Hurricanes. Harvest. Help!

Here's the December 2020 newsletter of the CDCA in Nicaragua... If you would like a PDF printable version click here. . If you would like to read it online, or share the link with others, click here..
Please let us know what you think. Thanks, Sarah
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December 2020

UPDATE: Well, all the knocking on wood (see below) could not overcome climate change and within just two weeks Nicaragua experienced two hurricanes (Eta, category 4 and Iota, category 5). Needless to say: the crops are badly hurt; hurricane relief is in process; and the Community has promised to not try to go on a retreat again for a long, long time (see Community news below).  Please see our website on how you can help and for updates on the damage done to this little nation that is the second poorest in the Americas.

And lest we forget...
as we gratefully send 2020 on its way...

Let us wish each of you Joyous Safe Holidays during this COVID-19 era of social distancing,
and Health and Healing for 2021!

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Rogelio in sesame fieldAt the writing of this newsletter (Nov. 13th) the organic sesame crop yields look plentiful.  (Knock on wood).  Nicaragua is having a late season of hurricanes… well, the whole world is.  This is harvest time for crops in Nicaragua.  The rainy season is supposedly ending, but it is still raining.  If the rains stop soon, then the sesame crops seem to be doing well… despite Hurricane Eta.

     But, there are yet two other hurricanes forming in the Atlantic, the 29th and 30th of this season, called Theta and Iota. Theta is predicted to go east and hit Europe and Africa, but Iota’s predicted path is towards Nicaragua and Honduras. If lots of rain comes with Iota, it could be disastrous for crops.

     The Nicaraguan rainy season is split into two different growing times.  The first is May-ish through July-ish and is shorter with less rain.  The organic cooperative, COPROEXNIC, has 900,000 pounds in the sesame processing warehouse from that harvest. Usually, during the second part, the rains taper off starting in November.

reviewing new machinery specsCOPROEXNIC, with help from the owners of one of their clients, Nuts to You, just bought the most modern sesame processing machinery in the country.  It was sold from a closed-down processing plant next door to the COPROEXNIC plant.

     This new machinery uses a dry process.  The current COPROEXNIC plant uses 2,000 gallons of water to process one batch of seeds.  This machinery uses only 300 liters (less than 80 gallons) per batch. It is currently being moved and installed next to the existing processing line, a set-up that should take two months (again knock on wood!).

       The plant will process using the new setup alongside the old setup to get a higher yield per hour until processing is caught up, and then it will only run the greener machines.

Organic peanuts will be harvested beginning in late November and run into early January.organic peanuts  The cooperative is expecting 12-16 containers of peanuts… (here’s that wood again that needs knocking!).  Of course, this will depend on these late rains, Eta, and Iota, because peanuts are very susceptible to fungi.

     The cooperative is trying out using a different peanut processing plant.  Although the plant used for years is world-class, their costs were exorbitant and they always scheduled the cooperative’s peanuts to be run in their down times.  COPROEXNIC could never count on when those down times were going to be, which really messed with trying to get their own peanuts out to buyers.  So, we are hoping for the best… and now knocking even harder on that wood!

washed out road to El PorvenirOrganic coffee at the El Porvenir cooperative is getting damaged with the continuing rains. This is harvest time for coffee.  But with the rains, the coffee berries cannot be cut and they are swelling with the water, splitting and falling to the ground, which is disastrous.  Farmer Shares, a project of the CDCA, has a signed contract for 15,000 pounds of El Porvenir’s coffee harvest.

     FarmerShares.comFarmer Shares. started up at a horrid time… pandemic time.  We lost all the institutional buyers, like Bucknell University, because they are not operating on-site. Farmer Shares does offer subscription service for coffee to arrive monthly at your door.  This service is slowly but surely growing. For the holiday season, a year’s subscription of coffee would be a great gift to give a coffee drinker, and it would help this remote coffee cooperative.

     Besides Hurricane Eta hurting their coffee crop, the families at El Porvenir lost half of their red bean crop, which is what they eat all year… and 20% of their sesame crop. The hurricane also has cut them off from the world, destroying the dirt road providing the only access to their cooperative. If you drink coffee, please consider buying Farmer Shares’ coffee.

The organic cooperative is waiting for a grant from Shared Interest Foundation that is still pending, but it looks like they will get funding to incorporate more women into organic agriculture production.  COPROEXNIC is also working with Alterfin, a European financing institution, to get a larger line of credit for future financing.

