We Care Program Coordinator Patrick Stewart recently participated in the distribution of a commodities shipment to Nicaragua. Having the opportunity to visit with the mission staff and community members he offers this report.
It was an exciting day in the village of Chonco for students who received Learning and Living Kits. Photo CLWR/P.Stewart
From 2010 to the present, CLWR has dispatched to Iglesia Luterano Sinodo de Nicaragua (ILSN) three shipments, representing nearly $200,000 in material aid, to support the mission centre’s transformative work amongst some of Nicaragua’s poorest communities. Dedication, transparency, trust and mutual respect are attributes we look for in long-term partnerships, and as the many Canadians who have visited the mission centre in Chinandega can attest, we have found that in our relationship with ILSN. It was with great joy and anticipation that in March 2015 I was able to travel to Nicaragua and see first-hand some of the tremendous work taking place.
After Haiti, Nicaragua is widely considered to be the poorest country in the western hemisphere, but it is also renowned for its friendly people and as a safe destination for travellers. Accompanied by representatives from the mission (both lay staff and pastors), I was able to visit a dozen communities across the country, distributing We Care kits and quilts, and interacting with teachers, students, parents and healthcare workers, listening to their stories as well as delivering the warm wishes and prayers of the thousands of Canadians who contributed to our most recent shipment.
Photo: Deaconess Heylin Lopez has taught on behalf of ILSN for the past 7 years. Donations received by CLWR have provided scholarships to hundreds of children. Lutheran churches all double as one-room schoolhouses for students in kindergarten to Grade 5. CLWR/P.Stewart
One of the mission’s main areas of focus is sponsoring the primary education of hundreds of young Nicaraguan children. From remote villages to medium sized cities, and with your support, ILSN provides salaries for teachers, uniforms for students and Learning and Living Kits. Despite their challenging circumstances, many of the children dream of one day growing up to become doctors, baseball stars, firefighters and teachers. It was inspiring to meet them, along with their parents, who have worked so hard to afford them the opportunities they can.
Photo: Director Daysi Picedo, left, of the Villa 15 de Julio Clinic, with Ana de Obraje, an expectant mother. Over 35 births per month take place in the one-year-old facility that serves a population of 20,000. The Baby Bundles were especially appreciated for their practicality as well as a way to establish contact with many marginalized young women. Photo CLWR/P.Stewart
We also met with healthcare workers and discussed what challenges and opportunities might be addressed through future shipments. Our first shipment to Nicaragua had, in fact, included a significant amount of dental equipment that is still used by the mission’s on-site clinic. Often, under-resourced local healthcare providers noted respiratory ailments amongst agricultural labourers (related to pesticide use) and teenage pregnancies as being prevalent issues.
It was gratifying at long last to meet the dedicated staff of ILSN with whom we have worked so closely over the years, and the children and families who are so thankful for your support. At times it was emotionally overwhelming to visit communities where poverty is so pervasive and severe, but sorrow quickly turned to hope and distress to admiration as I met many wonderful teachers, pastors and families who are tirelessly striving to build stronger, safer and more prosperous communities.
Discussions are already underway for our next shipment, which will hopefully include an assortment of goods that were identified as being in short supply. Your support is making a real difference in Nicaragua, and there is a tremendous amount of hope and optimism for what the future might hold.
Check out Patrick’s Nicaragua photo album on Flickr.