A while back, I posted about raising money for a generator for the school in La Chuscada. We did it! They sent this video so we could see what they did! Thanks to all who helped out!
The Amigos Academy Need a Generator
You Really Should See The School
They Have Computers!
They Need a Generator
Help Build a Mobile Lab for Nicaragua
As many of you know, I have been working with a Nicaragua based NGO, Amigos for Christ, for the last 10 or 11 years. I spend my time raising money mainly for the medical team, that has done amazing work in lowering mortality due to diarrhea, lowering incidence of parasitic infections, and improving nutrition. This year is no different. (click here to donate if you get a tl;dr vibe)
Letter from Annie and Juanita
The Mobile Lab: This year’s project.
An individual or family’s health is absolutely essential to
live a fulfilled daily life. In Nicaragua, family’s often
struggle with illness that are completely preventable.
Amigos is on a mission to change that by testing families
for the most common illnesses we see, treating those
illnesses, and educating families on how to prevent
them in the future.
What illnesses is the Mobile Lab focused on?
- Intestinal Parasites due to poor sanitation
- Kidney Disease to inadequate water consumption.
- Respiratory Disease due to inhaling cooking smoke.
How does it fit in with what Amigos does?
In the 21 communities we are currently serving, Amigos is committed to a seven-year
partnership with each community. For these seven years, we are focused on helping the
community achieve five goals.
model. The third goal of Plan 7 is: Reduce Preventable Disease. The Mobile Lab is the guiding
project in identifying disease and informing the best path forward to prevention. Infrastructure
changes are also part of the Plan 7 efforts. A clean water system, bathroom, and clean air
kitchen help a family fully prevent disease in the future.
As you know, I work with an NGO down in Nicaragua on clean water projects, including building water systems, and working on healing the after-affects of years of bad water. The Medical team again needs your support to raise money to buy new equipment for the Anti-Parasite project I have written about in the past. (Watch Juanita’s video in order to see the progress we’re making).
Specifically, this time, we need a centrifuge, and items for a mobile clinic. You’ll see their pictures below.
Can you help us raise $2000 to help contain the project? DONATE HERE.
||(For more information on Amigos, and they work that do in their community, scroll to the end.)|
|Transportation and Materials for Preventative Classes and Home Visits in Rural Communities||$1,450|
|Collection and Processing Materials for Parasite Testing||
Additional Materials for studies
The donation link is here: http://weblink.donorperfect.
Earlier in the summer of 2016, I send out a call to my frends and family to help me raise money for medicine for the people of northwest Nicaragua. As many of you know, I have been working with a great organization, Amigos for Christ, to help the folks of this area.
Amigos has a systematic approach to helping folks. The have have five foundational areas they work on. Simply put: First, they start by working with communities to build water systems. This work is not charity, but a collaboration. The community must put up half the labor, and some of the money. Once the water system is in, they work on health issues. From there, it progresses to economic development. They have been working on this for 20 years, and the area is dotted with free-standing independent communities.
I have been working with the Health Team for a couple of years. I have been working on eliminating intestinal parasites in children and their parents, a disease which affects way to many people in this area. This year, the group had a special meal for me to celebrate the work we had done, and I was supremely moved.
So, to the donors, I say thank you. But more importantly, so do they. Here’s a message from my friend Juanita, a nurse on the team:
My name is Juanita Patricia González Picado, and I work with Amigos for Christ. I am in charge of the projects for eliminating parasites, and the elimination of Chronic Renal Insufficiency in the communities we work in. This year, we worked with seven communities, 4 existing and 3 new communities. Thank you for your contributions and donations, which help us realize these projects and serve the people in these communities with stool and urine testing, which helps us in our mission to eliminate parasites and disease. We keep you in our thoughts always.
(Note: The translation is mine. I take responsibility for any mistakes)
The team also put together a slide presentation on the epidemiological data they have been collecting in the communities, which illustrates the level of service and professionalism that these folks provide:
(If you want a translation, post a comment)
I am proud to be able to help them, and I am proud that my family and friends who donated help to make the lives of these people better.
(No notes. Traveling)
Notes on the 2015 Nicaragua Trip
|Our Group at Cerro Negro|
The Video of our trip is here….