Speaking of Hurricane Eta, it brought lots of wind and rain, hitting hardest on the east coast and in the northern part of Nicaragua. Here around Managua, we got lots of rain, but not much flooding.  Nationwide, the only deaths were two miners killed in a mudslide, but the government evacuated over 71,000 people, and were constantly working at flooding sites to minimize damage.  Nearly 10,000 homes were destroyed or damaged, but Nicaragua fared better than other parts of Central America because the government organized quickly.

Nicaraguan government providing Eta relief     With flooding come diseases, and the government has handed out 50,500 doses of prophylactic medicines against leptospirosis.  With flooding come tainted wells and drinking water, and the government has been working to get clean water into affected places and also handed out chlorine in anticipation, before Eta hit.  With flooding comes loss of crops.  Much of the staple food crops of beans and corn have been damaged, which will mean an increase in prices… ergo hunger.  Please keep Nicaraguans and other Central Americans in your thoughts and prayers, especially with Iota on its way.

Nueva Vida Clinic logo During Eta, our health clinic stayed open and continued services.  The clinic continues to work with strict COVID-19 protocols in place. WHO COVID-19 statistics 11 November 2020As in the rest of the world, the coronavirus is still around, but Nicaragua seems to be doing much better than other Central American nations, better than other Latin American countries, and even better than the United States, where there is currently a surge in cases.

Anecdotally, we are not hearing of increases in COVID cases or deaths.  In our clinic we are seeing one or two patients who are presenting possible symptoms of COVID-19 each week, but not several a day like we were in May.  We have a friend who had symptoms and was sent to a hospital that specialized in the virus, and found there were no patients hospitalized in the COVID ward.  He was examined by doctors and given medications… told to go home, isolate and if his symptoms got worse to come back to the hospital right away.  Becca wrote a really good piece for our blog about her experience with COVID symptoms and testing.  Because of these first-hand experiences, we think the government is doing a really good job of containing this virus.

patient intake at Nueva Vida clinic     Our clinic is seeing more and more post-COVID patients with lingering symptoms like headaches, pains, gastro-intestinal symptoms, and anxiety with depression.

     When we have an adult patient with symptoms of COVID, we send them to the public health clinic for a test.  We have seen lots of people with fevers and colds because of all the rains.  If we have a child with COVID symptoms, our pediatrician examines them, because he has been trained by the Ministry of Health to recognize the distinct COVID symptoms in children and to treat them.

Dr Soto working with childrenOur therapist works half-days in the mornings Monday through Friday, but recently she has been additionally “volunteering” two afternoons a week because with all the anxiety surrounding the pandemic, she is swamped.  In October alone, she saw 141 people and 93 of those patients were new.  We are extremely grateful to have her to help so many people living in poverty to get a handle on their feelings and situations.

     Besides seeing sick people and people with chronic conditions, our pharmacy gives out medications.  Our laboratory is running.  eyeglass vision checkOur vision clinic is handing out glasses.  We recently got a shipment of new frames and lenses, so that now we can continue to make low-cost distance glasses.

     Our nurse is taking PAPs and EKGs.  Our family planning clinic is serving women and men.  A Rotary member from another community brought in two patients to get implants: a 12-year old girl who had just moved in with her boyfriend, and a young mother of three.

Our dental clinic is seeing about the same patient load as they were before the pandemic.  Cleaning, face shields, and disinfecting is crucial, and the staff spends much time in providing a safe environment.  The staff of ORPHANetwork are bringing children to dental consults again, though not quite as many as before.  We are glad that these children are getting dental care.

Los Leones cell phone repair classYouth support groups are active again.  The girls’ group, Las Lobas, have completed classes on hair styling and make-up and are starting baking classes. The group has grown from a few to now include 25 girls. The boys’ group, Los Leones, now 30 boys, have finished computer operator classes and are now starting cell phone repair and masonry classes. And yes, the gender division in offered classes grates on us, but the kids themselves chose those classes… hopefully soon the boys will bake and the girls will repair machines.

We are using the clinic training room, especially during these rains, to hold classes that are socially distanced.  All our staff and patients have to wear masks, both at the clinic and at our CDCA office site.

