Things I have no choice but to write

Category: nicaragua (Page 1 of 2)

Help Fund a New Water Lab in Chinandega

Friends, as you know, I’ve been raising money for Amigos for Christ projects for over 10 years. We have raised money for over 15,000 doses of anti-parasite medication, a generator for a school, and for a urinalysis lab to improve the health of my friends in Nicaragua.

Water Lab

In addition, As many of you know, Amigos for Christ does great work in delivering clean water, health, sanitation, and business opportunities to the people of Northwestern Nicaragua. One of their most ambitious projects to date, is the Water For Chinandega which hopes to bring water to over 100,000 people in rural Northwestern Nicaragua, a place very near and dear to my heart.

Amigos’ Latest Need: A Water Lab

Morgan and Brian of Amigos have reached out to me to help raise awareness for the need for a new water lab for the Water for Chinandega. See their slide presentation here. It’s pretty convincing.

So now The Ask: If you can give to help out the lab, please donate here. It all helps. If you have questions, reach out to me.

Help me get a generator for the Amigos Academy in Nicaragua

 The Amigos Academy Need a Generator

(Post Summary: I’m raising $1000 for a generator for a school in Nicaragua. Donate here)
Friends, as you know, I have been working with a great NGO in Nicaragua, Amigos for Christ, for over 10 years. I have written about various trips over the last few years. Since I have started working with them, we’ve build clear water systems, run labs in the communities to help families get free from parasitic infection, and we have also built a school, the Amigos Academy.

You Really Should See The School

Its amazing. I remember the school when it was a rice field. Then the next year we built a wall around the property, as is customary in Nicaragua. The next year we build the pre-school area. The year after that we participated in the building of the primary class buildings. Since then the feeding center/cafeteria has been completed. They are now running a K-6 school with around 200 kids. See some pictures of the school here.

They Have Computers!

They even have a computer room where they teach the kids the basics of using computers for writing. They are also considering robotics projects as well, which is super exciting.

They Need a Generator

The school is roughly here.  As you can imagine, the power infrastructure in rural Nicaragua is not always stable. And when the school has a power outage, its is really disruptive to the students’ education. So the principals of the school have told me they could use generator to help them through the power outages for the computer room and related infrastructure. They are looking for a generator roughly like this

I’m raising $1000 for a Generator For the School

To do this, I would like to raise $1000 so the Amigos Academy can purchase a generator for the school. If you are interested, please go here, and give whatever you can. No amount is too small. Or you can use the obvious giant button below. Their EIN is 58-2484257 if you are giving via a system like BrightFunds. You can give by other means, described here, but please mention in the notes that this is for “Amigos Academy Generator”.
For more info on Amigos For Christ, check out their work here.

New Mobile Lab for Nicaragua: 2020

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

See the email from Annie and Juanita, 2 of the leaders of the medical team. (You can see a video of Juanita here).
Dear Bill,
Thank you so much for reaching out to ask how you can help our Mobile Lab team this year!
Just like the rest of the world, we are adjusting to the changes and precautions we have to take
to keep those we serve safe. But one thing is certain – the mobile lab is absolutely essential to
the work we are doing to help families on the path to long-term health. Thank you for being
such a great advocate for this project.

Last year your group gave $3,788.00 to support the mobile laboratory project that helps detect and treat kidney diseases and parasitic infections. In 2019, 8,705 community members were tested for these infections—and this was possible because of your teams efforts.

Each year, you reach out to Juanita and her team and ask how you can help. Eager and excited,
Juanita brainstorms what the biggest health needs are in the 20 communities involved in Plan 7.
After much thought and collaboration, she responds to you and that’s when you do your magic.
You humbly reach out to your friends and colleagues to get them onboard with what Juanita
and her team does. You help her dreams for our Nicaraguan brothers and sisters become a

Without you, 506 people would not have been treated for kidney disease and 3,356 people
would not have been treated for parasites. Bill, we are so thankful for your team and your generous heart. Amigos would not be the same without you.

I’ve put together some information about the lab and what the greatest needs are this year for
the Mobile Lab. Amigos for Christ is currently partnered with 21 rural Nicaraguan communities
consisting of 1,568 families. They are the people who will benefit from your generosity!!
Thank you Bill! Let me know if you have any questions! Thank you for all you do.


The Mobile Lab: This year’s project.

Why is the Mobile Lab so important?
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. 
The project has done wonders. In some communities, we’ve seen deaths down 30% from diarrhea. I have seen children get healthier and stronger when they have access to clean water. (Ask me about Angel and Avril).
What does the lab look like? Here’s a picture:
(Picture from 2019 doing lab work in the first mobile lab)

How does it fit in with what Amigos does?

