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.
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.