Thursday, August 6, 2020

Future Fridays: Trash!

When we moved to Nicaragua over 26 years ago, I was struck by how often women cleaned their floors in their little houses.  If it was a dirt floor, they would sweep it ten times a day or more; concrete or tiled, then it was damp mopped six to eight times a day.  And the dirt or trash would be swept outside the doors.  Then at least once a day, the yard would be swept... yes, swept... undergrowth and grass hides insects like scorpions and snakes.  The trash from the yard would be swept into the streets.

Moving trash from one area to another to another baffled me who grew up with Lady Bird Johnson's campaign to stop littering.  

As I continue to learn more and more about climate change and our environment, I realize that we all do this world-over... we create our trash and move it from one place to another.  

Maybe to a recycling area... most probably the dump.  And our food trash goes into the dump.  And what happens at the dump? The trash gets rolled into the earth even though much of it will not degrade in any reasonable length of time.

Our First World society deals with trash like the Nicaraguan women... we move it out of our personal space to a public space.  If the public space cannot take it, then we find some where else to dump.

Unfortunately, so much of it goes into the ocean.  The Pacific Ocean has a floating "island" of plastic twice the size of Texas and growing!  Life comes from the oceans... remember?

Ocean garbage - photo: Shutterstock licensed

The difference between us and those Nicaraguan poor women of 1994 is that we create way more trash than they EVER did.

The only way to deal with our trash is to not create so much.  Reusing jars and tubs and bottles.  Demanding that more food and beverage items come in reusable containers.  Recycling is good but reusing is much better.  Composting food to lower trash in dumps and reduce methane gas is good.  Eating less perfect food and more leftovers is better.  

One way to start is to buy a smaller trash can and take more days to fill it up.  Make a competition about how little trash you can create.  Hang a photo of the world's beautiful blue and green above your trash can.  We can do it.  I know we can... and will.

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Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Here we go again...election interference

excerpt from RFTOP No.72052420R00004
Here we go again.  In our blog yesterday, I mentioned that a paper from the U.S. State Department was leaked about "regime change in Nicaragua."  This means that the U.S. State Department wants to overthrow the democratically elected government of Nicaragua.  The 18-page document RFTOP No:72052420R00004 is titled Responsive Assistance in Nicaragua (RAIN).

The U.S. State Department has a long history of interfering in elections and governments around the world.  Given that the political unrest (or "soft coup" attempt) in 2018 failed, the State Department is stepping up its game...the problem is that this is no game for Nicaraguans.  

In the document, the U.S. State Department allows and foresees that the present government, the Sandinistas, will win the 2021 Nicaraguan election in a transparent manner that receives international approval.  From our perspective, we agree that's probably likely.  Most Nicaraguans are pleased with the way the country is being run.  Most are happy with free education, free health care, and basic human rights being afforded to them.  Those people who take education, health care, and human rights for granted do not understand this government's popularity.  

Despite international press coverage and opposition coverage regarding Nicaragua's response to COVID-19, Nicaragua has spent the 4th highest amount per capita on addressing the pandemic in Latin America and is lauded by the Inter American Development Bank which is loaning the country $43 million dollars to aid with the pandemic.  Nicaragua started addressing this virus and how to keep its population safe on January 27th...much sooner than most countries, including the U.S.

July 2020 distribution of PPE

With RAIN, the U.S. State Department lays out a plan to thwart the will of the Nicaraguan people if the Sandinistas win again.  Hire a private company (a Blackstone sort of militia) to use influence including non-truthful social media posts, organize demonstrations, and even use violence.  All money funneled through USAID which since late 2017 has given at least 31 million dollars to opposition groups.

RAIN also conspires to interrupt basi services to Nicaraguans by destroying electrical power plants, for example.  When the CIA manual on how to overthrow the FSLN in the 1980s came to light, electrical plants were to be targeted along with schools, health clinics, bridges... infrastructure.  Not only property, but teachers, doctors, nurses, pastors, and community leaders were targeted for assassinations.

