Thursday, December 18, 2014

Life-Giving: Gift of Private Space
Life-Giving: Give an Alternative Gift this season that keeps on giving, as a single gift or a monthly pledge.Your gift will be acknowledged to the receiver with a beautiful card.

Maria was 17 years old when she joined the New Mothers group.  She was pregnant with her first child.  Unlike what most think, a 23 year-old man flirted with her, and she deliberately chose to get pregnant.  Maria thought having his baby would motivate him to take care of her and help get her out of her family home.

Seems a bit drastic, doesn’t it?  But we are not living like Maria…not only is her family desperately poor, but Maria cares for her mother’s baby and all her brothers and sisters.  She doesn’t go to school.  She doesn’t even get out of Nueva Vida very much.  Her father is an alcoholic and would beat her mother, her siblings, and her when he was drunk…twice he even tried to rape her.  Drastic situations call for drastic measures.

A baby was now on the way, and the 23 year-old dad was long gone.

Maria wishes she had made different choices, but what choice does she have now?

We have support groups for New Mothers, Mothers with Toddlers, and Las Lobas (She-wolves), a group of teen and preteen girls where we show them different choices and a bigger world.  

But -- and this is a big “but” -- all these groups need a private space to meet, and we don't have one.  They meet in our second clinic building, either in the lobby with people moving in and out, or in crowded storeroom where sound carries out into the busy hall.  None of the participants are going to bare their souls in such environments, and how can one help if all the pain is bottled up?

A third clinic building will have a private space for sharing and talking, with no one walking through the area.  We will be able to have a room…really private room...for women’s care, and we will be able to give our counselor a better space.
This season, give a gift to help us build the third building and give Maria and others like her the space to talk and share and so, so much more.  

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Life-Giving: The Gift of Credit
Life-Giving: Give an Alternative Gift this season that keeps on giving, as a single gift or a monthly pledge.Your gift will be acknowledged to the receiver with a beautiful card.

José is a farmer and has selling his organic sesame seeds to our agriculture cooperative since 1996.  When he began he and his wife lived in a shack with a dirt floor and an outhouse in the back.  His wife took in wash to add money to their income from the farming.  They had two children and even though it was a financial strain to send them to school, they did.

Because we helped José get and keep organic certification for his crops, his land has stayed fertile and he and his family healthy and free of toxins in pesticides.  He also got better prices and has been able to expand some. Our agronomist has worked with him for years helping him overcome problems and improve his yields.  

As a result, José’s family now lives in a home with indoor plumbing and a tiled floor.  They no longer have a wood burning cook stove, but cook with propane, which saves them money, saves trees, and saves the lungs of everyone in the family.  His wife no longer takes in wash but now has someone who comes in to help her!

They are not wealthy by any means but they are more secure and life is much easier…THIS is what is hoped for…not only easing people’s burdens but actually moving people out of poverty.
This season, give a gift t
o the Vida Fund to help provide capital to farmers like José who are just starting out.


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Life-Giving: The Gift of Special Care

Life-Giving: Give an Alternative Gift this season that keeps on giving, as a single gift or a monthly pledge.Your gift will be acknowledged to the receiver with a beautiful card.

Here are three stories about patients who have chronic illnesses, but unlike diabetic and hypertensive patients, they need very special care:

Chapter One

Lupe is 66 years old.  She lives with her daughter and grandchild in a small house in Nueva Vida.  She suffers from type 2 diabetes and hypertension, but she also had an abdominal hernia.

Last January, she was attacked by a dog and fell down.  She popped open her hernia and her intestines came through…even though her skin was intact.  She waited eight days to come to the clinic when she started running a fever and had severe pain.  We did an ultrasound and sent her to the hospital where they did surgery taking out part of her intestines.  Now she needs special colostomy bags…which we cannot always get.

Chapter Two

Felipe is 53 years old.  He was diagnosed with advanced Parkinson ’s disease five years ago.  He too has type 2 diabetes and hypertension as well.  He lives with his wife who cares for him and cooks and sells bunuelos, a Nicaraguan dish that is fried yucca dough with honey.  She has a difficult time caring for him as the disease progresses, and they are so, so poor.

Three years ago he could talk…now he cannot because of all the tremors.  We give him medication for the Parkinson’s which helps some, plus diabetes and hypertension medicines, though he is having complications in his hands and feet.  Our medical staff visit him at home because it is hard for him to come to the clinic.

Chapter Three

Tomás is 84 years old.  He lives with a family that took him in.  They live in the Areas Verde of Nueva Vida…the green area.  Sounds nice, doesn’t it?  In actuality, it is the squatters of Nueva Vida who have put up a shack of tin or cardboard.  Tomás has a room that is as big as his pitiful cot.