GivingTuesday HikmaHealth focusWe are working with Hikma Health to develop on-line storage and digital access for our patient medical records.  This is going to be wonderful for many reasons:

  •  Staff will have access to each other’s notes and to the patient’s medication prescriptions.
  •  Staff will be able to read doctors’ notes as well as volunteer health professionals’, which will minimize errors (some write like chickens scratching in dirt!).
  •  Staff will have off-line access to patient information during home visits.
  •  We will save eight trees per year by eliminating 50,000 copies annually.
  •  We will save money.
  •  We will save space.
  •  We will have access to information easily gathered for grants and statistics... and the list goes on.
Kicking and screaming, we are moving into the future!

 

Speaking of which, if we receive the funding needed, we will soon be installing solar panels on the clinic and at the CDCA.  We are grateful for all the gifts we have received so far to make this happen… these panels will pay for themselves in two years and will cut our high electric bills in half. They will also reduce our carbon footprint and save trees.  Love those trees!

Casa Ben Linder, our hospitality house and solidarity center, is hosting events again safely, using social distancing, washing hands, outside seating, and wearing masks, as well as wiping chairs down with disinfectant.

     CBL puppet showsWe are hosting puppet shows for children once a month working with the Guachipilin Puppet Theater.  We also have art classes for children every Saturday.

     Some weekends have had full rental occupancy in the Casa’s bedrooms, which is great.  On the days with low occupancy, we are continuing with remodeling.

     Alberto, the person on-site, has been working with CBL for two years and is graduating high school in December.  In January he will begin studying at the university on weekends learning hotel management.

     Becca has instituted a new blog to increase social media outreach with Casa Ben Linder. She is focusing on sharing a more positive outlook on Nicaragua, to balance out the great deal of negative international reporting.  One such CBL blog was in reference to the news stories about Nicaraguan beef .

CBL puppet showsSpeaking of social media outreach, Daniel has taken over the CDCA’s postings. Besides posting daily about the work and what is happening in Nicaragua, we are doing ZOOM presentations.  The CDCA’s finances have been hurt dramatically with the pandemic.

     Volunteer delegations were just starting to book their returns at the beginning of the year when travel was halted with COVID-19.  Besides the $100,000 annual loss of income from delegations and $50,000 loss of medical donations, this year we have also had the loss from canceled annual speaking tours which often generated $60,000 or more. zoom Learning to use virtual options, we are updating our ZOOM presentations frequently, and will hold presentations for religious bodies, civic groups, or groups of friends.  If you are interested, please contact us at jhc@jhc-cdca.org to set a date.  We need all the help we can get.

     The CDCA is also posting blogs regularly… once a week about work, news, the virus or poverty, and then as a commitment to Future Fridays, we post about climate change (sometimes helpful tips but mostly about how global warming is increasing poverty) e.g., Eta & Iota storms, and on Sundays a short reflection. Jokingly, Mike and Kathleen decided that if they were to ever start a church, they would call it the Assembly of PIGS (People Into Giving a S**t).  Daniel suggested that Kathleen write thoughts to post on Sundays, on the philosophy or theology of caring, “to get people to give a s**t.”  Please join us for these as a way to start your week. All our writings are for all faiths or of no faith; we just want to encourage people to care.

     CDCA blogs can come straight into your email in-box (or in Updates) by subscribing on our site jhc-cdca.blogspot.com.

     unloading donation containerNot only our own work, but other groups also significantly affected by Hurricane Eta, have especially appreciated the volunteer efforts of Peaceworks (NJ) and Quest for Peace (CT) as they each shipped containers of donations to a variety of organizations in Nicaragua. The CDCA handles the logistics of receiving and distributing the donations. With no service work here able to receive volunteers, these containers have been a lifeline for urgently needed supplies.

JHC logo
JHCommunity:

     The older folks (Kathy, Sarah, Mike, Kathleen and Kathleen’s mother, Peggy) are still mostly working from home (a home which is in the middle of everything!).  We have ventured out every once in awhile and it does us good to see a grocery store or the sesame plant… something different!

     The Community was going to take a few days off and just be in a bubble together resting at a volcanic laguna, when Eta hit.  But as this newsletter is getting printed, we are going to try again.  Hopefully we can come back with new energy to finish out this trying year and soak up the warmth of the sun as well as the warmth of friendship.

     This year, Thanksgiving will be with just our Community…usually we have between 25-35 people for dinner.  We will also celebrate with Peggy for her 91st birthday!

