Monday, November 16, 2015

One Woman, One Year

I'm not going to beat around the bush. It's been a tough year, y'all.

For us and for our Nicaraguan staff: emotionally, physically and economically.

That's why we're more determined than ever to make it a good year for our patients at the Nueva Vida Clinic.

As our programs have expanded in response to need, our donations have not kept up. We are struggling, and are making it our top priority to keep doing the things that we know are working well.One of those wildly successful things is our family planning program at the clinic. We make it free and easy for patients to join, and it's very much in demand.

 “I want to be a mom… but not yet. First I want to finish school.”

“I want to have another baby, but not until my littlest is older.”

 “I can’t afford to have more kids.”As our patients at the Clinic keep telling us, women in Nueva Vida want to plan their families.You can help.
Donate $50 to provide family planning for 1 woman for 1 year.

Your gift will provide:

  •  ob/gyn exam at NV Clinic a check-up with our gynecologist to pick the right method of family planning 
  • regular visits with our public health nurse for prescription refills
This year, we want to help 200 women plan their families. With your gifts, we can reach our $10,000 goal by the end of Giving Tuesday, December 1st.

Click here to make your tax-deductible donation now.*

Giving Tuesday is movement to give an alternative to the focused consumerism of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, a chance to make a difference. 

Together, we can make sure more Nicaraguan women have the freedom to plan their families, to plan their futures.

Thank you.

*No need to wait until December 1st to count for Giving Tuesday! In order for your online donation to reach us in December, please make your donation by Nov. 30th.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

New Disease in Nicaragua

Wow!  As if the poorest countries in the middle of the earth don’t have enough with which to deal, NOW we have chikungunya (pronunciation: \chik-en-gun-ye)!  Chikungunya is another mosquito-borne virus that showed up in Tanzania in 1952.

The virus is carried by the mosquitoes that come out during the daytime like the dengue virus carrying mosquitoes.  It is often confused with dengue.  The main symptoms are fever and joint pain that can last for as long as 12 months though that is unusual.  Sometimes the joint pain can be severe.  Other symptoms that might accompany the virus are vomiting, diarrhea and rash.

“Doblarse por el dolor” or “bent by pain” is a common description of the disease.  In August there were 5,000 documented cases in Nicaragua.  I suspect that has increased.  The virus is certainly in Ciudad Sandino. Many of our staff have had it including Pat, Becca and her two girls. 

The symptoms can last from 2-12 days and there is no treatment, only easing the symptoms.  The only prevention is to avoid getting bitten by the little pesky mosquito (bug spray), though researchers are close to finding a vaccine.

The Ministry of Health is trying to contain the virus through spraying in communities.  Our clinic is treating the symptoms of many patients.  Unfortunately for many, they return with recurring joint pain for several months and this takes additional resources to buy medication.  Sometimes the joint pain is severe enough that people cannot work.

Chikungunya is not by-and-large a seriously dangerous disease, though if someone who is weak or has a compromised immune system, it is deadly.  It is considered a tropical disease that many doctors in the U.S. or Europe know little about, BUT with climate change is spreading north…there are cases in Northern Italy, France and in the United States.  Chikungunya came to the Americas through travel from the Caribbean.

Chikungunya is just another example of how it is crucial that we work globally to limit climate change and to treat diseases together, develop vaccines, and care about the sick in the poorer nations. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “We must learn to live together as brothers [and sisters] or perish together as fools.” -- Kathleen

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

While You Were Away

While Mike and I have been away, those of the international staff left behind have been stressed and greatly over-worked.
Here in the States, Mike continues to work hard.  He has been on the phone, Skype, and email a great deal talking to buyers and coordinating the agricultural component of the CDCA.  Unfortunately we thought we were only going to be in the States 5 days, so much of the information that he needs is still in Nicaragua. 

