Archive for October, 2014

In Doña Maria’s Garden

The following reflection was submitted by Marie Keefe. Thank you, Marie!

Doña Maria is waiting for us at the gate along with other campesinas and a gaggle of kids. It’s day 4 of our trip to Nicaragua to see the work that the Quixote Center supports. We’re in rural Palacaguina, where FEDICAMP has been working with community associations in eco-agriculture to improve the wellbeing of families against a background of harsh terrain, deep drought and a limited diet for families.

Nicaragua September 2014 290

Listening to introductions, it becomes clear that these women are members of the board of their association and very savvy about cultivating their huertos, (small yards) and improving nutrition for their families. They tell us of the techniques for composting, for using indigenous seed, rejecting genetically modified seed, for cultivating with minimal use of water, recycling, changing family meals, even using outdoor earthen ovens that direct smoke away from their casitas and cook with a minimal amount of scavenged wood. The newest improvement is the chicken wire they’ve pooled resources to buy, grateful that it’s keeping the chickens and pigs out of their gardens.

She leads the way into her small backyard which climbs the mountainside. We step into a canopy of green: lemons, avocados, star fruit, papaya and trees we have no English names for: mamones, chaya, calala. Tires are embedded in the hard-packed earth, terracing the vertical, filled with good soil, retaining water, spilling over with onions, garlic, cilantro. Every space is used. Rocks form an upward spiral filled with good earth called a caracol (a snail) with medicinal herbs at the top, lettuce parades down the spiral along with tomatoes and other vegetables. Water trickles down the spiral so not a drop is wasted. The chicken wire fence is home to a wall of beans.

The success of FEDICAMP is visible again and again as we visit the homes of other campesinas who are sharing their knowledge, making do with next to nothing, working to thwart the climate change which has come to their doorstep, learning, always learning and passing it on.

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Walking in Solidarity

The following blog post was submitted by Nancy Sulfridge, Quixote Center Board Member and participant in our September 2014 delegation to Nicaragua. Thanks, Nancy!

I recently spent a week in one of the poorest countries in this hemisphere, Nicaragua, and returned full of hope and determination, inspired by the enthusiasm of the Nicaraguan people and the fine work being done by the Quixote Center and its partners, the Institute of John XXIII and FEDICAMP. In a country where nearly half of the population lives on under US$1 a day, it is a struggle to acquire the most basic necessities of life — food, clean water and shelter. Yet the people we met were optimistic.

This happy family received their home last year.

This happy family received their home last year.

They have seen their situation improve and they have learned skills to continue to improve their circumstances. The programs of the Institute and FEDICAMP are hand-ups, not handouts. People receive training and opportunities, sometimes materials or access to credit, but what they make of that is their own achievement. They feel proud and empowered by what they have accomplished.

The Institute’s Housing First program changes lives. To qualify for a home loan and move from a shack to a solid, secure house with electricity and indoor plumbing transforms a family.

The achievement of FEDICAMP in transforming the lives of poor, rural women is equally striking. By providing women with seeds, some basic tools, and a lot of training and information, FEDICAMP has enabled women to grow food to feed their families in sustainable home gardens that continued to produce even during the drought that ruined most of the major crops on the large farms this year. I asked one gardener what her lot had looked like before she learned to grow food there. She gestured to a neighboring lot—“Like that. . . just weeds.” Now in addition to vegetables she has fruit trees producing abundantly, and she doesn’t object to the children helping themselves to the fruit.

I was impressed repeatedly by the spirit of cooperation we found in the people we visited. New homeowners referred friends and neighbors to the housing program. New home farmers encouraged their neighbors to start their own home gardens. And in one village, a couple donated land from their own plot for a well to be dug for the village and a space for communal showers. Even as they struggle to provide for their families, people take time to help others. It is a privilege to be able to walk in solidarity with the Nicaraguan people.

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Contact Us

  • Quixote Center
    7307 Baltimore Ave.
    Ste 214
    College Park, MD 20740
  • Office: 301-699-0042

Direction to office:

For driving: From Baltimore Ave (Route 1) towards University of Maryland, turn right onto Hartwick Rd. Turn immediate right in the office complex.

Look for building 7307. We are located on the 2nd floor.

For public transportation: We are located near the College Park metro station (green line)