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!
Mary is one of CAFOD’s gap year volunteers, and has been working with the Youth Ministry Team in the Diocese of Hexham & Newcastle. Here, she shares her story so far from her Zimbabwe visit:
Here in Zimbabwe we are learning more and more every day. The sun is always shining and hot and the people are so welcoming and friendly. This week we are staying in the rural area of Binga to visit the projects of CAFOD partner – Caritas Hwange.
Our visit yesterday was to a farm in Zuka – a two-and-a-half hour drive away from Binga over incredibly rocky roads, full of potholes as well as herds of goats and cows and the occasional baboon! It was fascinating to drive past traditional thatched roof huts of the rural villages, and see the women, men and children going to work and school.
CAFOD’s gap year volunteers in Zimbabwe send their latest update from their journey…
Today we were thrilled to be visiting our first CAFOD project in Murehwa, one hour north-east of Harare. On arrival we met with CAFOD partner, Caritas Harare and the Murehwa authorities. They told us about the Sanitation for Success programme that CAFOD supports, and that we’d be visiting throughout the day.
First up, we attended a training workshop for community health workers about the importance of good sanitation in communities. As it was the first meeting, we all took part in a ‘getting to know you’ exercise, which we really enjoyed. This showed us the importance of the programme facilitators taking the time to get to know the community health workers and likewise for the health workers to really get to know their communities, facilitating collaboration, understanding and strong teamwork.
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.
We have arrived, safe and sound in Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe. The weather is beautiful – sunny and warm. The journey was long and tiring, but we were all very excited to get our first view of Harare in the drive from the airport. Many things were surprising and new to us – people grilling corn on the cob on stones at the side of the road, people selling newspapers in the middle of the traffic or carrying crates of bread on their heads. We were all ready for the lovely evening meal at the Dominican Convent, where we received a very warm welcome from the sisters, which immediately made us feel at ease and at home.
Getting ready for a long awaited good night’s sleep turned out to be more eventful than expected. Leila locked herself out of her room and camped out on Lizzie’s floor, Lizzie temporarily broke the tap in the shower, Keiron overcame his fear of spiders thanks to the company of a particularly big black one in his room, and although Mary was missing her phone and the internet, all in all, we enjoyed a great rest.