How does the Mobile Lab project fit into the big picture of a community partnership?
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. 
This effort is called “Plan 7”, our community development
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. 

The Ask

So what is the ask? Simple, please help me raise the $9,235 to keep the Mobile Lab effort going strong. I’ll donate $1000 to kick it off , and get my company, VMware, to match. (If you’re a VMware employee, or you work for a company that has a match, please give through your match system and add the designator “Bill Roth Mobile Lab”.)
So, if you’d like to help, please click below to help fund the Mobile Lab.
As always, reach out if you have questions.

Nicaraguan Medical Team Needs Help. Give Today

   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.)
The vortex:
Screen Shot 2018-11-27 at 4.25.12 PM.png
Portable AC unit:
Screen Shot 2018-11-27 at 4.26.06 PM.png
The tent: 
Screen Shot 2018-11-27 at 4.26.55 PM.png


Below is a snapshot of their work. For a complete set of results, see:

Help Eliminate Diseases Caused by Bad Water: Can You Give?

Dear Friends/Family,
   As you know, I have been working with a great group in Nicaragua, Amigos for Christ. You can read my report from last year, with a video from the team, and their testing results. They focus on clean water, health and education programs for the folks in one of the poorest regions of the 2nd poorest country in the Americas.
One of the their core programs is the elimination of diseases caused by unclean water. In areas in where we have yet to put in a clean water system, up to 50% of the children have intestinal parasites. 
So, here’s this year’s ask
We need to raise money to keep the anti-parasite program going. Can you help us with our attempt to raise $4864? Here’s a breakdown:
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
I have donated $500, and got my employer, VMware to donate another $1000. But a donation of any size is welcome. Can you help?

The donation link is here:

Thank you for your consideration. Call me if you have questions.
Bill Roth

Making a difference in Nicaragua

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.

Notes on the 2016 Nicaragua Trip

The Saturday trip was about the same as past years. We had a red-eye flight from SFO to San Salvador, and I got to sit with my daughter, Anna, which was a plus. 
When we arrived at Managua, some old friends from Amigos For Christ where there to meet us. We then drove to Poneloya where all 40 of us had lunch at a friends house on the beach. From there, we drive another hour to the compound where the the dormitories are.
Saunday was the climb up the volcano, and I have covered this in years’ past. LINK. This year, however, I had both my daughters climbing with me. Both Emma and Anna went up the face of Cerro Negro. PIC  Anna made it in good time, and while it was difficult, she handled it with her usual steely resolve. I am so prod of her. She got sick later in the evening, but was better by morning. I think it was the food, rather than heat exhaustion.
Today we had a chance to go back to a community we’ve been working on for some time, the beautiful La Chuscada. Last year, we started putting in the boundary wall of a school. This year the wall is complete, as is most of the preschool. Our group was putting in the floor of the preschool, as well has putting in more of the plumbing for future buildings. They day was not a warm as it usually is, it was probably only 90 degrees, which passes for “cool” in Nicaragua.
The most beatific moment of the day had to do with music. Music is playing from load speakers and a generator while we’re working. Seemingly spontaneously, the kids with us started doing a line dance. Emma was with some of the small kids from the village, like 8-9 years old, and was trying to teach them the dance, which varying degrees of success, but it was a joy to see. I am so proud of her. Most everyone was tired and went to bed after “devo” (devotional) in the evening.
Anna, even though she was sick the previous night, was hard at work in the fields. She took it easy, but still was in the trenches digging.

Monday evening the adults walked down the street to El Torito, the local bar/restaurant. A taable of locals weked what we were doing, I told them about our work on clean wather projects and our love of the country. WHen they heard this, they bought the table a bottle of 12 year Nicaraguan Rum, which costs about $50 here at a bar. It was a very generous gift indeed. We found out later that our benefactor owned one of the grocery stores in Chinandega, and was , by Nicaraguan standards, someone of unimaginable wealth.
Today was a good day. We got to work build a pig pen in La Chuscada. We were at the house of Dona Rosa and she had a bunch of children there. 2 Babies, Christopher and Alejandro, a little girl Milady, and older girls Petrona, X, and Y. (See VIdeo)
I got a chance to work with the Veterinarian, Carlos and his wife Annie the head nurse. The Pay It Forward program (LINK) has found that if you build pens for the recipients, you are more likely to be successful with the animals, and keep them from getting sick or hurt. We were part of the initial projects building pens, and the project was definitely no as strenuous as digging trenches.
During the day I played with the Baby, Christopher, and it did not start out well, as he had a lot of stranger anxiety. But I got him to warm up to be by the end of the day.
We also helped with the pen at a house nearby, and afterwards were treated to Bunuelos, which is Fried Yucca which honey. Its excellent.
One of the sad things is that they do not have fresh water, since they could not afford the buy-in. So they still get their water from a well which is likely polluted. That nothwithstanding, the pigs from the pay it forward program will increase the protein and iron in their diet, which will ultimately make a big improvement in their lives.
Old folks home in the morning, Teresa, when asked how old, she said 50. 
Evening was a bit of drama, but we ended up having a party at Shannon’s house, which was excellent. We talked US politics, and because of the the guys on the trip was in finance, we talked about technology.
Today was a work day. We spent the day making cement and pouring a foundation for the new pre-school. The work was fun, and we set up a system where we functioned like a team, and in fact finished a hour or so early, and got the foundation poured. I am deadly tired now, but happy.
Friday, Saturday

(No notes. Traveling)

Notes on the 2015 Nicaragua Trip

Notes on the 2015 Nicaragua Trip

Weekend, July 11-12, 2015
The flight from SFO on Avianca was smooth. We landed in San Salvador, which is a larger airport than I imagined. I was deeply moved by the mural on the wall to the Blessed Archbishop Oscar Romero. For my friends not steeped in the Roman Catholic church, he was Archbishop of El Salvador, and was an outspoken opponent of the extra-judicial killings, and was himself assassinated by a right-wing death squad, while saying Mass.
The flight to Managua was 38 minutes, and uneventful.  This is my 5th trip to Nicaragua with this group, and I remember being hit by a wall of heat when we left the airport. The heat and the humidity are powerful here. This time, however, i almost didn’t notice it. 
We then traveled for 2 hours by bus to a beach-side community called Poneloya, where we had lunch by the beach. A family from our group, native Nicaraguans, hosted us at their house.
Sunday as usual, was a hike up the newest volcano in the Americas, Cerro Negro. The hike is more than just an athletic exercise.  It is a hike up a 700 Meter pile of black sand, and its very challenging. The important part of this trip is that we all help each other, no matter what our physical shape is.

Our Group at Cerro Negro

The first year of this trip was transformative. I was given a new way of looking at things, and a new perspective on life. It sounds trite, but it is true. However, I have been on this trip 5 times, and have often struggled with subsequent years, trying to determine what new I could learn from the trip. This year, it became clear that my purpose was, to paraphrase Saint Ignatius’ motto for the Jesuits, be a man for others. I was able to help someone down the volcano who was terribly afraid of heights, and I know meant something to them.
Monday July 13, 2015
Today we worked in the community of La Chuscada, where we ave worked the past 2 years. the first year we put in the pipe, the second we installed Modern Bathrooms. (Link) This year, we’re putting in a wall to build a defined space for the school. 2 years ago, the school was under a tree, this year its in a temporary building which holds grades K-6. We’re building the wall for a more permanent structure for a school of 1000.
The work was hard, mostly diffing trenches, mixing cement and laying cinderblock. it was at least 95 degrees, and there was not very much shade. we got to the community, worked for a while, had lunch, and worked into the afternoon. The cement mixer broke down for a while, but would not be Nica if something didn’t happen. At the end I was sunburnt, and tied, but we went out for a beer after dinner and reflection anyway.
Tuesday July 14, 2015

Tuesday we spent a a family’s house, where they made us lunch, and we learned more about their lives. Here are the pictures: 
Wednesday July 15, 2015

Wednesday is my favorite day in Nicaragua. We went out to visit a nursing home in Corinto, which is a little down on the Pacific Coast. I sat and talked to Guillermina. You can see the picture of us here. We talked a bit about our lives and our families, and I introduced her to Emma, who was on our trip. In the afternoon, I hung out at the Cafe of the hotel.
Thursday July 16,2015
My notes on the medical team visits are here:
Friday July 17th, 2015

Friday was another work day, and we finished up with one full wall of the school’s borders  done, with a little more of the next. In the afternoon we played games with the kids, and set up a baseball and soccer games. As usual, the kids from Nica won. Some of them are quote talented.
Saturday July 18th, 2015
On Saturday, I went with the rest of the team to Managua, to get them off on their plane. I went into town to prep for my meetings for VMware. On the way, we passed the shrine to Hugo Chavez, which you can see here.
The album of pictures is here.

The Video of our trip is here….

