Living through the current crisis in Nicaragua has easily been the most difficult time in my life. It has been hard to see all of the turmoil in a country and people that I love deeply, and in a place where I have lived for 20 years. I am very worried about Compas and how we are going to survive moving forward (in the last 2 weeks, we have had two more service trip groups cancel for next year). I am also worried sick over the future of the country, about all of our friends here, and of course, my own family (soon we will have a second daughter to raise).
As usual, what has helped give me hope is to see the strength and courage of the Nicaraguan people. People are so used to struggling that they just carry on no matter how difficult the circumstances. WIA member Jessica lost her job as a domestic worker since the women she worked for was no longer able to get to her job because the roadblocks had paralyzed traffic in Managua. Jessica’s husband, Jose was laid off from the Tona brewery because of the political crisis. (Private companies have laid off thousands of people during the unrest). They were both left without work and few options for providing for their 3 children.
Jessica didn’t lose hope, however, and found out about a family who lived in another neighborhood that needed someone to wash their clothes. Jessica needed to take a bus or taxi to a roadblock, walk around the roadblock and then walk another 15 blocks to get to this home. Several times while walking around the roadblock, she was forced to give some money (to those running the roadblock). Other times she was harassed and her life threatened and asked if she was an informant or pro-government. But that didn’t deter her and she did this every day for nearly two months until the roadblocks were removed. Her courage and determination to carry on in order to provide for her children was an inspiration for me and gives me hope for the future.
The situation here in Nicaragua has now stabilized, the roadblocks have been removed, and the violence and mass protests have ceased. The majority of WIA members and farming families in La Paz want to move on with their lives and try to provide for their children.
We are trying to move forward at Compas as well. With the loss of income from canceled service trips, we continue to look for new ways to sustain our work. Here are some of the things we are doing:
Coffee sales: We hope to expand our coffee sales for 2019 to provide more profits to La Paz farmers, and to also help raise funds for Compas. We have finished our coffee drying greenhouse, which will allow us to dry the coffee much more efficiently. We are still in need of a coffee hulling machine ($2,500) in order to process more coffee. Our hope is to raise this money in the next two months so that we can install the machine and have it ready for the 2018 harvest in November and December.
Trips to Costa Rica. Given the U.S. State Department’s travel advisory to Nicaragua, several service trips for 2019 have already cancelled. Therefore, until the travel advisory is lifted, we are offering service trips to Costa Rica. Through our extensive connections in Costa Rica, including family members and WIA members who now live there, we have developed an interesting and unique trip to Costa Rica. Several WIA members live in a neighborhood called “La Managuita” in San Jose (the capital) which is almost all Nicaraguans. Service trip groups would spend time there working on community projects such as repairing a school’s roof, learning about Nicaraguan migration to Costa Rica, and speaking to Nicaraguans about the current situation in Nicaragua. Groups would also stay at Playa Hermosa right on the Pacific Ocean beach in Northwest Costa Rica and work on a community garden and environmental project.
Bringing Women in Action and La Paz farmers together. Over the years, we have carried out several activities that have brought our two programs together, which have included shared workshops and educational trips, as well as selling the farmer’s produce at the WIA store. In this same spirit and as an effort to bring extra and higher profits to both WIA members and La Paz farmers, we have begun to purchase basic grains from La Paz farmers to be sold at the WIA center and by individual WIA members. We are also using the grains for homemade cereals for WIA children. We have also begun to process the Moringa leaves and oil and sell them to local markets and health food stores. We also hope that WIA can sell these products moving forward.
Micro-lending: Your support has allowed us to provide a microloan to the WIA members during the time of unrest. Some people like Edda and Rosa (pictured here) have used their loan to prepare traditional foods to sell from their homes, while others have used loans to make corn tortillas or cooked beans to sell (including corn and beans purchased from La Paz farmers). These small loans have now been paid back and another round of loans have been provided. These small enterprises have been crucial in helping the women provide food for their children.
Of course, none of this would be possible without your support! I wanted to share a video with you as a way of saying thanks!
We appreciate your support and friendship very much!
Compas de Nicaragua