This week’s story was written from a night-time plane somewhere over the Caribbean. An evening flight out of Atlanta put me right back into the Nicaragua I left in a sudden, last minute urgent trip home. International flights are where I can do my best, uninterrupted thinking, and as I flew back to the country I have resided in for the better part of 3 years, my thoughts wandered to Nicaragua.
I was wondering how DRY Nicaragua would be, 10 days after the flood.
This past summer, Venture Within facilitated programs in a new location in Nicaragua. While we could have ventured to places we’ve been before, and connect and build in schools who recognized some of our faces, and definitely our purpose – this year, I chose to direct energy and efforts to the more rural, more untouched community of San Ignacio, just southwest of Rivas.
To get there, my group flew 8 or 12 hours. Touched down in Managua for a night of orientation, home-cooked dinners, and a few words to learn in Spanish. The next day we drove through chaotic capital streets, past fuming, smokey volcanos, horse-drawn carts, and along green, overgrown fields and jungly-trees. Stray dogs, pigs, horses and the occasional small herd of goats place-marked our 2 hour journey. The last 1- hour stretch bumped us over dirt roads, river-flooded crossings, and rain-washed villages to the community we would call home for the next 2 weeks.
While our programs in Thailand or Costa Rica have one, main clear focus (elephants and sea turtles respectively), Nicaragua hosts a checkerboard of opportunity.
Healthcare is needing and minimal. Electricity is available in rural areas.. sometimes. Education is touch and go, depending on the time of year, the size of the village, and the availability and support of the teachers. Crops are a source of income, but financial gain is dependent on draught or deluge, and if they will harvest a feast or host a famine.
In August, our groups contributed in many different and valuable ways:
- We planned 45 minute lessons in the English language that included reading, writing, and competitive games for the kids.
- We got down in the dirt and revamped the landscape of a community center by weeding, planting trees, a garden, and repairing the brick-lined access road.
- We took part in the distribution of anti-mosquito packets to place in the family wells to minimize disease.
But now, not quite 2 months later, the recent flooding and storm has washed away much of those efforts and so much more from the surrounding communities here. Everything inside houses, schools, and kitchens, was flooded in a deluge of mud, trees and so much water. This draught-ridden country had been desperate for rain, but not a flood.
Schools are now piling their water-damaged and ruined school books on the side of the road and burning them. Belongings, when they dried, dried into a state of ruin.
Crops have been destroyed, and any landscaping buried in mud or washed away as debris. Wells are contaminated, and soggy mattresses now harbour germs and disease and many local families are becoming ill with the lack of clean water and clean, dry bedding.
My first day back in Nicaragua I joined a clean up crew who, 10 days after the flooding, were still working to clean and salvage an 80 year old man’s home of 30 years after it was caught in the path of a mudslide and buried.
Have a look . . ..
This summer, we were able to help build in what ways we could in one community. As we move into the final weeks of rainy season in Nicaragua, it’s clear that our efforts moving forward will be on re-building what was lost.
And so, so much has been lost, but the spirits are high, hopeful, and helpful – which is the only way to move forward.