Becca is busy with her commitments with Las Lobas, social media, fundraising, showing other groups around, getting ready for her October speaking tour in Oregon and Washington etc., but without us she is now also busy running to and fro with  the organic cooperative COPROEXNIC, getting answers for Mike, helping to organize the two large medical brigades coming that I usually do, and all the bits and pieces that Mike does.
 Sarah who maintains the data base, keeps all the records of donations, runs lots of errands, works to keep the computers up and running, fundraising, etc,. was also gone on her speaking tour in Texas leaving the office more stressed.  She filled out the 990 form, a mammoth job, without our usual help running interference so that she could concentrate.

Kathy, who keeps the books takes care of Nicaraguan government and legal aspects of the work, has not had Sarah in the office working beside her.  Pat has been doing vision checks all by herself without Becca to help her, plus her usual therapy work, and she's also now helping the clinic staff with daily problems that arise.  Both have assumed more of the day-to-day running of the cooking and other household chores. 
Daniel, the volunteer coordinator, is doing government permission paperwork for those medical brigades I mentioned and on top of that is also coordinating auto leasing, obtaining better internet for cheaper, and helping to fix computer glitches.  Claudia is our legal representative while Mike is away.
And though they are missing us, they could not handle it all without the national staffJosefa runs the clinic like clockwork.  Since we have been away she has hired and oriented two new clinic staff members (an ob/gyn and a lab technician).  She has taken over reporting to ORPHANetwork as well as other tasks that I did.  With her, the clinic staff will be ready for the two medical brigades and their work will run smoothly. 
Construction and maintenance is a breeze with Rogelio and his crew, but Rogelio was off work for a week after cataract surgery.  Rogelio is a font of knowledge of where to locate what is needed and will search far and wide for the best price, he was greatly missed during his sick leave.

Diana and her crew manage all the hosting details: menus, supplies, cleaning, preparing food, etc.  With them, hosting delegations with fewer people is doable, even without us…not preferable, but doable.
César, the project’s director, continues the work of COPROEXNIC, community development, and problem-solving.

We are anxious to come home and work side-by-side with amazing people.


Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Burying Children

On September the 12th, my sweet, dear brother died at the age of 58 from cancer.  His death follows about 5 weeks after my father died which followed 3 weeks after all of the family worried sick about me.

My family is brokenhearted.
  There is an under current of sadness always moving just beneath the surface while we get along with day-to-day chores.  My mother is strong and at the same time devastated from having lost her son so soon after losing her husband of almost 62 years.

Losing both my father and brother close together has been really difficult for me as well…but at the same time I am thankful that I have had my family intact because most of the people with whom we work have not had that luxury.

I am 61 years old and am fortunate, blessed.  Until seven weeks ago I had both parents and my two brothers.  My husband and all the children are alive and healthy.

This is not true for most Nicaraguans.  Here are a few examples:

Doña Conchita has lost children, her husband, and a grandchild.

Rogelio in his early 50s, just a few weeks ago buried his mother.  Last Christmas he buried his father. Since we have known him, he has also buried four of his brothers.

Also in the last month, Pedro at a similar age buried his brother.  Two years ago he buried his son.  

People comfort Mama by saying “No parent should out-live their children.”  I agree.  I cannot imagine burying one of ours, yet, parents do outlive their children all over the world.
Almost 10 million children worldwide die before age 5 die each year from preventable and treatable diseases.   This number does not include children who die from accidents, abuse, wars, armed conflicts, guns, or non-treatable diseases like cancer.   
All these children had mamas and daddies who had to bury their little ones. 
Watching my brother waste away at such a rapid rate, I realized once again that life is precarious for all of us…especially the world’s poor.  I also reclaimed that life is precious…extremely precious…and with that knowledge comes the responsibility to treasure life and, as much as possible, try to prevent more parents having to bury their children.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

When Learning Difficulties Lead to Beauty

Bobby with his granddaughter, Kadence
 My brother died soon after my father.  I missed my father’s memorial service and in my grief shared a bit about him in this blog.  I was there with my brother, Bobby, when he died on the 12th of September, but once again I ask that you please bear with me as I share a bit of who Bobby was.

