On Monday morning I woke up around five to catch the earliest bus from Leon to Esteli. The ride takes approximately two hours on one of the smaller InterLocal buses, and I was fortunate enough to catch one with a mid day arrival.
My bus arrived at the terminal around 12:30. I texted Miguel Marin from FEDICAMP, and he came to pick me up about fifteen minutes later in his compact pickup. In the back was Felix, one of the community organizers/trainers/agronomists working with the communities affiliated with FEDICAMP.
[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="155" caption="The old and the new in Nicaragua: historic churches and cell phone towers dominate the skyline."][/caption]
Esteli is in the northern mountains, and the elevation means a slight reprieve from the lowland heat. The final weeks of April and the first weeks of May are the most unpleasant time of the year in Nicaragua (at least in many minds). The dry season, although coming to a close, still has not broken, and the heat is generally unbearable in the flat southern region of the country. During this time of the year, the few degrees of difference in Esteli is almost a miracle for a tired foreigner used to idyllic Maryland Aprils.
The city proper is constructed on a hill that rises from the highway and runs parallel to it. The central street is built across the spine of this hill, with residential neighborhoods sprawling out to the east to fill the next valley. FEDICAMP's office is located near the center of the city in a small building with five small offices, a kitchen, a bathroom, and a courtyard filled with plant life. During the heat of the day, the trees in the courtyard give some shade, and there is a slight breeze from time to time. The entryway is home to a few of the FEDICAMP dirtbikes that the staff use to go from community to community, often over rugged terrain. The coffee pot is always brewing, and I grabbed a cup while we chatted and I shook off the bus ride.
Since I arrived early, Miguel suggested that we visit the community of Palacaguina in the afternoon. During the past year the Quixote Center has had a growing relationship with the community of Palacaguina.
Baseball is an important part of life in Palacaguina, and working with the children is an opportunity to engage them in other aspects of the human development projects from a young age. I spoke to the coach and learned about the team's recent successes in various tournaments all around the country. The team even traveled to the Atlantic Coast, and for the players the journey was nearly as exciting as the tournament itself. He also told me that the team is a way for the community to come together: as parents with children playing together and as a town rooting for the home team.
In the middle of April, our donors responded to an urgent request for support when a young boy, Jose, needed emergency surgery for a detached retina. Because of the fast response, his eyesight was saved. I visited with Jose and his mother briefly, and they both send their thanks to the Quixote Center network.
The community association of Palacaguina has been involved in FEDICAMP since the federation began. Much of their work, like many FEDICAMP communities, sprung from the foundations laid by John XXIII a decade ago.
In Palacaguina, the community pharmacy that Quixote Center donors help start still provides essential medicine at a discounted cost to those who need it. The women who lead the association received their training in organizing directly from John XXIII. Everywhere in the community are traces of that groundbreaking human development work undertaken by the Quixote Center and John XXIII. It was amazing to learn about the transformation that the Institute's emphasis on capacity building has enabled.
The women who run the community association in Palacagüina have big plans for the future. They have renovated their building to house cultural tourists, begun building a stage for presentations, and forged partnerships with other local associations. Their works are of steady persistence, and the fruits of their labor are enjoyed by the entire community.
Water in Pueblo Nuevo
The following day, we visited a community in Pueblo Nuevo. Miguel and I left together from Estelí and met with Harold, FEDICAMP’s lead agronomist/organizer at the turn-off for Pueblo Nuevo. After a short trip over some bumpy roads, we came to a farm where several community members had gathered for our meeting.
The community members were all representatives of the local water committee, tasked by FEDICAMP with organizing for solutions to the water problems that plague the area. As the population has grown, more latrines are dug, and this higher concentration has contaminated many of the water sources. Wells built by various charity groups are now useless, and the people must sometimes choose between purchasing expensive water or taking a chance on the local sources. In the case of a subsistence farmer, there isn’t really a choice there.
We spent the day with the water committee. They explained the contamination problem, as well as issues they face in distributing water, paying for electricity to run some of the pumps, and the general inertia of local government in providing a workable solution.
As with John XXIII, FEDICAMP increases the capacity of individuals and communities to solve their own problems. The water committee (established and trained by FEDICAMP) has been operational for over three years now. Because of this accrued capacity, they have a plan:
The committee wants to purchase and install a solar panel to power one of the remaining good wells. This will eliminate the (very high rural) electricity fees that they must currently pay. They also want to purchase and install a large cistern on one of the highest points in the community. This cistern will then feed water, using only gravity, to the surrounding community.
The plan is simple. It makes sense. It would eliminate the hardship of having to choose between manually pumping and porting water or taking a risk with groundwater nearby. This is a choice that nobody should have to make. In the coming weeks we will send details on how you can help Pueblo Nuevo realize their goal of a clean and sustainable water source for their community.
These are only two of the eighteen communities of FEDICAMP. They are small examples of the diverse human development work being undertaken by Miguel and the others leading the federation. As always, we rely on your generosity and solidarity in making this work possible. Support our work of peace and friendship in Nicaragua.