He suffers from an arterial ulcer on his foot that he has tended for 16 years.  His toenails have atrophied.  He, too, is diabetic.  He got the ulcer while fishing 20 years ago.  He came down from the campo, the remote rural areas of Nicaragua, to try and make a living fishing in the polluted lake of Managua.  While fishing in the lake…with no boat…he was bitten by something.  The wound never healed.  Patches would help a great deal.

This season, give a gift that will help Lupe, Felipe, Tomás and others like them who suffer from poverty and these conditions that you and I cannot imagine unless they are described to us.


Monday, December 15, 2014

Life-Giving: The Gift of a Healthy Mouth
Life-Giving: Give an Alternative Gift this season that keeps on giving, as a single gift or a monthly pledge.Your gift will be acknowledged to the receiver with a beautiful card.

5-year-old Natalia has been coming to the clinic as a collaboration between us and ORPHANetwork, which operates feeding centers in Nueva Vida.  Though very poor, she now comes regularly to get her teeth cleaned and repaired. 

Most Nicaraguans go to the dentist when they are in pain and the tooth has to be pulled.  Through this collaboration over the past two years, we have slowly begun to make a difference in these children’s mouths.  Like Natalia, they are coming for cleanings and repairs.  

We are doing more preventive and restorative work than extractions.  We give out toothbrushes, toothpaste, dental floss and teach patients how to use them.

I overheard Dr. Art Kaslow, DDS, say to his fellow volunteers, “The Nueva Vida dental clinic staff are really making a difference! This is much different from other Third World clinics where I have gone to work. They do sealants and the sealants are holding. They are really making a difference!”  He volunteered in the clinic with Solvang Rotary Club (CA).

There is much to do though…like with Natalia.  There are thousands of children and adults who need dental care.
This season, give a gift that will help Natalia and others like her who suffer from poverty AND rotten teeth.


Life-Giving: The Gift of Support for Families with HIV

Life-Giving: Give an Alternative Gift this season that keeps on giving, as a single gift or a monthly pledge.Your gift will be acknowledged to the receiver with a beautiful card.

Lucia raises her nine grandchildren in her small home that also holds seven other adults.  Two of her grandchildren, Sofia (age 3) and Raúl (age 5 months) are HIV positive.  They contracted the virus from their mother, Carla. 

Carla is in denial that she has HIV.  She is irresponsible, at least in the area of her sexual health and that of her children's health.  She has abandoned her children to their grandmother.
Lucia, the grandmother, gets paid a little by some of the parents of the grandchildren whom she is raising.  Many Nicaraguan parents leave their children with grandmothers in order to find some kind of paying job…with under- and unemployment so high in Nicaragua (almost 50%), people have to make choices between bad and worse. 

When Lucia can leave the children, she goes out and collects clothes to wash for some extra money, but it is never enough.  Until recently, when our clinic started providing formula for Raúl, he drank a watery mixture of fine corn flour.

Sofia receives antiretroviral medications from the Ministry of Health (MINSA), but has to be taken to the other side of Managua (2 hour bus ride there and 2 hours back) to receive them.  Raúl has been officially placed in the system to receive treatment soon.

Our clinic cannot afford the antiretroviral drugs and we cannot do the T-cell testing to know what drugs to give the children or other HIV positive patients, but we can provide some nutritional supplements and all the secondary medications they need.

Equally important, we would like to provide support…like transportation, education, and emotional support but we need funding 

Lucia is overwhelmed.  Our health promoter, Jessenia, does home visits and encourages Lucia to bring Sofia and Raúl to the clinic when they are sick…like yesterday, when Sofia was running a fever and Raúl had a rash.

This season, give a gift that will help Lucia's family and others like them who suffer from poverty and living with HIV.


Friday, December 12, 2014

Today's "It"

Thank you One and All who have been following these blogs.  Many of you have responded with gifts for our 20 year celebration and with alternative gifts.  Thank you!

The gifts that you make are truly Life-Giving.  We use your gifts to save lives in our health clinic, improve lives in our health clinic and our dental clinic, and enrich lives of small farmers, employees, and the people we serve.

Sometimes to do what is right by people who suffer from poverty actually costs more than we receive in donations…well, it always does! …but usually we only spend what we have on hand.  This year, though:

  •  the clinic expenditures were 22% more than last year due to cost of increased medications, expansion of the health promotion, and hiring an additional physician who had volunteered with us for the previous 8 years;
  • food prices sky-rocketed due to the drought (the worst in 32 years); 
  • governmental insurance and social security for our staff increased greatly; 
  •  and the sesame plant’s infrastructure expenditures were more than we anticipated.