(Note: These are unfinished, but adding them for the record)
Nicaragua Trip 2013
We started with a 1215 red eye flight from San Francisco to Houston. We then had what seemed like an interminable layover. It took 5 hours and I was in a fog the whole time due to lack of sleep and liberal application of benadryl. We flew into Managua, and then took a bus to Leon. We then spent an hour in the Sandinista history museum, and got a fascinating read on the revolution and counter-revolution from a Nicaraguan perspective. The guide was a guerrilla from the 80s, and was very polite, but was very upfront on the US role in the revolution in the 80s,and the role of the US in the assassination of Augusto Sandino. Most of his discussion with us was on the roof of the building which had a great view of the city of Leon. We then drove to Chinandega and had dinner.
|The view from the Sandinista History Museum|
Today we got up at 7 had breakfast and went to mass at the church adjacent to the property. The mass was in Spanish but luckily the priest spoke slowly. After a brief orientation we got on the buses and drove to Cerro Negro. I have written about this before, and I am confronted by a question. What happens when the transcendent becomes ordinary? Yes it was a hike in an amazing location, but the novelty has warn off. Then we took a 90 minute ride back to the compound for dinner.
|The view into the major crater of Cerro Negro Volcano|
This morning we had a brief orientation, and then went out to the communities. This year’s project was in La Chuscada. It is a community about a 20 minute drive outside of Chinandega along the highway. It is a 20 min walk into the jungle from the highway. Most of our work was along what appeared to be a viaduct from an old watershed project. For whatever the reason, I worked harder than I ever have, manually. It was gratifying, but also tiring. No trouble with allergies. Mostly work with a shovel and a pickaxe, which is called a piocha in Nicaraguan Spanish. I worked with a 17 year old boy named Alfredo,who was one of the hardest workers I have ever seen. There was also a 13 year old girl named Patricia who worked hard as well. I also bought cheese bread, called a palmita, from Lola, who is from Santa Catalina, one of the first communities that this NGO built. It was a great day.
|The crew working on the trench monday|
|Digging in the trenches with Beth, the Gales and Alfredo|
We went back to La Chuscada today do do some more digging. We laid 740 feet of pipe, versus 500 feet yesterday. Today I dug alongside a 13 year old girl named Isabel who worked extremely hard…because she was building a project for HER community. We started early, 9am, and dug until noon. Then after lunch we took a community tour to see their new water tank. There were other people who made a big impact on me today. The first was another 13 year old girl named Milago, whose name means miracle. She was working with her cousin, and was not very tall. The contrast with my daughter Anna was stark, yet the all held the same traits, namely they are strong independent young women. The final person who made an impression was one of the women on staff. ( I’ll protect her identity in case she reads this) During evening devotional, she shared a story of how she made a decision that ultimately caused all of us to be late by 45 minutes…which in Nicaragua is being on time) She said she felt terrible, and shared how she had struggled with depression. But that for the first time she had been able to realize how her negative thoughts were wrong and that she didn’t have to be held captive by them. I stopped by to talk to her afterwards, an told her how strong and brave I thought she was. I also told her that what happened was important because she could now heal. What she was able to do was to recognize a negative thought, and self-correct. And that is one of the first steps in healing from depression.
Also, a bunch of the youth did the Harlem Shake in the trench they we’re building.
Today we were back in the village of La Chuscada digging again, and I was working alongside Milagro again, who work has hard as any of us. I also had a chance to talk to the head of the village, Sebastian, who kept using the word “historico” or historic, for what this work, the promise of clean water, would mean to the community for the future of La Chuscada.
Today we had a “fun day” with the community. It was also the “triumph of the revolution” day. We went out to the community and had Mass. It was the first time many of the people in the village had seen in years. It was in both English and Spanish and was very moving. We prayed over Sebastian’s wife who had cancer. We then had lunch, peanut butter and jelly as always, in the community. We then had a baseball game with the folks of la Chuscada. We lost badly. They have some great players down there, soccer too. And most of then play barefoot. We then had the talent show, and my team did a bad interpretive dance version of Genesis 1. We won the fan favorite version.
And I got to say good by to the woman on staff, but not before telling her how brave and strong she was.
|Alfredo, his pal, and the baseball game|
Here is this year’s Nicaragua travel log. You can find a map of all the places I went to, here.
Friday and Saturday
The plane ride out was uneventful. Like last year we took a redeye to Houston. The best part the trip for me was having breakfast with Emma, Claire, Beth, Maddy and Shawna at a diner in Houston airport. We were all tired it was fun for me to sit at the counter with my daughter and my youngest cousin(Claire), and their friends.
