Mothers’ programs, diabetics for the Chronic Care program, and young people for the Boys’ group and Teen Girls’ group.
The Boys’ group, Los Leones, has about 20 boys attending. They participate in cooking activities, arts and crafts, power brain yoga and tai chi and - of course -they play soccer. They go on outings to the beach, zip line at Paul and Becca’s house, play at the Managua water park, etc., to learn about the environment and to celebrate their birthdays. Many have never had an “outing” before.
The poor seldom celebrate birthdays.
The teen girls’ group, Las Lobas, make jewelry, do arts and crafts, and some do karate! Educating girls
is a top priority for ending poverty. Of these 12 girls: one quietly attended Saturday school and finished the 6th
grade while another went back to school and finished the year at the top of her class! This girl also has her 2nd
level orange belt in karate! Four of the girls went to a Rotarian leadership camp
. Education, activities, camp… all of these instill self-esteem and empowerment. They have hard lives, these boys and girls.
To give you an example: two girls of the Las Lobas
are sisters. They live with their mom who is seldom home because she is caring for their hospitalized grandma who has had her leg amputated. These teenagers – in turn - care for their younger siblings as well as their nieces and nephews, because their older siblings work in the Free Trade Zones As a result of all these hardships, one had to drop out of school. Being able to be a part of the Las Lobas
giving them joy in the rather dismal reality of their lives is crucial.
Going to the movies for the poor is almost as hard as going to the moon.
In the Nueva Vida Health Clinic, we are happy to have three new volunteers:
Carolin from Germany who is an administrator intern, Endrina from Belgium who is a pharmaceutical intern, and Julia from Canada who is a dental hygienist. Besides their help, we’ve recently had a United Methodist group
from central PA who built on the third clinic building… poco a poco
going up… and a medical brigade from Alaska.
An Alaskan doctor, Owen, came on his 13th
trip in October.
This year the group had four doctors, one nurse practitioner, one midwife, one lactation consultant, and a nurse, as well as a high school student who all worked in the clinic. The group also included the vets mentioned earlier.
went and treated many people in their homes. Jen, the lactation consultant, with the help of others took videos of women talking about pregnancy, birth, and breast feeding to create a teaching video for the New Mothers’ group. Jen is also a fine photographer and graciously used her photos to make a lovely 2018 calendar as a fund-raiser for the CDCA.
Another fund-raiser for the CDCA is a wooden puzzle made by the little carpentry workshop that Paul runs
. Three men from the small rural village that is Paul and Becca’s home work in the shop.
One of them had an earlier job working for someone who grew organic vegetables. He lost his thumb when his employer demanded that he stick a piece of wood in a running motor. The employer not only didn’t pay his medical bills but also skipped the country owing him months of back pay. This man is grateful to have employment. He is a hard worker and does his job well.
And we come full-circle; the actions of others affect the poor.
Your actions affect the poor:
your gifts make all of these programs possible. While designated gifts are wonderful, your gifts to the general budget
of our work to continue, even paying the behind-the-scenes “unsexy
” bills that make all of our life-saving, life-changing “sexy” programs possible.
Good Nicaraguan news:
- Nicaragua is now 6th in the world in gender equality in the representation of women in its government, economy, and health. They moved up from 10th place. FYI the United States is 49th out of 144 nations.
- Nicaragua signed the 2017 Paris Accords on climate change…they had not signed in 2015 because they felt those Paris Accords did not go far enough to halt climate change.
- Managua is now the 3rd best city in the world in which invest, according to Financial Times.
- Nicaraguan municipality elections were held 5th of November. The Sandinistas won 135 municipalities out of 153. They won 68.2% of all the votes casted.
- The Organization of American States observed the elections but has not released their final report.
Not-so good news:
- 11 Nicaraguans died and 10,000 were affected by Hurricane Nate. Thankfully, the government has given food and other resources to 1,600 families.
- The NICA Act passed the United States House of Representatives, trying to block all international loans to Nicaragua.
Becca and Sarah are both home from speaking in the U.S.
Becca had 31 talks in three of the Northwestern states to 551 people while Sarah spoke in Texas at 27 events. We are glad to have them home.
Daniel has opened his own restaurant in Managua, a long-time dream. Construction is still underway, so they serve clientele under tarps outside. Daniel still fights the good fight working during the day with the CDCA, as well as running a restaurant at night.
