After a full day of activity and touring, I sit on the veranda of the Peace House, with dirt under my nails and several layers of dust covering my face, arms and legs…and I feel lucky and sad at the same time. I am absolutely humbled by what I have seen today.
Never before have I experienced poverty this extreme first hand. I’ve seen pictures in National Geographic and brochures, but never up close and personal. Until today.
We visited one man who is desperately awaiting donations that are needed to build a new home for his family. He has been approved to receive a new home, based on his extreme need, but futher donations are needed before his home can be built. He currently lives in a tin home that he built on land that was given to him by his mother. As one can imagine, living in a tin house – literally tin walls and a tin roof – in the Nicaragua heat is beyond imagination.
He does have water, however, there is only one latrine for the entire “neighborhood,” which consists of about 5 neighboring similar dwellings. His family has to walk across the road to get to the latrine. Just Hope helps people like this man find hope that he can improve his living conditions by providing housing that is safe, adequate and dignified.
When we asked him about his combined income with his wife, his family lives on approximately $34 per week. I immediately thought about how we at home will spend $34 on a pizza dinner, when this family must make that $34 last for the rest of the week. After bus fare, make that $24. Humbling.
We toured a water distribution facility, which consisted of 6 large tanks sitting on top of a hill, with 20 solar panels that keep power costs down. Before this water distribution project existed, which is only in the past 10 years, people had to get water from their own individual wells. There were thousands of wells in the area, and when tested for water purity, 90% of the wells were toxic. People on these properties were constantly sick. The need for a quality water distribution program was clear. Just Hope and other organizations partnered with the government of austria to provide water for a community of 8000 people.
We then visited a farmer who was able to participate in Just Hope’s Agricultural Emergency Relief Program. Hairo is a farmer who grows corn, and has a beautiful, healthy crop. He was able to pay for planting his crop on one of his 7.5 acres due to a grant from the program in which he will pay back 1/2 of what he received. The amount he pays back will help create a Micro Credit program which will help other farmers achieve the same success.
Hairo also told us that his whole community had no water because of a broken water pump. They have been without water for two weeks, and a repair will not be until they can pay the cost of $7,000. The 10 families in his community committed to give $10 toward the cost (which is VERY difficult for these families). The rest of the cost must come from donations. They can’t come soon enough…imagine not having anything but rainwater to live off of in your household!
That was pretty heavy stuff. After lunch, we did hear some uplifting stories. We visited a couple of homes of women who have received loans from the Micro Credit program to have a business at their home. One woman raises chickens, another raises pigs for market; and another woman raises hogs for breeding. All have been sucessful in their businesses, and were so grateful for the opportunity, as their success has improved the quality of their lives.
It was nice to end the day on a good note. The earlier feeling of desperation was pervasive, and impacted all of us who visited these homes. The successes that we saw at the end of the day illustrated that there IS hope. Organizations such as Just Hope understand the dire needs of the people of Chacraseca, and are finding ways to help families and businesses rise above poverty.
A final personal note…while many of these families live in such conditions, the people are still smiling and loving to others. At Hairo’s farm, while down in his corn field, I looked up the hill and saw his two daughters spying on us from behind a patch of trees. When they timidly came out of hiding, I asked her name. Her name was Erika and her little sister was Frances. They let me take their pictures and then giggled when I showed them their pictures on my camera. I even took a selfie with them! On the way down the hill back to the house, Erika gave me a pink flower and said “Tuyo.” That flower was for me! I put the flower behind my ear and we walked back to her house together…mi amiga Erika y yo.