Steph is spending a year as a Step into the Gap volunteer for CAFOD and is working at Good Shepherd parish in Nelson, Lancashire. Here is an update on her visit to Nicaragua.
We have just come back from an amazing few days staying in rural Nicaragua up by the Honduras border. We stayed with Elizabeth on her family farm called ‘Gracias a Dios’ (Thanks to God). Elizabeth works for ASOMUPRO, one of CAFOD’s partners, so she was our guide for the week. She lives with her parents; Dona Ada and Don Angel, her two younger sisters, her cousin and her brother, his wife and their son Arron on a gorgeous farm complete with pigs, cows, horses, a donkey, hens and dogs!
Elizabeth is a technical support worker, someone who visits the surrounding communities where ASOMUPRO works. She is the local communication link with the main office in Managua as well as the more local office in Esteli (still three hours’ drive away). She checks up to see how they’re getting on, to provide support and communicate any training they might want to go to. Locally she works with the Natoso bee keeping women, the kitchen garden women in San Fernando and Dona Helen in Jicaro as well as many other groups.
All the girls, (six of us as we had Bryanna, an intern at ASOMUPRO travelling with us also) shared one room, while Chris and Marvin (our driver for the week) had their own. Mosquito nets were vital here so imagine six individual nets up in one room, sleep walking was not an option for Vicky!
Hola! Greetings from Kate, Steph, Bernie, Chris, Tania and Vicky in Nicaragua. The first few days of this trip have been amazing and as a group we thought we would each share a part of our experience up to now.
“Welcome to Nicaragua.” The sound of the flight attendant announcing, in her very American accent, our arrival brought up excitement in all of us. Tom, a friendly face and experienced aid worker from Canada, was there to meet us with another taxi driver, Jaime. On the way back to our accommodation with Jaime, we passed many low level concrete buildings with corrugated iron roofs but also on the main street every 100 metres or so these 15 metres high stunningly yellow trees absolutely covered in lightbulbs stood. Tania asked Jaime what it was and apparently they are “The Tree of Life”, the work of the first lady Rosario Murillo. It seemed so out of place. When we got back to our accommodation, we were warmly welcomed and were certainly pleased to know that there was air conditioning in each of the rooms before we got some much needed sleep after the 22 hour journey.
After we had arrived and spent some time resting we woke and headed out on our first day to meet the Central America CAFOD team. We were greeted at the office by the whole team who are so friendly and welcoming. We spent time finding out more about what CAFOD’s work focuses are in Central America, in particular Nicaragua. This has given us a better understanding of the country, its history and the people. We can’t wait to spend time working alongside them and the partners they work with to really experience all that the team support partners in, whether training, networking or support.
As we embarked on our second day in Managua we couldn’t wait to find out more about the partners and communities we would be visiting whilst we are here. We started our day by meeting ASOMUPRO, the association of women’s farmers. This gave us opportunities to not only learn more about ASOMUPRO but an opportunity to connect with the people who worked in there office and what they valued about the work of ASOMUPRO. This was a truly inspiring and emotional opportunity to learn.
We then continued our day by meeting the John XXIII Institute to learn more about the strong friendship they have with CAFOD and the work they do out in communities. The afternoon ended with our final meeting with the Sisters of the Guardian Angel in partnership with Envio. The sisters work with young people on community leadership and empowerment. They also run a canteen which gives young children the opportunity to gather and play games. We can’t wait to meet everyone, get to know them and learn.
Today is our third day and has been absolutely incredible! After a tiring few days recovering from jetlag and meeting lots of people, today was a day where we got to experience the local environment that Managua has to offer. We began by going to the top of one of the many live volcanos which Nicaragua has. This was a first for us all and had us in awe! It was out of this world to stand at the edge of the crater and see the smoke, not something I ever thought I’d be able to say. We sampled the local delicacy of coconut juice to cool us down.