       Jubilee House Community Nicaragua

     Becca and Paul’s daughters are finishing school on December 3rd. Eibhlín is finishing 9th grade and Orla, 8th grade.  Eibhlín will be celebrating her quinceaños with us on the 11th of December.  She is becoming a lovely woman.

     Daniel and Claudia’s daughter, Samantha, the youngest member at age two, waits with excitement for school to be out to play with Orla and Eibhlín.

     With COVID-19, we are anxiously waiting to see which of our adult children and grandchildren will make it down for Christmas this year.  We are longing to see them in person instead of over the phone.  We do know that because of airline cancellations, we will not get a visit with one son, Tiff and his wife, Liz.  Hopefully the other three will make it.

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Reflection:

     It has been almost a whole year since I have seen our children and grandchildren (except for Daniel and Samantha who live here).  In 2015 when I almost died, I made a promise to myself to see all four adult children living away from Nicaragua at least twice a year… because I had a clear understanding that each visit might be my last.  I’m very fortunate… I not only love our children but I also like them… a lot.

     So, my heart aches to see them.  To hug them.  To listen to their banter.  To laugh at their humor.  I just ache.

     photo Shutterstock licensedThen I hear that, at the latest count, there are 666 children separated from their parents at the U.S. border and the parents cannot be found because of lack of paperwork, deportation, or some other ungodly reason.  Let me say this another way.  There are hundreds of PARENTS… mamas… daddies… separated from their children who are not adults like ours are… these parents don’t know about their little ones... their CHILDREN!  CHILDREN!

     When our kids were small, my nightmares consisted of being separated from the kids and not being able to get to them.  I would wake in a sweat, breathing fast, and get up and go check on them before I could sleep again.  Those were nightmares… not real life.

     I have heard pundits say that the parents sent their children off alone or if the parents were with them, then the parents are the ones who broke the law, so it is the parents’ fault.

     I know part of the unspoken reasoning is that they are brown-skinned and many white-skinned people have this stupid idea that brown-skinned people do not love their children the same.  I even had a volunteer who said something like, “They (Nicaraguans) must be more used to losing their children in death than we are.”

     photo Shutterstock licensedHow can anyone think a mother who carried a child, birthed a child, fed a child at her breast, and then had to bury her child, is “used to it”?

     Another part of their reasoning is immigration… people who are comfortable, fed, housed, and safe do not understand in their guts the fear of burying your child because of gang wars in your neighborhood or watching your child go to bed hungry night after night.

       The countries that these families come from… Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador... are terror-filled lands with gangs, death squads, and poverty.  And now after Hurricane Eta, can you imagine the growth of poverty and hunger in these countries?*

     In the Christian scriptures, there is a story around the birth of Jesus about the visit of the magi.  They warn Mary and Joseph that Herod wants them, the magi, to return to tell him about their baby.  The magi instead leave by a different way, and Jesus’ parents take him to Egypt. But Herod sends soldiers to Bethlehem to kill all the boys under two years to prevent the Messiah coming of age.

     Feast of Holy InnocentsThis event is remembered on December 28th, the Feast of the Holy Innocents.  The slaughter of the children of Bethlehem.   Those babes are like Guatemalan, Honduran, and Salvadoran children living with the gangs… children are taken into gangs.  Children are murdered.  Parents are gunned down with their children.

     So to avoid this, parents now become immigrants/refugees like Mary and Joseph or, if they cannot, they send their children away to keep them safe. If you are a parent, then you know that you will do anything to keep your children safe.

     How can we read that part of the Christmas story and not think of refugees worldwide?  How can we not think of the almost 700 children separated?

     My heart may ache for our children, but my children are safe… I weep for those parents. I weep for those children. And I pray that God will forgive us.

- Kathleen

*These countries are not like Nicaragua. Although Nicaragua’s GDP is lower than the other countries, it is safe, and the government cares about its poor.  There are few Nicaraguans in the caravans headed north.

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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 in US$ or €uros
through Network For Good
Network for Good logo

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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giftAlternative Giving during Social Distancing:
Donate online and click here for an e-card you can send to them.

WillPlease contact us at jhc@jhc-cdca.org for more information on how to include the JHC-CDCA in your Estate Planning
Vida Fund or for more information on loans to the Vida Fund to help organic farmers.

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