Notes from 2014 Nicaragua trip (Unfinished)

(Note: These are unfinished, but adding them for the record)

Diary Nica Trip 2014
Welcome to another diary from my mission trips down to Nicaragua.
Friday 7/4 to Saturday 7/5
We left on the 4th of July, which is kind of hard. Its a day to be with family and friends and watch fireworks. But when I planned the trip, i was not sure of my work schedule and this is they way it worked out. We  left at 950p from SFO and got to Miama at 530am. I hate red-eyes, and i essentially forced myself to “go dormant”, not sleep really, but also a form of rest.
We wandered around MIA until our plane was ready. There was a thunderstorm and our flight was delayed about 30 minutes. While waiting, I read the latest in a series of books I am a fan of: The Dresden Files. Its essentially a book about a good man who ends up forced into bad things and how he deals with it.
Sunday 7/6:
We climbed Cerro Negro, and I took the back way, which is like a normal hike in Quicksilver(LINK), with more uneven terrain. It was similar other years. See the comments HERE.
Monday 7/7:
Today we got to go back to the community we worked in last year, La Churcada.(APPROX gps location). This is a wonderful community with a big generous heart and a  great leader. We heard from Sebastian before we started digging, and he expressed his gratitude and said we were family. My group got paired with a woman in the community, Matilda, and we start by working at her house by building the septic tank for her modern bathroom. (PIC of hole). We also made the rebar mesh for the foundation.  There were a goodly amount of children there, probably 7-10, and they are all related. They were beautiful children, and we spent a decent amount of time playing with them as well.
The important thing to know is that we’re replacing old bad water wells with a plumbing system which provides 100 gallons of water per person per day.
STORY about the PIG.
Tuesday 7/8:
Today we went back to La Chuscada to finish building the septic tank. We were able to build the foundation for the shower/toilet building. We also built the cover for the tank, which reminds me of my daughter Emma. The first year we were in Nicaragua, Emma had a great time mixing cement and building tank covers in El Chonco. We were able to mix the cement and make a cover, complete with rebar reinforcement. We were also able to finish the first stage of reinforcement of the septic tank, which needs to be up to 25 feet feet as it is supposed to last 30 years.
We also held some fun games for the kids. Here is a video of the shovel races.
(VIDEO  of Shovel race)
It was also very hot today, at least 100 in the shade. I ended drinking around 5 litres of water today, and ended the day with nothing more than a slight headache. Matilda, the woman at whose house we were working, made several things for us today, including more Limonada with fresh picked limes right off her tree. She also made fried pippin, which is a type of cucumber with home made cheese, which, like all the things were delicious.
STORY about Calvin and the Pieta’.
Wednesday 7/9:
Today I got a chance to deliver animals. The Pay It Forward Program gives cows, pigs or chickens to families in Nicaragua. They then have to give back an equal number of the animals in around a year or 18 months.  Some families have turned 10 chickens into 30, and 1 cow into three via breeding programs. It helps them provide income and a protein source for their families. We left Chinandega at 9am, and then headed up to Minas de Agua,  which is a gold mining community nerar Rincon de Garcia, where we worked 2 years ago. We got a chance to see the finished well an cistern up on a local hill. It was great to see knowing that we worked to start the relationship with the community. We picked up 2 cows there, and then drove 1.5 hours to the next stop.
(PIC of Minas de A.)
We then went to  Callemito to drop off the first cow. It was given to Carlos Sanchez and his family, pictured below.  The milk from the cow will provide important protein for health and milk fats for brain development of the children. We then drove 1.5 hours to our next stop.
PIC of Callemito
We then drove deeper inland to Marieta, which was a community deep in the hills. The couple, Elvi and Amada, had a beautiful little girl.
PIC of Carolin
You could tell by the streaks in her hair that she was likely defficient in B6 and B12, and was likely anemic.  The family already had some chickens, and the nurse with us said that she could see improvement since the family had eggs to eat and sell, but the milk and cheese would likely help her with her remaining deficiencies.
PIC of Elvi and Amada.
We then drove the 2 hours back to the compound in the 104 degree heat.
Thursday 7/10
Today was a rough day. I wasn’t feeling good, but I had to get out to the community so  I could see the family. I had thought long and hard about a question from the mother of the house, Matilda.
The bathroom being finished and well designed. (PIC)
Hunting for Mangoes (PIC)
Mass in the Field for the new school (PIC).

Nicaragua Notes 2013

Nicaragua Trip 2013

I am back from my annual trip to Nicaragua, and while these notes are late, most of it was written while I was there.


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. 


Wednesday’s are my favorite days in Nicaragua. We get to visit the orphanage, and I get to visit Chilo. I have written about her in the past. I could not see her last year, since she had to have surgery, but this year, she was there, sitting in her chair. She is severely disabled, and has little motor control, but she enjoy playing “futball” where I hold the ball for her left leg to kick. She is so grateful and laughs in in the most miraculous way. Afterwards, we toured the town.


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


Saturday was a travel day, and we got home after 1am on Sunday.


After a lot of reflection, it occurred to me that this is the most impactful thing I do in my life. Without the experience in Nicaragua, I would not have made it through the first half of this year. Doing this kind of work changes and deeply impact you in many ways.

Nicaragua Travel Notes: 2012


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 (8/7)

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.

Saturday (again)

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.


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