The afternoon was spent in paradise. We swam in a beautiful lagoon in the valley of the volcano we had just climbed. It was so refreshing after a morning of intense heat. However, what really struck me was the bumpy ride we had to get there; driving past posh luxurious hillside villas right next to whole communities living in tin roof shacks was something that hit me as quite shocking.
Another thing that really struck us after yesterday, was the importance of looking after our world. We are all very fortunate to live in a place where climate change is not such a massive issue as it is in Nicaragua. The beautiful greenery and landscapes are breathtaking as we saw from the top of the volcano. However we have also heard about how El Nino (a weather system) has affected the country, especially the harvests and CAFOD partners have been working very hard to help people become more resilient and adapt to the changing climates. We will be learning more about this issue over the next few weeks.
These past few days have been truly awe inspiring, and have got the team extremely excited for the next coming weeks ahead. As of next week, we will be venturing out of Managua and going into rural Nicaragua to meet CAFOD partners to truly immerse ourselves into the communities and everyday life of those around us.
Some exciting things that are planned ahead for us over the next coming weeks is beekeeping, as well as learning about the importance of empowerment of women here in Nicaragua, we also have the opportunity to visit social housing projects as well as assisting the Sisters of the Guardian Angels.
“Connect2Brazil wishes you all a Merry Christmas! We are very happy with the Christmas cards we received from children and parishes England & Wales, and with the exchange of experiences. The children in Divinéia were really happy with your messages.” Zeza, Divinéia community leader and Connect2: Brazil narrator.
“Connect2Brazil will continue in our hearts forever. This exchange between local communities, this sharing and linking will be with us always. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year for all in England and Wales, and especially for the children!” Terezinha, Connect2: Brazil, Divinéia community.
Left: Children in Divinéia with cards from the Connect2: Brazil parishes.
Right: Zeza and Terezinha with Christmas cards.
If your parish would like to join Connect2, you can sign up here.
By Jesy Romero, Water Resources Coordinator for CAFOD’s Church partner CEAS
I have seen first-hand the marginalisation and exclusion of the poor communities we work with, who are constantly defending their lands. My Christian vocation compels me to speak the truth and nothing but the truth for the common good. This is why I travelled thousands of miles from my home in Peru to visit CAFOD supporters and campaigners in London last October for the launch of their campaign, One Climate, One World. I wanted to explain the impact climate change is having in Peru and the conflicts occurring because of water shortages, so that people will better understand the importance of caring for God’s creation.
Water shortages and flooding in Peru
Latin America is one of the regions most vulnerable to climate change, yet some people don’t know about the scarcity of water in Peru. My country has 70% of the world’s tropical glaciers, and in the region where I work I can see how they are melting at an alarming rate. The statistics are catastrophic; the Peruvian government says that by 2030, all the glaciers below 5,000 metres will have melted completely.
In a month’s time, we’ll be celebrating Valentine’s Day and, as part of the Climate Coalition, we’ll be asking you to #showthelove and let everyone know why acting on climate change is a crucial part of loving our neighbours.
Twenty-six-year-old teacher, Lazaro Salvador Gutierrez Gonzalez, lives in a village in the municipality of Jinotega in the dry corridor of Nicaragua, an area prone to irregular rainfall and drought. Here he reflects on how the love of God motivates him to care for his environment.
This was a very poor community, difficult to get to, and very few organisations came here. But CAFOD partner Caritas Jinotega came. I can say truly it is an organisation that is concerned for its neighbour, that seeks out love and God sent it here to share this love for its neighbour.
The climate is difficult here because it is hot, so when Caritas brought trees to plant it was a moment of joy for me. I said to myself, I am going to make a change here, I am going to see this area reforested.
This is my dream
So we started to plant the trees, always with the hope that they will grow big, and that we will have cleaner air, a fresher climate. Worm composting gives us organic compost to help the plants to grow and the children that I teach learn to look after the plants, and have the hope of seeing new plants and fruit. This is my dream: to bring nature to the school.