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A Different COVID-19 Battle in Nicaragua

Here's the May 2020 newsletter of the CDCA in Nicaragua... If you would like a printable version click here: https://jhc-cdca.org/newsletters/2020-05_nl.pdf . If you would like to read it online, or share the link with others, click here: https://jhc-cdca.org/newsletters/2020-05_nl.html.

Please let us know what you think. Thanks, Sarah

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May 2020

The Coronavirus is consuming all of our energy around the world.  We gather each evening to watch the news and it solely consists of the virus.  The virus is not only affecting the United States, but is a worldwide pandemic.  If it ever gets a foothold in their population, the countries that will have the hardest time controlling the virus and rebounding, are under-developed nations like Nicaragua.

Masked and gloved food distributionNon-profits (non-governmental) organizations have dire needs: feeding people, providing safe shelters, providing Personal Protective Equipment for health care workers like those in our clinic, keeping farmers afloat, etc. All this takes volunteers and money as governments are overwhelmed.

Many Nicaraguans have family in hot spots around the world and worry about their loved ones… many of our children and grandchildren have been/are sick with what is probably the coronavirus, but with a limited number of available tests, they are told to wait it out and quarantine. We have a son and his love in New York City, unemployed.  So far, they are not starving nor are they essential workers, so they can self-isolate… but many other Nicaraguans live in fear for their families as well as the uncertainty of the financial help their loved ones usually send home.  Many families here depend on that money for food.

As I write this (April 23rd) there are 11 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Nicaragua, including three deaths.  Nicaragua has been following the World Health Organization’s guidelines, except for self-isolating.  Here, families of ten live in tiny homes (or in closely packed, poor neighborhoods), farmers need to plant to keep people from going hungry, 70% of the population is employed in the informal sector - if they don’t work their family doesn’t eat - and most of the population shop daily in jam-packed markets for their food. In these conditions, self-isolation will not work.Huembes Market

 

Social distancing does work outside of the homes and markets. Government offices and businesses keep people spaced apart, spray hand sanitizer on hands, have disinfectant-soaked mats for people to step on at entrances, and limit the overstocking of supplies like toilet paper, bleach, soap, etc.  Nicaragua has free universal health care, which means that people will go to the clinic or a hospital if they get sick.

Isamar giving flu vaccination to Rogelio Respiratory illnesses on a whole are down, because of massive door-to-door influenza and pneumonia vaccination campaigns last year, and again now.  As our daughter said,  “I’m happy that most of my at-risk family members are living in Nicaragua.”

For more information, please see our website, with our COVID-19 Update page, and ongoing blogs]. 

Now, as to what the CDCA is doing:

loading sesameThe organic agricultural cooperative, COPROEXNIC, has suffered this year.  Though organic sesame, coffee, and peanuts were grown in good quantities, harvested and processed, the financial burden from lack of funding has hurt the farmers and the cooperative.
 

Added to that, with COVID-19 and sanctions, the processed and shipped organic peanuts have sat at ports in Honduras and in the United States accruing thousands of dollars in fees.  Peanuts are in high demand worldwide because peanut butter is a staple food.  It is high in protein and won’t go bad. But because COPROEXNIC’s peanuts have sat and sat, there are now bugs in the peanuts, normally not a huge problem, but the plant that freezes the peanuts in the U.S.A. to remove the bugs is short on staff because of COVID-19; therefore, the peanuts still sit accruing more storage costs. 
FarmerShares.com business card

Farmer Shares, a project run by the CDCA and managed in the U.S. by Board member Steve Virgil, is also in danger because local coffee roasters and coffee shops are closing. You can help by buying organic, shade-grown, bird-friendly coffee from Farmer Shares with a monthly subscription.  

Maybe we can keep a U.S. roaster in business and help the coffee cooperative of El Porvenir not starve at the same time.
 

COPROEXNIC’s wonderful business partners are doing their best to help the cooperative members survive this year, but the out-look may be dim.  Please support these businesses: Once Again Nut Butter, FarmerShares.com, Nuts to You Nut Butters

Nueva Vida Clinic has instituted many policies to address slowing the spread of the Coronavirus. 

  • Nueva Vida Clinic handwashing stationWe have handwashing stations outside all doors leading into the clinic buildings and CDCA entrances, as well as the COPROEXNIC sesame plant.
     
  • We have halted all non-essential services to keep the spread of the contagion low.  No preventive dental care.  No support groups.  No youth activities.
     
  • We stress that our at-risk patients with diabetes, hypertension and the elderly send someone young to collect their monthly medications, only coming in person if they are sick and need to see a doctor.
     
  • No doctor or lay health care worker is doing home visits in order not to transport the virus from one home to another.
     
  • Lay health care workers are seeing patients outside their front doors and are equipped with face masks, gloves, and shields.
     
  • Dentist Julio with face shieldThe dental clinic staff have surgical masks, hair coverings, gowns, and face shields to perform critical services.


 

  • Creating spacing for waiting patientsAll patients are kept 1½ meters apart.  We ask them to keep their hands in their pockets.  We sit patients inside and outside to keep the distancing.  We have twice-daily talks with the patients on how to keep themselves safe.

 

  • We have stopped all nebulization treatments, and are using disposable cups as masks with rescue inhalers.
     
  • Our clinic staff have medical jackets and face masks to wear and leave at the clinic for laundering…not the best kinds but what we could get…and face shields.
     
  • Our therapist is still seeing patients.  Tele-counseling is not feasible for children and women talking about domestic violence, and many of our patients deal with severe trauma and fear about their lives and poverty.
     
  • All patients with a fever and respiratory illness are isolated and then sent to the public health clinic.
     
  • Our whole staff are getting influenza vaccines to slow respiratory illnesses.
     