The result of all this is that we may be closing out 2014 in the red, which is unusual for us.

Many people have told us in the past, "If you need funds then ask.Asking is difficult for us because we trust -- and it has been true for us over the years -- that "it will all work out in the end"…but if we are to trust in God and trust that things will work out, then I guess occasionally we need to let other people know what the “it” is that needs working out.

So here you have it, folks:  Today’s “it” is the struggle to not end the year in the red.

Life-Giving is an on-going process and we need prayers, good energy, help in locating new funding, and just plain old money.  We also need to find new sources of funding for future years.  Let us know if you can help...working together is the only way end poverty.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Life-Giving: The Gift of Nourishment
Life-Giving: Give an Alternative Gift this season that keeps on giving, as a single gift or a monthly pledge.Your gift will be acknowledged to the receiver with a beautiful card. 

Olivia will be 5 years old in January.  She weighs 27 pounds (average weight for a 5 year old girl is 40 pounds).  She lives in Nueva Vida with her mother and her two siblings. 

Her mother buys and resells farmer’s cheese.  Most of the Nicaraguans who live in poverty do so because they are not formally employed… they do not receive a minimum wage, insurance or any retirement benefits.  They survive by only making a little each day; therefore Olivia is severely malnourished.

She is losing her hair and has many of the symptoms related to lack of calories, protein, vitamins, and minerals.

Oliva is also microcephalic, or has a tiny brain.  She has a lumbar deviation… all from Mama not getting enough folic acid during her pregnancy.

Our clinic supports Olivia through primary care and children’s vitamins and iron, but she needs more.  

We also support pregnant women with vitamins, check-ups, ultrasounds, and a new mother’s group to lend aid to these mothers-to-be and mothers of infants.  This season, give a gift that will help us help Olivia and others like her, who suffer from poverty and hunger.


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Life-Giving: The Breath of Life

* Give an Alternative Gift this season that keeps on giving, as a single gift or a monthly pledge.Your gift will be acknowledged to the receiver with a beautiful card.

Alejandra is 9 years old and has had asthma since she was 6 months old.  Like most of our patients at the Clinic, she too lives in Nueva Vida.

All the homes in Nueva Vida are small and most hold a great deal of family members.  Alejandra’s home is no different.  She shares the home with 4 adults and 2 other children.

Her father works as a construction worker when he can find work.  Her mother makes corn tortillas on a wood burning cook stove in the home and sells them.  These stoves are not well ventilated, so the house fills with smoke all day long starting in the early hours.

Also in the home are dogs and chickens:  dogs to protect them from gang members who might try and break in, and chickens for the eggs and meat.  Both are necessary for surviving but extremely detrimental to an asthmatic.  Added to the smoke from the cook stove and the animals, the outside air is either filled with dust in the dry season or mold in the rainy season…and all seasons there is trash burning in the yards of neighbors and their own yard.

No wonder Alejandra cannot breathe, but she is not the only one…

Our clinic supports patients with asthma, and emphysema in women who have never lit a cigarette in their lives.  We give maintenance inhalers and nebulizers to people who are on-going sufferers to keep the asthma attacks to a minimum.

This season, give a gift that will help us help Alejandra and others like her who suffer from poverty and pulmonary issues.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Life-Giving: The Gift of Diabetic Care
Life-Giving: Give an Alternative Gift this season that keeps on giving, as a single gift or a monthly pledge.Your gift will be acknowledged to the receiver with a beautiful card.
Most of our diabetic patients suffer from type 2 diabetes, but Juan is twenty years old and he has type 1 diabetes.  He became insulin dependent at the age of 13 years, but we cannot afford to buy insulin, so he has to go to the other side of Managua (2 hours there and 2 hours home on the bus) to get his treatment from the Ministry of Health.
Because of his diabetes, Juan has ulcers on his remaining foot…the other was amputated a few years ago.  Remember the 4 hour bus ride?  Now imagine it with one ulcerated foot and no second foot.

Juan is the second of three
boys in a household that includes the brothers, the parents and two sisters.  His mother is also an amputee and has diabetes.  His father is a part-time construction worker helper and is the main income provider.

His sister, Idalia, is 23 years old, pregnant, diabetic and makes tortillas which
are often the only food in the home…which is dangerous for diabetics.  A church will sometimes provide food for the family and when they do, Juan at least gets lunch.  Needless to say, Juan is hungry most of the time.  He does not get enough calories and the calories he does eat oftentimes send his blood sugar sky-high.