Becca and Paul rent their little guesthouse on Airbnb. So far, this year they have had 22 bookings. Becca keeps trying to get support for the CDCA by talking and showing the guests our projects. Their daughter, Eibhlín, is graduating from 6th grade and will enter secondary school next year.
Mike and Kathleen went to California and to Massachusetts to visit children and grandchildren. It had been too long since they’d seen the children living in the States. Kathleen’s mother, Peggy, is with us again in Nicaragua. Friends Nora and Becky accompanied her flying down. We are all happy she is here with us.
Padre Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann
died in June. He was the first advisory member of our Board of Directors and the one who invited us through his foundation, FUNDECI, to come to Nicaragua and work. Padre Miguel was an amazing priest in the Maryknoll Order; Foreign Minister of Nicaragua in the 1980s; a non-violent activist who led a march through the war zone of Nicaragua and a hunger strike to call global attention to the U.S. aggression against Nicaragua; and President of the United Nations in 2008-09. He was also funny, well-read, a gourmet chef, and a full person. We dedicate this newsletter to his memory and in gratitude for his guidance and invitation to work among so many amazing people. He will be missed by us, by Nicaragua, and by the world.
I am afraid, in a way that I have not been in ages.
Not for me personally…I’m old. I will die soon, but not most of the people with whom we work and serve… not our children nor grandchildren… and hopefully not the human race as a whole.
What do I see that scares me to my soul?
As rich nations become more like many Third World nations - meaning the rich are increasingly getting richer, the middle class is dying out, and the poor are getting poorer – these powerful nations grow more paranoid and this is what we are seeing more of:
- Racism against anyone brown or black is winning powerful seats in governments. Neo-Nazism and white supremacy are gaining in popularity.
- Immigrants are being denied kindness, let alone civility.
- Enemies are being created from the disenfranchised.
- There is more out-in-the-open acceptance of brutality and murder by the law itself.
- Nuclear war is being threatened.
- Mass shootings are a common place occurrence.
All the while, Mother Nature is also rebelling against our greed, consumption, and pollution… hurricanes, tornadoes, droughts, floods, and fires are more common place and poor nations suffer the most.
“Be not afraid, for behold, I bring you great news of a great joy which will come to all people…” Angels said this to common shepherds. Great news of a great joy for everyone… every people. A chosen one was born in a common place.
This chosen one then later said, at the start of his ministry:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor…to proclaim the release of the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord
[the year of the Jubilee, when debts are forgiven, land is returned to its original owner, and slaves are released].”
Many of us who claim to follow the path of this Chosen One do not follow his words or actions.
- We do not live good news to the poor, but instead blame the poor for their poverty.
- We do not release the captives, but instead pass laws to keep people in prisons and refugee camps.
- We do not give sight to the blind, but are more blinded by our own biases and fears.
- We do not set at liberty those who are oppressed, but keep them in their oppressive states that our national and local policies have created.
- We are afraid of things being set right as in the year of the Jubilee… terribly afraid.
And if we
, who proclaim
to be Christian, act this way, where is the hope in this world, that seems to be getting meaner and uglier?
For me, I find hope when Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, atheists, agnostics…all people…live the good news to the poor, struggle for liberty, open eyes to injustice, and relieve oppression.
- Hope in the two-year-old getting a pair of glasses.
- Hope in the teen getting a front tooth.
- Hope in an epileptic getting a wheelchair.
- Hope in a teen girl finishing primary school.
- Hope in Nicaraguan mothers having healthy babies.
- Hope in women getting to choose motherhood or not.
- Hope in football players calling for the end of police shootings.
- Hope in people marching to end white supremacy.
- Hope in action.
- Hope in generosity.
- Hope in goodness.
This is where I find hope.
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Mark your donation as an Alternative Gift and include the person’s name, address, email, and the giver’s name (please print clearly or type). Cards may be mailed or emailed.
For faster delivery, please email all orders to: Sarah@jhc-cdca.org.
►For a minimum gift of $50.00, you may request a 12-month 2018 wall calendar of gorgeous Nicaragua photos compiled by volunteers.
►For a minimum gift of $100.00, you may request one beautiful wooden CORNERed puzzle, NEW from the Nicaragua-Naturally workshop, handcrafted from responsibly managed Nicaraguan forests. (please allow 6-8 weeks for delivery)
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