When we arrived, we took at 2 hour bus ride to Poneloya, on the pacific coast, for Mass at the local church, and dinner at Veronica and Ramon’s, two people from parish who are from Nicaragua. After Dinner, there was a performance by a local troupe, which involved a large woman built out of stilts, a man in costume, and lots of drumming. You had to be there. It was done in rapid fire rhyming Spanish, so it was lost on me.
We then finished dinner at 8pm on Saturday.and we took a 1.5 hour busride to Chinandega, where the organization called Amigos for Christ is located. We styed in the men’s dorm which is a collection of bunk beds.
Sunday started with Mass at Nuestra Senora de Pilar, the church across the back wall from the Amigos in Chinandega. It was all in Spanish, except for the Homily, which Fr. Joe luckily did in English.
After a quick breakfast, we got on the bus to Cerro Negro. After a 2 hour bus ride, we arrived at a big black volcanic mountain. This year, Emma and Claire took the hard way up, and after last years experience, I decided to take the easier hike up the back side of the mountain. This was a great choice for me, since this year, I was able to get in an hour-long energetic hike, and spend the rest of the day on top of a volcano. Claire did a great job, and Emma was her usual speedy self. I was able to get a picture of me with Emma and Claire, which I will treasure always. It is Amigos to make sure that everyone makes it up the hill, and a few folks took about 4 hours to get up the face of the mountain. it takes hours to get up the mountain, and minutes to get down. I wiped out twice, and I loved it. We made it back for Dinner and Devo(Devotional: A spiritual time each day), and then collected over 185 medical items from my community for use at the maternity hospital in Chinandega. I am so proud of my community for helping with this effort.
After a relatively sleepless night,our first activity was listening John Bland, the ED of Amigos For Christ, talk about the nearly 80 staff members. They include folks who work in the construction, medical, and marketing groups, as well as the office staff and missionary teams.
I am on the medical team his year, and our first job was to make 80 post-op gift bags for women who were getting surgery at the Chinandega maternal clinic. The essentially involved loading boxes on a truck, driving 10-15 minutes (ignore previous comment about 1 hour minimum), and unloading boxes. We first went to a MINSA distribution center to drop off some supplies. The MINSA office had the flavor of government offices anywhere; lots of rules, and board employees. After that we headed to the maternity hospital to deliver supplies.
If you live in a More Developed Country(MDC), you have certain expectations of what a hospital is: Modern Building, the latest scientific equipment, and clean sterile rooms. In Nicaragua, which is a Least Developed Country (LDC), you have none of these. The buildings we were in were old, ramshackle affairs. For example, the Maternity Hospital was in an old warehouse building. The floor tiles were broken, the paint was peeling. In addition like most Nica buildings it had an open air courtyard, which in and of itself is not a problem. What is a problem were the many pools of standing water. The conditions were appalling.
To be clear, this is not a condemnation of Nicaragua, nor the Government. This is par for the course in the poorest country in the continental Americas. The cause is poverty and lack of economic opportunities. They are doing the best they can with what they have, and more needs to be done.
Tuesday was a dig day. We went to Rincon Garcia, a remote village 30 km from the Honduran border. This is a poor community who until recently had no access to clean water. But the Amigos organization started a new project in February, and had a working water system up by July. This is part of Amigos Modern Bathroom project. During the morning, we worked on digging septic tanks, and we were fortunate to work on the of an extended Nica family, which include Augustina (the Grandmother), Miguel Santana (Father) and Franklin, the Son. Franklin is 6 and very welcoming.
Before we arrived in the community, we were told about the organizing process with Rincon Garcia. It was mentioned that this community was less welcoming that last years community, El Chonco. Nothing could have been further from the truth. When we arrived we were warmly greeted. We went to work digging septic tanks. To build a septic tank you have to build a 15 foot hole with roughly a 6 foot diameter. This areas is highly volcanic, so the soil is hard. We got lucky, as it rained last night, so the soil was heavier, but east to work with.
After we were done with digging, we broke for lunch. After Lunch, Amigos held a kind of carnival for the kids, which include face painting, a piñata, and a beauty contest of sorts. With regard to the last one, I’ll let Emma write about it. We then hung around the village until 5pm and came home.