Our clinic provides diabetic medication
by mouth and ulcer care, but Juan needs insulin treatments closer to home and nutritional supplements as well as just food. 

This season, give a gift that will help Juan and others like him who suffer from poverty and diabetes.


Thursday, December 4, 2014

Life-Giving: The Gift of Freedom from Parasites

Life-Giving: Give an Alternative Gift this season that keeps on giving, as a single gift or a monthly pledge.Your gift will be acknowledged to the receiver with a beautiful card.

Mateo lives in a coffee cooperative in a remote part of Nicaragua.  He is 8 years old and eats fairly well because the cooperative grows much of its food.  With profits from the coffee, the cooperative buys other basic food that they do not grow, then set aside to share among all the members as they need it.  

We’ve worked with this cooperative for 14 years helping them get certified as organic, selling their coffee and bringing medical brigades 4-6 times a year...the only time they have doctors on the mountain.

Mateo’s small house is also home to 12 others.  He is the youngest of 13 children.  His mother is happy that we provide family planning for the women who want it, and she brings him to our clinics almost every time we go to the cooperative...every 6 months he is treated for parasites as a preventive dose.

Parasites eat what nutrition children receive.  In tropical Nicaragua, parasites can get ingested in so many ways…through dirty hands, standing water, and cooking.  In our Clinic in Nueva Vida, we test children for parasites and treat them with the appropriate medication.   

The coffee cooperative is doing better financially because they are selling their organic coffee at a fair price. Thanks to that and
the medication we provide, Mateo is thriving.

This season, give a gift that will help us help Mateo and others like him who suffer from poverty and parasites.


Monday, December 1, 2014

#GivingTuesday: 20 years/$20 dollars

Twenty days ago, in celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Center for Development in Central America being on-site in Nicaragua, we started the 20/20 Life Giving campaign to continue this vital work by highlighting our work in social media.  

Today is the culmination of that campaign and we ask you to
1) Share this message with others and 
2) Give $20.  
Network for Good is matching a percentage of the money we raise today.  Our goal is to raise $20,000 and it is easy IF 1,000 people donate $20 (or more)! 

This is a summary of what people like you have helped accomplished in the last 20 years.  It's a Countdown Top 20 List, and we saved the best for last! 

#20. Appropriate Tech: Built solar composting latrines & efficient wood cook stoves
#19. Health Care:Built 3 health clinics in rural areas
#18. Clean H2O: Started a co-op to make effective water filters
#17. Educating: Built 1 school & 1 preschool with feeding center
#16. Appropriate Tech: Built 8 buildings (34,400 ft2) for clinics, co-ops & education
#15. Empowering: Started network of 37 lay health promoters 4 years ago, held 256 trainings
#14. Creating Jobs: Operating cotton gin, employs 25 people & supports 800 agricultural jobs
#13Educating: Speaking Events in 37 different states & 10 countries
#12. Creating Jobs: #SesameProcessingPlant: employs 27 people & supports 300 farmers
#11. Clean H2O: Potable water to 3 communities
#10. Supporting famers: Exported 3 million lbs. organic sesame, 982,500 lbs. peanuts, 460,000 lbs. cotton, and 290,000 lbs. coffee.
#9. Health Care: Since 2007, #NuevaVidaClinic has treated 10,000+ dental patients
#8. Life-giving: Emergency aid to 12,000 Hurricane Mitch refugees
#7. Creating Jobs: Started World’s 1st Worker-Owned Free Trade Zone
#6. Educating: Hosted 163 groups with 2,500+ people and 670 individual volunteers
#5. Creating Jobs: Created World’s 1st Clothing Line certified as fair trade organic from crop to consumer
#4. Supporting farmers: Started organic co-op with 16… now working with 3,000 farmers
#3. Creating Jobs: Made loans of $5.3 million to co-ops, start-ups, & farmer co-ops
#2. Health Care:  Started in 1999, #NuevaVidaClinic has treated 100,240 patients
#1. Supporting farmers: Aiding 3,000 farmers with capital, certification, marketing & tech support

There is still much to do… So let’s get the word out, on Facebook, Twitter and to your email contacts!

-on behalf of the whole CDCA staff, Kathleen and Becca

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Top 20 Countdown #2: 100,240 Doctor Visits

Our first medical volunteers, our good friends Nora Laws and Pam Agner, came in the first months we were in Nicaragua.  They stayed three weeks and treated hundreds of patients, giving out medication that they had brought with them.  They were the first of 328 medical volunteers from various fields that have come over the last 20 years.

