Bernadette is one of CAFOD‘s Step into the Gap volunteers. She’s currently working as a chaplain at St. Mary’s Catholic Academy in Blackpool and is visiting CAFOD partners in Nicaragua.
Hola from Nicaragua. There is so much I want to share with you already and I think the easiest way is to give you an insight into the trip so far to give people a whole view of the experience. So here goes, when I said in my pre blog about looking forward to the opportunity to see the work that CAFOD is involved in I never realised how much I would experience so quickly.
On our first full day in Managua, the capital city, we headed out as a group to meet the Central America CAFOD team based here in Managua. This was an opportunity to find out about what the team here focuses on, not only in Nicaragua but throughout Central America. We spent time looking at various aspects such as the work around gender and HIV, livelihoods, human rights and weather.
There have so far been two resounding themes this trip for me. The first one is relationships between men and women in Central America. As a group we have experienced this more in the city than when being in more rural areas, I feel this has been due to the work that is being done in various different ways such as training around laws and empowerment of women by CAFOD and their partners such as ASOMUPRO (Association of Women Producers).
The second theme links a few aspects of CAFOD‘s work. This has been around livelihoods and weather. One of the aims of the work here is to look at alternative responses to livelihoods in the face of climate change. The effects of climate change on the livelihoods of so many of the people we have met have been in many cases devastating. For example 2014 was the driest rainy season in fifty years which caused many crops to fail. This results in many of the families who farm to lose not only the income they receive by selling their produce, but the produce which many of the families live on themselves.
We have spent time meeting the partners which CAFOD supports and the individuals that the partners work alongside in partnership and solidarity. We met the ASOMUPRO team at their office where we were able to ask more about the work that they do. ASOMUPRO was set up in 2008 by 21 women as a union for women producers as their voices had often been unheard in unions with strong male leadership. It was difficult to find equal opportunities for women. ASOMUPRO now has 2,493 members. This was a chance to get to know the driving force behind the organisation and to really get to know each person who works there and see the passion they have for the jobs they do. When asked why each person worked for ASOMUPRO, Marco said “I work with ASOMUPRO for young people, because as a young person I have things to share and have learned skills too.”
After our day out visiting the Volcano de Masaya and Laguna de Apoyo we spent our morning relaxing and awaiting our meeting with Fr Fernando Cardenal, SJ. All I knew about this man before the meeting was that he was a Jesuit priest who was part of the Sandinista movement and the driving force behind the Literacy Campaign in Nicaragua. When we sat down Fr Fernando started his introduction by telling us that he has been a friend of CAFOD’s for many years.
As a young adult in the Catholic Church I found his stories of the history of Nicaragua and the empowerment of young people to “be faithful and never betray the cause of the poor” amazing. This man truly inspired me not only in his dedication to help people living in poverty but in the vision he has for young people. I asked him “How do you think we can give hope, strength and value to young people?” his response was “To be happy, there is more happiness in giving. My joy is within you and through you it reaches others. Fantastic!” and most importantly “the joy of living is to serve.” Each person I am journeying with either as part of our group or the people I have met so far, shows a joy in the service of others. Whether it is in the joy of serving their family to inspire their children to have hope in the future, or to serve their fellow women as a support network in providing a livelihood for the family and the communities we have met so far.