  • We will soon have infrared thermometers and will check all staff and patients coming into the clinic.

We are doing our best to stay open and keep people safe, but it is difficult and costing money that we do not have.

Ciudad Sandino Rotary Club, in connection with the Santa Rotary Clubs COVID-19 donationBarbara Sunrise Rotary Club in California, has bought and distributed gloves, safety goggles, alcohol gel, and disinfectant soap to the five local public health centers and hospital, plus 16 public service programs including free day cares, the senior citizens center and the center for people with disabilities.  In a country that is the second poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, supplies are frequently short in stock.  We are ecstatic that with the Santa Barbara Sunrise Club’s help we can offer assistance to a stretched health care system.

With COVID-19 those over 65 years old are self-isolating in their home, which has been a challenge for maintaining community with our members.  There are five of us over age 65:  Mike, Sarah, Kathy, Peggy (Kathleen’s 90-year-old mother) and Kathleen.

Daniel, Claudia and Samantha went to see Daniel’s brother, Coury, and family in California, and to speak there on behalf of the CDCA in March…they ended up in quarantine with them because Cassie, Coury’s doctor wife, had been exposed to COVID-19 in her clinic.  All their speaking events were cancelled. They got one of the last flights home and self-quarantined for 21 days.  Now they are self-isolating in the house, to help us Old Farts and allow us to play with Samantha…a life-saver.

Orla and Eibhlin artBecca and Paul are our out-in-the-world folks for the community.  The girls, Eibhlín and Orla, are painting and drawing for us to have reminders around our home of their love.  They are not going to school but studying from home.

All trips have been cancelled:

  • Travel bans catching our March Bucknell friends delegation 72-hours before they were to fly to Nicaragua.
     
  • Sarah’s spring U.S. speaking tour - which has hurt the work financially, but also saddened her because she is missing friends and family; and yet, we still have Peggy brightening our lives because she could not fly to South Carolina with SarahAlternative Giving Sheltering at Home
     
  • Becca’s trip to take care of her dad after his back surgery
     
  • Mike’s and Kathleen’s trip to see Coury and Cassie and grandchildren… as well as to do annual doctors’ visits
     
  • Kathy’s 50th college reunion… she might try to go in June anyway… we’ll see

Publicity and Social Media have taken an up-turn as we work from home:  

  • Kathleen has been writing blogs to let people know what is going on in Nicaragua, to challenge people, to comfort people, and to inform people on how the poor are affected by COVID-19. Sarah is uploading all the blogs.
     
  • We’re creating short videos that can be used in virtual meetings or worship services, to share our work.  Email sarah@jhc-cdca.org if you’d like a link to one.
     
  • Becca is posting news on all our sites:  

Facebook:  facebook.com/jhccdca/
Twitter: CDCA_NICA
Instagram:   cdca_nica
Blogger:  jhc-cdca.blogspot.com

  • Kathleen has been updating the website… and boy! Did it need it!  Sons Joseph and Daniel are translating it into Spanish.  Sarah is working on uploading all the changes as they happen.

Son Joseph and his love, Alex, are sending out our paper thank you letters from NYC.  We send them each set of letters which they print out and put into envelopes, then mail on to you. [If you  wish to only receive an emailed thank you, please let us know at  sarah@jhc-cdca.org.]

Board member Jen Aist held a Facebook fundraiser for the clinic, to help get supplies to protect the staff from COVID-19. She raised $2,775!   We are looking for more people to help with creative fundraising since we have no delegations and no speaking tours for the foreseeable future.  Please contact us, if you can help.

Casa Ben Linder logoCasa Ben Linder was housing mostly foreign tourists and holding events.  Well, you can guess how THAT is going now… or not.  We are keeping a bare minimum of staff to keep the site clean and safe from crime and deterioration until things change.

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Reflection:

There are so many people disgusted, enraged and frustrated with the way that the U.S. government is dealing with the COVID-19 crisis.  How the government is handling, bungling, or mismanaging depends on who you are and your view. What the U.S. government is doing in its own country is not the topic on which I am focused; instead my focus is on the impact my home country’s government is having around the world.

In a time that the global community needs to be acting as one, we are not.

In a time that the global community needs to be caring for one another, we are not.

In a time that the global community needs to be on the same road to defeat this virus, we are not.

Trade Sanctions - shutterstock license photoIn Nicaragua we face sanctions from my home country. Sanctions?!  During a pandemic?! Fortunately, Nicaragua has not experienced – yet - the blockades preventing medicines, PPE, supplies, etc., to arrive to help as Iran, Venezuela, and Cuba have.  I don’t care what your opinion of Iran, Venezuela, or Cuba is, keeping health care out is inhumane. 

And if you are a Christian and think sanctions are the way to bully nations into doing what you want…well, note the word “bully.”  Also, when Jesus said “pray for your enemies,” I really don’t think he meant to slowly kill them with a virus.

The United Nations has called for an end to all sanctions and has said that sanctions are illegal.  I would say, sanctions are immoral.

Joined hands - shutterstock license photoAm I in a rage?  Yes, I am.  I would hope that the world will come out of this pandemic with more soul…more empathy…more love.  But what I see from the wealthiest and most powerful nation where I was born and raised is just plain meanness.

We can do better.  We need to BE better.

-Kathleen

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Yes! I want to help support the ongoing work of the Center for Development in Central America. 

Donations can be given & designated on-line
through Network For Good
Network for Good COVID logo 

(€uros / GBP can be donated via Paypal)

or mail your donation check to:
Jubilee House Community - CDCA
c/o Sue Williams
4376 Pennington Rd, Rock Hill SC 29732-8159

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Mothers Day 2020

 

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