We started our health care projects with medical help with volunteers… for five years, over 4,600 patients were seen by these volunteers giving their time as well as bringing donated medications.  We would have two or three small groups a year, and then Hurricane Mitch hit at the end of 1998. 

Nora & Pam seeing patients
Nora called and said that if we wanted her, then she was getting on a plane and coming to volunteer for 3 weeks.  When we picked her up at the airport, she was sitting on trunks of medicines she had recruited from others.  And she was not the last to come, volunteers flooded in.

Dr. Don Stechschulte
In February, the Bucknell Brigade came with their 36 members and one doctor, Don Stechschulte.  After seeing about a hundred patients one day in a thrown-together church building in the resettlement camp, I heard him muttering as he cleaned his medical bag of dirt and dust, “What I would give for just a concrete floor.”

Representatives from Bucknell, including Don, went with Mike to the mayor’s office with their commitment to help build a permanent clinic in the camp, Nueva Vida.  While we waited for the mayor’s office to donate land in Nueva Vida, a temporary clinic had been running for six months.  The man who had built the clinic and funded it had promised it would run for six months, and now he was ready to leave, so we could use the building.  By the end of July 1999, we were running a clinic complete with a half-time doctor, Jorge Flores.
Volunteers with Jorge, circa 1999
Temporary Clinic building 1999
Family planning training with nurse Martha, main clinic building
Jorge doing ultrasounds

The Bucknell Brigade folks were true to their word and helped us fund a permanent clinic building.  They came and worked with the community to build the clinic, mixing all the concrete by hand and using materials made by the concrete construction materials business we had
started, and then working back at Bucknell on fund-raising.  While we were moving into the permanent clinic in January 2001, an earthquake hit and while the building did sway, it did not even crack!

For many years, our staff was minimal:  Jorge, the doctor; Henry to check folks in and provide wound care; Danelia to hand out medications; Pat, the counselor (part-time);  Maria, the person who cleaned; and volunteers.  We opened charts for each patient, which was not that common back then for clinics that worked with the poor.

In the fifteen years the clinic has been operating, we have opened charts on 20,462 new patients.   Medical staff have examined 100,240 people and treated 210,649 diseases or conditions.  Our staff has grown as well as our space. 

The clinic in 2001 consisted of one building with 3 exam rooms, 3 bathrooms, one office, one check-in room, one pharmacy, one wound care room, a large lobby, a large corridor that holds files, and an even larger room for storing medications.  In 2006, we expanded to a second building that now has a laboratory, two dental rooms, two bathrooms, a room for counseling and eye checks, a storage room and an over flow room, a large lobby and corridor used for trainings and support groups as well as waiting.

We started with a half-time doctor; now we have staff for these services:
  • A full-time radiologist who does ultrasounds as well as sees patients as family doctor, including free PAPs in our women’s health program and treats our HIV positive patients…Jorge 
  • A part-time pediatrician who sees children but has helped us expand our asthma services
  • A part-time general physician who also oversees the patients who have chronic conditions, pregnant women, and PAPs
  • A part-time orthopedist who controls pain and works with joints, muscles, and bones…he sometimes does surgery.
  • Danelia & patient
  • A full-time dentist, a hygienist, and a dental assistant who treat adults and children including children in the local feeding centers (see dental blog for more)
  • A part-time lab technician
  • A half-time counselor…Pat, who also with Becca does eye correction exams and gives out eye glasses
  • A full-time nurse who, besides doing nursing, also helps with the public health component
  • A full-time health promoter who oversees our public health component (see health trainings blog)
  • A full-time administrator who has her degree in pharmacy
  • Henry Checking in patients
  • A full-time pharmacy assistant who also fills in gaps in other areas…Danelia
  • A full-time assistant who checks patients in and does wound care…Henry
  • Three full-time people who clean
  • And me, who looks for money, equipment, etc.  I also help to gather all the staff’s dreams for the clinic and needs and put them into goals and objectives.
We have come a long way from those medical brigades working out of suitcases, but we have a long way to go because the need is so great.

Future Projects:
  • Build a third clinic building… awaiting funding, you can help by giving an alternative gift of 1 sq ft for $25!
  • Hire a half-time ob/gyn… awaiting funding
  • Hire a full-time nurse… awaiting funding


Counting down to #GivingTuesday on December 2nd, we’re highlighting the CDCA’s accomplishments over our 20 years in Nicaragua. Follow our countdown in this blog, on Facebook and TwitterHelp us keep doing more by giving $20. Our goal is to raise $20,000.