Monday, November 30, 2009

With our feet planted firmly on the ground

For many, the days following Thanksgiving in the United States are truly trying…after taking time to be thankful for all we have in our lives, we are bombarded by Christmas Consumerism, being pushed from every direction to buy more stuff.

So I’d like to share a moment I had today with the Genesis Spinning Plant Cooperative that helped me to put all that into perspective. Today I took a delegation over to talk with the Genesis group and although I have heard them speak hundreds of times, I found myself once again moved by them and newly inspired.

After talking to the group about their last three years of building their factory, telling how they sell tortillas or take in washing to help ends meet at home, Jamileth begins to talk about how difficult the end of this year is. “We’ve sacrificed so much for these three years, and to come up on another Christmas with nothing to give our children is really hard.” Others around the circle nod their heads and Jamileth continues. “It’s horrible to go home and have your children run up to you and say ‘Mommy, Mommy what did you bring me?’ and for three years I’ve had to say ‘Nothing.’ But the machinery is now on its way. I have faith in God and I believe that after so much sacrifice, next year and all the years after that will be ones of abundance.”

Rosa, normally boisterous, is uncharacteristically quiet and reflective. “We are not the same women who started working here three years ago,” she says. I look around the circle at their faces…I see that indeed they are older, thinner…but these determined women are all sitting tall, and I realize that she is right. This project has given me a sense of self-worth,” Rosa continues. “We came here and worked like men, and we know that we can do anything that a man can do. Now a man can’t say to me that he is better than me because I know that the only differences between us are superficial. We have all changed, and grown,” Rosa pauses and then says in a quiet but powerful voice, “and we now have our feet firmly planted on the ground.”

When I first heard the Genesis folks talk about their sacrifice and the difficulties with their families, I felt embarrassed…and then felt guilty…and then helpless…and I wanted to turn away. I believe that’s what we all feel when confronted by real need. But if these women have the strength to go on, to go through one more Christmas without anything to give their children, then how can I turn away? I can’t. Instead I turn toward them, and open myself up to have my heart broken. Life is so hard, and all we have are these delicate threads that connect us as human beings…we have to allow ourselves care about one another. After our talk the delegation hugged all the members of Genesis.

I am so grateful for what these women teach me every day. I am grateful to them for sharing the hard parts of this journey, I am grateful for the ways in which they help me grow. They help me keep my feet planted firmly on the ground. – Becca

Friday, November 27, 2009

A Prayer for Today

This morning we attended a funeral mass for our good friend Rev. Grant Gallup, known in Nicaragua as Padre Mauricio. Grant founded the Casa Ave Maria here in Managua and was an excellent example of solidarity and of opening our hearts to the poor. Grant, who would have been 78 in January, passed away last night just as a group of folks was celebrating Thanksgiving a few blocks away at the Casa Ben Linder, where they were in fact giving thanks for Grant and reading aloud a prayer of his that seems particularly appropriate Thanksgiving and the day after:

Our Father and Mother Who Art.

Our Father and Mother,
Who are present in the world and in history,
Hallowed be your name
in all languages and religions.
May the message of your reign come to each of you
indigenous peoples, the humble peoples,
in the language of gospel
and not of the domination systems.
Let your will be fulfilled,
your will of sharing and peace,
for your indigenous peoples,
for the humble peoples,
even for our own society.
Let us live each day in the sisterly solidarity
that produces abundance
and living joyfully together
that all may have bread.
Forgive our massacre of cultures,
and our colonizing evangelism.
And let us not fall into the temptation of fearing to be engaged,
of fearing to offend, of fearing to suffer,
But deliver us from the violence of consumerism,
and the violence of the forces of power and domination.
For Yours is the Future, Yours the Reign
that is Coming,
Yours the Glory and Goodness for ever and ever.