My dear brother was a gentle, sweet-natured man.  He was an artist*, a loving husband, father, son, and brother.  He had deep faith although he had little to do with institutional religion. He lived his life and ran his little jewelry shop honestly and ethically.
As a boy he was unruly, unpredictable and a nightmare for teachers.  He went to elementary school in an area and a time when learning disabilities were not acknowledged due to ignorance in the educational community and due to his teachers**, most of whom just wanted to do their class and go home.  He had some horrible teachers.  His second grade teacher physically and verbally abused him.

At the age of 21 years after leaving high school and training to be a jeweler, Bobby learned he was dyslexic.  What a relief it was for him to learn he was not stupid as many of his teachers and classmates thought and instilled in him!

Having a child with ADHD (Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity) and remembering Bobby’s childhood, I am convinced that along with the dyslexia he also had ADHD.  He had a hard time focusing unless whatever he was doing was something he loved then he hyper-focused…like his jewelry. 
As a teen living with learning disabilities and low self-esteem, Bobby started drinking, smoking, and using drugs.  The alcohol and his drugs of choice lead me to think that like many teens with ADHD, Bobby chose to self-medicate.

Eight years ago, Bobby went through rehab and was sober until he died…but he was never successful at battling cigarettes.  He died from cancer that started in his mouth.

Bobby in his shop
Bobby’s learning problems led to beauty.  Many dyslexics have great capacity of creativity and he did.  The pieces he made were exquisite. Many people with ADHD are impulsive, sometimes they don’t make the wisest decisions but sometimes they are the most generous and the kindest.  Bobby was that…sweet and kind.

In the Nicaraguan public schools, knowledge of and accommodations for learning disabilities are almost on the same level as they were when Bobby was a child.   Teachers likely do not understand.  If by miracle the teacher is able to identify a learning disability, they certainly don’t have the resources or the time to accommodate these special children.  All of this leads to children suffering like Bobby did.

Bobby with his family.
Pat, our clinic counselor, helps some of these children in Nueva Vida.  Learning disabilities, if identified, are left to the therapists.  Pat works with our doctors to get them medications if appropriate.  She does therapy with them.  She helps to rebuild their self-esteem.  She also helps them and their parents learn coping mechanisms, but the need is great.

Bobby & his son visiting a volcano in Nicaragua.
Children with learning disabilities are difficult in class and often at home, but they are also a gift to society.  They are frequently the artists, the impulsive givers, and the ones who can think outside the box.  Bobby was that and so much more and I miss him.
*For those of who have visited the CDCA in Nicaragua the lions sitting out front of the house have all their legs because when Bobby visited us, he sculpted one missing leg.

**Bobby’s daughter, Gloria, became a high school teacher and has won two years in a row the best teacher award.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Laughter is a Survival Tool

In the last two months being away from Nicaragua and living through some tough times, I have learned a great deal.  One is the need for laughter, not the smiling-through-the-pain-and-sorrow…no, true laughter.

I have a pet peeve that has come from working with the poor and hosting volunteers from the U.S.  The peeve is when occasionally the volunteers comment, “These people are poor, but they are so happy.”  Many will follow that comment with “It must be their simple life and the fact that they are not as stressed as the over-booked lives we live.”

These comments show an utter lack of understanding of stress.  After working with the poor for over 30 years, I can only just begin to understand how stressful the lives of the poor are as they struggle day-in and day-out to survive.  Their stress is magnified by dangers that threaten their very existence.

Also I know volunteers often can’t see in the short time here the deeper feelings that surround them…they often miss the pain of parents when they come to the clinic with sick children because, from the outside, the poor do “appear” happy because there is frequently lots of laughter.  

I quickly learned after being in the hospital, there is just so much “yucky” feeling one can stand and not go insane.  Mike, my wonderful partner, has always been able to make me laugh…and so can all the children.  It is a gift they inherited from their father.  Though I had to hold my belly to keep from hurting, laughter released the needed endorphins in me.

Three weeks after leaving the hospital, my father died and I could not travel to go home.  Nora, a good friend and long-time volunteer, flew from North Carolina to be with me.  I would cry and she and Mike gave me hugs, but they also made sure to make me laugh. 