I used to be proud of USAID and the humanitarian work that it did, but as I learned more about its work, I discovered that their resources are not to support people who have little; but instead to manipulate and bring about what the U.S. government wants (or what is "in its best interests") within other sovereign nations.  Unfortunately, what the U.S. wants is to give corporations the ability to exploit the people and natural resources, as well as to gain access to what does not belong to the corporations but to the citizens of these other sovereign nations.

Please help.  Please pass this paper on to your senators and representatives and to the media.  Insist that they read it and address it.  There is no reason on earth to help corporations steal from the poor.  There is no reason to overthrow a duly elected government that is not your own.  It is unconscionable to be such a bad neighbor to the second poorest country in the Americas.  It is hateful.

- Kathleen


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Monday, August 3, 2020

What Happens When a Nation Faces Depression?

I battle depression and lately it feels like it might be winning.  I’m not the fighter I used to be.  I’m tired and weary to my bones, but yesterday I was shaken to my soul.

Being depressed makes it difficult for me to exercise. Being stuck in the house adds to my depression, but yesterday, I decided enough is enough and I needed to move… then… I read an article about a U.S. StateDepartment paper that was leaked  [RFTOP No: 72052420R00004 Responsive Assistance in Nicaragua (pgs 4-17*)].  The leaked paper describes the plan to destabilize Nicaragua, wreck the economy of Nicaragua, use the pandemic to cause chaos, pour money into the opposition to Nicaragua's government and use its U.S. influence to change the next election...and if all that doesn’t work, to then sponsor a coup.

Reading this article, my first thought was “I don’t want to live through seeing Nicaragua suffer again.”  I then stayed in our bedroom most of the day wallowing in self-pity.

Tomorrow I will write more on this 14-page leaked document*.  But today, I want to try to explain the depression that this country feels.

Reagan on Nicaragua's shoulders - Painting Leon museum

For decades before the 1980s, Nicaraguans lived under U.S.-sponsored dictators who were brutal.  In 1979, Nicaragua saw the end of those dictatorships after many years of insurrection. The new government did not execute those who propped up the dictatorship and had done horrid things like torture and murder, but rather gave them the option of jail time or exile.  Most - if not all - left and became the people to which the U.S. gave money, weapons, and training to wreak havoc and war on the new Sandinista government which was trying to lift the nation out of poverty with health care, literacy campaigns, education, land reform, community development, etc.

Kathy, Mike, Sarah and I came to Nicaragua in the '80s and saw hope among people who had endured so much pain and poverty even while they were at war.  But even with the hope, there was death and lack of resources from the economic embargo that the U.S. placed on this nation. 

Protesting U.S. Policy in front of U.S. Embassy Managua

In 1989, the U.S. basically said, “Elect this person, Violeta Chamorro, or the war continues.”  The nation cried “Uncle” and fell into a pit of depression, which was when we moved to Nicaragua in 1994.  Gone was the health care system.  Gone was free education.  Gone was the hope.

For the next 16 years, Nicaraguans lived through fraudulent elections with the U.S. backing any joker other than the Sandinista candidate.  They got Pres. Chamorro elected, who allowed all the progress from the 1980s to die.  Then they got Pres. Alemán elected, who stole 100 million dollars of aid after Hurricane Mitch, the deadliest hurricane in the 20th century.  They got PresBolaños elected, who kowtowed to the U.S. (the U.S. ambassador even campaigned with him).  The Sandinistas had been labeled terrorists by the U.S., and Nicaraguans were afraid that if they didn't elect the U.S. hand-picked candidate, the U.S. would invade as they did in Iraq.

Finally, in 2006, Nicaraguans voted and were allowed the result of their elections, to put the Sandinistas back in the seat of power.  What happened then (and continues to this day)?  Education became free all the way through college, including medical or dental schools.  Health care became accessible to all.  Nineteen new hospitals have been built.  COVID-19 is being handled in a better way than in the States… that is for sure.  Clinics have opened all over the country, as well as opening homes for pregnant women at risk.  There are more schools, educational resources and teachers.  Businesses were finding Nicaragua a healthy place to set up corporations.  Renewable energy was prioritized.  Nicaragua was doing so well as a nation.

