Wednesday, February 26, 2014

It starts with pulling out a map...

Our goals in education are to educate the wealthier people about the poorer people and their struggles.  We do that through various mediums.  One is our newsletter….

Our first newsletter of this year was mailed and emailed in the last two weeks…take the few minutes to read it.  We’re starting our 20th year in Nicaragua!

Another is our speaking tours and our first goal in education for 2014 is to broaden our speaking tours.*

Sarah is working to leave Monday on her spring speaking tour and she is running around trying to get everything done (contact her if want to invite her to speak NC-Maine). What goes into getting ready for a speaking tour?
•    Pulling out a map and our data base and charting where to go and who is where
•    Writing and emailing all those contacts to see what can be lined up and then constant follow up
•    Looking for cheap airfares
Making sure the van in the States is running**
•    Creating, printing, and folding all the brochures to take with the speaker and to be used here
•    Ordering crafts from the artisans, following up over and over again, picking the crafts up, packing the crafts and sending them back with willing volunteers
•    Creating a power point presentation
•    All the while doing the daily jobs and wrapping up things so that the person leaving doesn’t leave those of us behind in the lurch.

They say it takes a village to raise a child…well it takes a community, volunteers, and folks willing to host in “foreign lands” to do a speaking tour. 

*In April Becca and Paul are going back to Ireland and also going to Germany to visit family and talk about our work.  Sarah will be going again in September to a new area. Pat and Kathy will go in November.  So we are in the process of broadening the speaking tours.

**It also takes vehicles.  We need a new used van.  Ours is aging and breaks down on the tour leaving Sarah or Pat and Kathy stranded.  Another of our goals in education is getting two vehicles to use on these speaking tours: one on the east coast and one on the west coast.


Thursday, February 20, 2014

New Lesson for Today

Some weeks you have one thing after another coming at you…you know the feeling.  

This is one of those weeks.  If you follow the blog you know we were going to write the next few blogs about our goals, but instead the week is going nutty…including a Rotary Club meeting to welcome the governor of the district right in the middle of all the the craziness.  It was a BAD day to be having a luncheon meeting.  We were short-staffed, behind in paperwork, and running.  Plus...

My dad was in the hospital in the SC, I had just gotten word that a friend was dying in a NC hospital ….my mind was in many places.

And like so many things that Nicaraguans do…the meeting ran on and on.  And I start fidgeting, sighing to myself, and fidgeting some more.  Eventually the agenda was checked off: Becca did a great power point presentation showing all that the club had accomplished in its first year as a legitimate Rotary Club; the governor was through talking; and it was time for lunch…2 hours later!  

Finally!  We could eat and get back to the work waiting on us and I could check email.  Relief was in sight!

Then come the dancers…you have GOT to be kidding me!

Of course, I KNOW better than to expect a Nicaraguan meeting to be over by JUST being over.  Dancing is a part of almost all special functions especially the Folklorico…the traditional folk dancing with the beautiful flowing skirts and the flowers in the hair, but let’s face it...

 I wanted to be back at work and checking on loved ones.

 The music of the marimbas started and the tiny woman came out in her bare feet, smiled so large and started dancing.  I have seen her street clothes…she is not a wealthy woman at all…and here she was gracefully gliding around while we stood around watching.

I stood for awhile.  Went and sat in the other room and prayed for Daddy and Connie and Connie’s family.  I got up and down watching and praying… and then for the tiniest of moments, I felt settled in my soul…and I gave thanks that there is ALWAYS time to dance in this country…and maybe that is the lesson for the day:
Always make time to dance.*
*A blog about goals can wait a few more days.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Flurry of Activity

It is hard for me to believe that a month and a half of 2014 has come and gone…we have been that busy.
  • We welcomed a new volunteer coordinator, Maria, and said “see you later” to our old coordinator, Neville.* 
  • We have also welcomed a new volunteer, Alice.
  • We have had a brigade from Bucknell University. 
  • Two dear friends were with us for the month, Nora and Becky. 
  • My parents came for the last two week.
  • We hired the orthopedist.
    Rogelio consulting with technician at sesame plant
  • We obtained the lease of the sesame processing plant and as a result... 
  • We have much goings and comings to the plant two hours away:
    • Cleaning, painting, etc.
    • Inventorying
    • Getting lights and water to the plant and much, much more   
And the start of the new year always means
  • brochures updated 
  • year-end books closed
  • a board meeting
  • goals set
  • year-end letters and booklets mailed out
  • getting Sarah ready for her speaking tour including her presentation
  • as well as the day-to-day tasks.
With all the year-end reporting we look back and go “Wow!  A lot got done” …not as much as we would have wished – always - but a lot nonetheless.  And the work that did get done is a direct result of others.

Pedro cutting grass at sesame plant
The staff of the CDCA is extraordinary.
  Our clinic is reaching more and more people, doing better quality prevention and education because of our health promoter, nurse, and our new administrator who has more organization in her little finger than I could ever hope to have.  Our new hospitality director has providing for the needs of delegations down to a tee.  Our projects director is a phenomenal community organizer.  Our construction director is a self-taught architect, engineer, and manager.   And the list goes on.  The work is nothing without them.

And then there is you - who give to the work and support the work from afar - which allows the CDCA to have the freedom to do what is needed when it is needed.  For example: when Dr. Jorge Flores, a radiologist who had worked with us for the first 10 years of the clinic, wanted a job full-time that would have helped us address two goals for the clinic and more importantly two great needs for patients…many of you responded with gifts and pledges and so within less than a month we hired him.  This is one example of many.

We have goals and dreams for 2014 and over the next few weeks, we will be writing about them so you can dream with us.  So stay in touch.  -Kathleen

*Neville is still in Nicaragua working for another NGO.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Hungry Hungry Dilettante

I am such a dilettante.

When I was in college my housemates and I used to fast one day a week. We all chose a slightly different model, but I chose not to eat anything but just drink water or juice from bedtime on Saturdays until I woke up Monday mornings.

Our fasting was a mindfulness practice. It was a tangible way to connect us to the 842 million people in the world do not have enough to eat. Every time our stomachs rumbled, we remembered those people…like the 3 year-old boy I’d met the summer before in Nueva Vida who weighed 13 pounds.

After college I didn’t keep up the fasting, and then later I had children and was breastfeeding…which makes optional fasting not only unwise and also really difficult– I was ravenous all the time!

But this year I have a new motto. It is la cabeza piensa donde pisan los pies/ the head thinks where the feet stand.  I thought it was time I tried again to stand where the hungry are. Fasting for just one day can’t be that hard, I thought.

Boy, was I wrong.

I don’t know if I was just really tough 15 years ago, or if the mists of time have made me forget how hard it was before, or if my body chemistry changed having kids or what, but…

I couldn’t do it. I thought I’d get to the end of the day and be a little grumpy and then go to bed early. Hah!

By 3 o’clock I was shouting at people and scowling.

By  4 o’clock I was crying on shoulders .

By 5 o’clock I was miserably eating a banana in defeat.

How can it be that 1 in every 8 people in the world suffers from chronic undernourishment – meaning they never get enough to eat – and yet I couldn’t do it for even one day?

I am a wimp.

But let me tell you, my failure at fasting gave me better insight into what so many people have to endure all the time. By the end of the day I was a total wreck, incapable of making a decision. How hard must it be then for people who endure hunger day in and day out to make decisions for their families?

Every time my stomach grumbled, I thought about food. Every time I saw food I wanted to shove it in my mouth…instead I would turn up the glow on my halo a little and walk virtuously on by. How hard must it be then for those who are hungry for real to walk by food stalls in the market and not just snatch it and run? 1.5 million Nicaraguans are malnourished. In a country of 6.2 million.
I felt dizzy. I had to sit down. How hard must it be then for people who don’t get enough to eat to work all day, especially in physical labor, especially under a hot sun as so many do?

I was distracted. I couldn’t focus. How hard must it be then for children who are hungry to concentrate in school? Nearly half of all Nicaraguan children suffer from malnutrition.  One in five children in the U.S. suffer from hunger.

I may have failed to keep my fast for a whole day, but maybe I didn’t totally fail to place my feet – however fleetingly – on the path to understanding those with real hunger a little better. – Becca