Less than two weeks after Daddy died, we learned that my brother, Bobby, was diagnosed with cancer that has invaded his whole body.

Tiff, who we are staying with the most, comes home from work, puts on the news and then follows it with comedies.  We often will sit around and tell stories of many years ago that makes me laugh and laugh.  Coury and Cassie come comes to check on me and more laughter ensues. People call and I laugh.  

Am I happy?  I often look happy.  BUT I’m often still sore and tired from surgery.  I grieve deeply for my father.  I worry about the CDCA and Community with us being away for so long.  And my heart is utterly breaking for my brother.

I’ve known that laughter has gotten us as far working with the poor in the States and in Nicaragua, but now laughter seems even more critical.  I know that if I did not have people around me to make me laugh, to laugh with me and – in truth – oftentimes at me, I would curl up and stop.  

The poor cannot stop, so they find humor in the sadness, in the hurt, in the dark, dark places.  Laughter is a survival tool.  Laughter has the power to open light in the soul.  It is also a gift, a grand glorious gift to be spread the world over.  -Kathleen

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

I Knew Y'all Had My Back

Having to go into the hospital -- unplanned, in a country where we no longer live, during a time when we were only going to be gone from Nicaragua for just a week -- I have learned the value…the immense value of support.
W/Cassie and Coury in role as Che...we saw the last show!

I am convinced that my healing has been greatly influenced by the support I have received here.  When I went into the hospital, we were in Sacramento to see our son, Coury, on stage.  Cassie, Coury’s girlfriend and our long-time friend through volunteering in Nicaragua, was working the ER as a resident.  Our son Daniel was with us as I was admitted in ER.  Later that night, Coury and our daughter Jessica joined the Murdock/Woodard circus in the ER with Mama.

Throughout the hospital lucha (struggle), Cassie helped me and Mike understand what all the doctors were saying, what the tests showed, and how serious it was.  Coury, Jessica, and our son Tiff kept Mike company and sane during my days in the ICU while I was mostly oblivious to my environment – thank you, morphine!  

Jessica informed “the world” of my trials and progress so that friends and family would know what was happening with me, which meant Mike did not have to field as many calls. It also meant that many, many people sent well wishes via email and prayed for us.

There were times I thought I was going to die and I knew that Daniel was going home to Nicaragua and would be support for Joseph, the youngest of the family and who had not come to California.  I knew the kids would support each other and Mike.  I knew that the community at home would carry on and support each other and that we had good people in Nicaragua that would help.  I knew this for certain.

Jane with me recovering
After the ICU but still in the hospital, Coury and Jane, another long time friend and volunteer from Nicaragua, would drop in to relieve Mike and support me. 

Jane modeled for me what to do if someone goes into the hospital…how to be an advocate with nurses and doctors, how to get a patient up and walking…she even got me out into the sun.  She brought gifts, magazines and chicken noodle soup…the first food I ate. She read to me and she and Mike made me laugh.  She took days off work to help us in the hospital and later with doctors’ appointments.

Tiff and his housemates took Mike and me into their home for months.  Between Tiff and Coury we have always had a place to stay (Dena, Cassie’s sister, still lends us her bedroom every time we come to their house in Sacramento!), a car to go to and from appointments, food to eat, and all we need.

Blue Zones is a book being talked about here in the States now.  "Blue zones" are areas where people live a vital 10 years longer than the rest of us in the world.  Food, exercise, and reducing stress are all aspects of the communities in the Blue Zones.  But two elements that the book stresses are friendship and knowing that someone has your back
Coury with me outside!

If we had not had all the support from family and friends here and in Nicaragua, I would have been anxious, fretful, stressed out, and felt lost.  Knowing people had Mike’s and my back eased tremendous stress for both of us and let the healing occur unencumbered.

Living as a family… true community…as brothers and sisters…is a good idea…a really good idea.  Not only might we live longer, but we all might live more peacefully.  Let’s do it.