After dinner we break into small groups to discuss the day. Sue Foltz led the discussion. Some women were angry about the beauty pageant, saying it was demeaning and objectifying to women. Note they were not told ahead of time this would happen. Most of the girls who participated felt uncomfortable at first, but then played along in the spirit of the game. A woman in our group, Johanna, was originally from Columbia. Her opinion was the most interesting: While she felt uncomfortable at first, her opinion was "it was only a game." All in all, it was an interesting opportunity to discuss cultural and gender issues.
The day started out with a trip into town, Chinandega. We started with a trip to the orphanage. This was moving experience for me last year, because of my reaction to one girl, Chilo. However, she apparently had surgery for Kidney Stones. I hope she gets better. In the afternoon we walked around Chinandega, and then got a chance to to go back to the community we helped last year, El Chonco. Four of us went out to the village to participate in a training session for the community health workers in El Chonco. These workers (all women) were picked to provide the first line of defense for health related issues. It was an amazin8g thing to see. It raining hard, but the ladies and some of their children walked thru it to make it to this class.
The class was on hygiene and how to avoid parasitic infections. It is hard to imagine, but here we were, in house not much more than a cinderblock hut, and a class was being given in PowerPoint from a laptop, using a projector found in any high tech office in the US, projected on a screen tied from a roof support beam. And it worked. It was a multi media presentation with include slides, and a Columbian-produced health video about the death of a small boy named Antonio, who does from an easily curable infection. The class mentioned the importance the basics. Hand washing, keeping your food area clean, and keeping the house clean.
The class was held at one of the Community Health Workers’ houses. It was also the home of an amazing little girl named "Esmara".
At 9 years old, should could already speak some words of English and said she read books. When I ask her how many books she had, she said "Uno", one. So amidst an amazing experience, reality creeps in. I need to organize some kind of book drive to make sure Esmara can get all the books she can read.
Thursday was a quiet day. We make up packets of equipment for the remote clinics. They included biohazard and sharps buckets, as well as medicines, sterile sheets, vitamins and salves. In the afternoon, we went back to play with the children in the Materal Hospital. Often when a child is in the hospital, the mother comes as well, often walking 20 miles with her other children to get there. While in the hospital the other children have nothing to do but roam the halls. So we brought some coloring books and crayons an played with the kids for 2 hours. I spent time with a bright two-year-old, named Marcello, who had an IV catheter in, and seemed to have a fever. I also played with a bright 8 year old girl named Delmis. I hope we can provide her a better future for her.
Today, everyone else went to El Chonco, Via Santa Catalina, and the beach at Corinto. The head of the medical service, Dr. Christian Fuentes asked me to help him with visits to the community. We first went to Via Esperanza in the Villa Nueva Municipality. Here the Dr. gave a class on how to avoid parasitic infections. He used the same projector and laptop as in El Chonco. I was able to back into a power line to get him an outlet for the projector:
Thanks to my brother David for the MultiTool last Christmas.
While the Doctor was teaching, I played with the kids of the village. Here are some pictures and videos of the kids. There was a little girl, named Tatiana, who was fierce, and took no guff from any of the boys. We played soccer, Hide and seek, and other things until the class was over. As we were leaving, some of the villagers noticed we had a flat tire. So we pulled out the jack and it took 30 minutes to get the jack to work. Luckily we did have a spare tire. For a while, I was seriously worried about how we’d get back to Chinandega and my flight the next day. But we were able to use some wood and some seriously weird jack placement to fix the flat.
Next we went to the hospital in Villa Nueva to pick up some epidemiological data. It turns out that thru the government and Amigos, they have cut the incidence of Diarrhea in half(!) in the last year in some areas in the Chinandega Department. We also stopped by Rotario, which is another community Amigos works in. Our job there was to invite the community health workers to a meeting on August 26 to do more training on eliminating parasitic infections. We walked around the neighborhood inviting the community healthcare workers to the meeting.
From there we went home, for the last night in Nicaragua. I was happy to see Esmara once again. One of the staff members invited several children to sleep over. They were all great kids.
Our flight leaves at 12 and we’ll leave Chinandega by 7am so we have time to get to the airport with a reasonable amount of time built in for the usual Nica issues.
And woke up around 7am. Now it’s off to the volcano.
Out of respect for the families, we were not allowed to take pictures.
This video is the best thing I have seen to convey the emotion of the day.