Then in 2018, the U.S. got a foothold again and help to fund uprisings, gangs to create chaos, and all the progress slowed to a crawl.  Since the end of 2017, U.S. AID has funded opposition to the government with at least $31 million dollars.  But after the initial unrest in 2018, things calmed again and the nation was slowly coming back.  Then COVID hit.

I have said many times that Nicaragua is like a battered woman.  She gets knocked down.  She gets up and all seems to be going better to be knocked down again when she doesn’t expect it.  And NONE of it is her fault, but instead the fault of the batterer who uses his power to dominate and get his own way. 

What eventually happens to the woman?  She sinks into depression and is ever cautious and fearful of the next blow.  She loses hope, and will, though she is strong and a survivor.

Unlike the battered woman, Nicaragua cannot leave the Americas to find a safer shelter. 

But like the batterer, the U.S. seldom changes its ways unless forced… and that is where the fight in me has to return.  I am a child of that batterer and I need to force it to change its ways. 


*Original of the leaked document in Spanish on La Primerisima:

*In English:

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Friday, July 31, 2020

Future Fridays: Climate Change is still happening, folks.

Each evening when we pull up the PBS Newshour on YouTube, almost every evening one of us says, "Wonder what will be the headline...COVID or BLM?"  Both are pressing items in the news cycles and for good reason, but we are hearing less and less about Climate Change, which as our son, Daniel, says, "If we don't address climate change, there will be fewer Black Lives and COVID will seem easy."  And he is right.

The police brutality that exists in the U.S. and around the world, HAS to have to work on changing this "norm" for our lives and all   When governments are threatened from their people who are starving and suffering, they tend to react with order to keep their power.  We see this everywhere. 

The Defense Department says that climate change will be a new threat to the world...militarily.  As more and more people are displaced with rising sea levels, droughts, floods...those who have nothing are going to come for those of us who have much.

With forests disappearing, the human race is going to deal with more and more pandemics as viruses jump from animals to humans.  

Climate Change HAS to be everyone's top priority.  Corporations have to change their polluting ways and we have to make them. Governments have to address their laws and make the climate number one.  Communities have to become more adaptable in order to limit carbon emissions.  Individuals have to focus on what we can do to save our environment.

We cannot wait any longer to make Climate Change our number one priority.  If we do, COVID and the now brutality will seem like a walk in the park.

Shutterstock and composite Photo

The good news is...humans (ergo corporations, governments, communities) can multi-task.  We tend to forget that.  We can demand that racism end and brutality stop.  We can demand that communities invest in social work as well as trees and bike paths and sidewalks.  We can demand that corporations quit funding political candidates who are racist as well as that they quit polluting our waters and air and pay their fair share of taxes to go into ways to heal our earth.  We can demand from our governments to work on COVID, provide PPE, and funding for those most vulnerable, as well as demand that they pass some version of the Green New Deal.  

And we must.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Jessenia Castillo, ¡Presente!

Photo by Joe Alexander

Last night we lost the face of the Nueva Vida Clinic, Evelyn Jessenia Castillo.  She died from COVID-19.   Jessenia was our health promoter.  Jessenia suffered from diabetes and struggled mightily to keep it under control.  This made her passionate about helping others maintain their own health and gave her deep insights on how to help.

Let me share a few memories with you to help give you in-sight into this caring, darling, wonderful woman…

Ten years ago, I decided that we really needed a health promoter to organize our public health outreach.  I asked César, who is gifted in community organizing himself, to find us some candidates.  He brought us Jessenia.  She was mild spoken, unassuming, and told about her organizing experiences.  She had limited public health organizing, but was willing to learn.  To be honest, I wanted someone - anyone - and I wanted them working ASAP.  Little did I know just how perfect she was for the job.

Two friends who gave the CDCA the money to hire Jessenia, Nora and Becky, always went to the clinic to visit... especially with Jessenia.  The three would chat and strategize about how to help the new mother’s programs.

Jessenia would soak in information and ideas from anyone willing to teach her, but she was also wise to what might work and what might not.  She loved having Professor Ronna Krozy come and Ronna loved working with Jessenia.  Every time Ronna came she would always comment on how we had a gem in Jessenia, something that we already knew, but high praise from a public health nurse with her doctorate.  In fact, everyone who worked with Jessenia was highly impressed by her knowledge, her caring, her wisdom and her kindness.

Jessenia was the face of the clinic in the community through our lay health promoters.  If we had problems, she would gently but forcibly tell me about them.  She would explain why my logical choices were absolutely ridiculous… but never in those words… though sometimes I wish she had… we would have saved ourselves some troubles.

Jessenia loved the patients and they loved her back.  She knew so many by name and knew the burdens that they lived under.  She could - off the top of her head - tell us who needed extra help, who needed follow-up, who needed to be visited, who struggled to eat, and the list went on... all in a community of thousands of poor people.  She could walk anywhere and volunteers could walk with her and be safe, because she was known and loved.

Jessenia had backbone.  She would stand up to a volunteer when they were not being culturally appropriate and not back down... a true gift… not to mention great responsibility.  It is hard to do this, because we all know that volunteers give of their time and expertise. It was difficult for Jessenia who did not like conflict.  She would frequently confer with me to see if her choice was right.  It always was… always.

She took her calling to be the clinic’s health promoter seriously.  I firmly believe that her job was as important as the doctors and other medical services; if not sometimes more important.  Here are some of her accomplishments:
  • Recruiting, organizing and supporting the 30 lay health promoters
  • Creating and teaching three new mother's groups bi-weekly or monthly
  • Leading teen girls' and boys' groups
  • Starting and maintaining support for HIV positive patients
  • Teaching weekly classes for our chronic care patients
  • Leading volunteer doctors, nurses, nutritionists, dentists, lactation specialists, and respiratory therapist into homes of patients and bridging the cultural gap with sensitivity
  • Creating and maintaining a home visit program for chronic care patients, new mothers and pregnant women, patients at risk, and asthmatic patients
  • Organizing and teaching so many in Nueva Vida on umpteen million topics, it seems
  • And connecting our clinic with the gay and transgender community in a respectful and dignified manner.
She was a powerhouse of ideas and  her desire to make Nueva Vida a better place was palpable.

Jessenia was loved and respected by the clinic staff.  She was heart and compassion through and through.

She was  patient with me. She taught me how to listen to the staff as well as the community of Nueva Vida.  I loved her... we all did and we will miss her… terribly. 
- Kathleen

For nearly 5 years I had the privilege of spending every Tuesday afternoon with Jessenia
- and 12 teenagers! - when we started the Las Lobas group for at-risk girls together. Jessenia had trained as a teacher, she was an educator down to her core, and she taught me so much!

With the Lobas she knew how to strike just the right balance between love and discipline. Jessenia was physically affectionate with them - so important in Nicaraguan culture and in particular with these girls - allowing them to hug her, braid her hair, even practice putting make-up on her. She taught me that it was okay to let these girls fully into our hearts. And yet she never let them walk all over her, she insisted on respect - but it was a mutual respect, and the girls recognized that.

The stereotype of a Nicaraguan mother teaches her children and grandchildren through regaño - berating and chastising them. In many cases the mothers are so terrified for their children that shouting is the only way they know to get their kids to understand. Jessenia did not berate. She was always calm and patient and helped the Lobas understand tough topics in the way that the best Nicaraguan community organizer artists do - by explaining the same thing three times in three different ways using everyday examples.

Jessenia, a gifted baker, gave Las Lobas an 8 week baking course in her home.

We made it a custom to take the Lobas out of the neighborhood every other week - one week we would do something educational, and the following week we would take them on an outing. The first outing we went on was to see the movie Godzilla, and one of the girls came to us to tell us that another was carrying a knife. Jessenia helped to negotiate with the girl - who insisted the knife was for peeling mangoes - to leave the knife in the pharmacy with Danelia while we went to the movies. Anyone who's ever chaperoned a school field trip knows that our hearts were in our mouths each time we went out, but as long as Jessenia was with us, I knew we'd all make it back in one piece.

Jessenia was invaluable in helping me to negotiate the world of teenage girls in a culture other than the one in which I grew up, which made me a better leader for the Lobas, but also a better mom for my own two Nicaraguan teenage girls. I am forever indebted to her. Jessenia Castillo,
¡Presente! ¡Presente! ¡Presente! 
- Becca

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