(Translated from the Spanish & doxology added, by the Rev. Grant Mauricio Gallup, Casa Ave Maria, Managua, Nicaragua, 1994)

For sermons by Father Grant, you can go to

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Hurricane Ida

Lots of people have been asking us about Hurricane Ida, which passed through Nicaragua last Thursday and Friday. The western side of Nicaragua, the CDCA and all our projects are fine. The Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua was hit hard again, just two years after the devastating Hurricane Felix. Quantifying the damage is hard, numbers of people and houses affected change depending on the source. As far as I can tell (it’s taken a lot of sorting out), there have been no reported deaths. Here’s what has been reported in the Nicaraguan news:

Reported in today’s El Nuevo Diario:

There are 29,000 people affected by the hurricane in the Northern Autonomous Atlantic Region (RAAN). In the RAAN several thousand people are still in emergency shelters unable to return to their homes. The Kukalaya and Bambana rivers have begun to recede, but houses are filled with mud and many are still flooded.

In the RAAS it is reported that more than 23,000 people lost their homes. The World Food Program is also reporting 300 wells contaminated, 300 latrines caved in and nearly 14,000 acres of crops destroyed in the affected areas.

La Prensa reported heavy crop damage in the RAAS: all the staple food crops of rice, beans and tubers. Other food and cash crops affected include the entire pineapple crop. With 75 mile an hour winds, the fruit trees were destroyed, other trees were left standing, but with their tops and branches blown off; the only trees unaffected were pine trees.

Fishermen lost 7,000 nets during the storm. Countless horses, cattle, pigs, and chickens were also lost. All reported damage will increase as rescue teams continue to evaluate.

Much of the Atlantic Coast still had not recovered after Hurricane Felix two years ago, and now the region is hit again by a hurricane. Still, El Salvador was much harder hit with 124 people dead, 60 missing and 7,000 homeless. Thank you for keeping all those affected by Hurricane Ida in your thoughts and prayers. -- Becca

Monday, November 9, 2009

Genesis floor finished!

After more than two months of working really HARD, on Thursday afternoon the Genesis co-op FINISHED their floor! So in keeping with this co-op’s culture of celebrating big and small victories, they partied on Friday! Co-op members dressed up to the nines, ate a chicken lunch, toasted with plastic glasses of Coke, played musical chairs and danced on that shiny new finished floor! See photos below of these festitivities. It’s so important to celebrate, to stop and recognize achievements, and the folks at Genesis continue to do this well. FELICIDADES COOPERATIVA GENESIS! Now on to finish the rest of the building…(doors, windows, electrical installation, loading dock…). -- Becca

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Celebrating 10 years of the Bucknell Nicaragua Brigade

This year marks the 10th Anniversary of the Bucknell Nicaragua Brigade. In the past decade, Bucknell University in Lewisberg, PA has brought over 25 groups down to volunteer with the CDCA. With its special focus on health care, each year the Bucknell Brigades raise a huge portion of the Nueva Vida Clinic budget, and brings hundreds of thousands of dollars in donated medicine. On top of the huge positive impact the Bucknell Brigades have had on the work of the CDCA, they have also changed Bucknell – the university now has Brigades in several countries and is becoming known for its focus in Service Learning. The Bucknell Brigade does an excellent job of preparing students for coming to Nicaragua, and when other groups ask us how they should ready their delegates, we put them in contact with the Bucknell Brigades.

To mark this ten year anniversary, Bucknell recently held a celebration unveiling a commemorative mural, painted by Gerardo Arias of the Batahola Cultural Center in Managua. For the occasion, Bucknell flew our own Pat and Kathy from their location in Minnesota on the CDCA fall speaking tour out to Bucknell – they (and all of the CDCA vicariously) were honored to be involved in the festivities. The university has also made a 10th Anniversary Bucknell Brigade webpage that features a series of profiles of key people involved in the Brigades: Bucknell students, alumni, staff and faculty, plus stories about the Brigade’s work with the Nueva Vida Clinic and the El Porvenir water project. We encourage you all to take a few moments to watch this great short video about the Brigades at: