Monday, October 28, 2019

Warming the Cockles of My Heart…

Warming the Cockles of My Heart...

In the midst of awful daily world news… In the middle financial struggle to keep offering our services in Nicaragua while encouraging volunteers to return… In struggling with the world’s environmental crisis… there come moments when supposedly “insignificant people” show their commitment and love in ways that make a difference*… that warm the cockles of my heart, as the old saying goes.  They give us hope.  

Here is a sampling of those making a difference:

  • Two girls, ages 10 and 8, children in an Asheville church, have held cupcake sales with the proceeds coming to our work.
  • A couple who’ve been silently on our mailing list for 15 years just sent in their first cash contribution.
  • A donor who unexpectedly received a financial windfall, passed it on to us and enabled us to make it through September.
  • A friend asked for her birthday gifts to be donations to our work instead of things for herself.
  • A financially-strapped supporter is walking miles, throughout the Fall, with pledges-per-mile coming to our work.
  • A quarterly donor, who realized they’d already sent a check for third quarter 2019 after already writing another one, sent the second one anyway.
  • A Rotary Club with a District Grant for work on the educational room at the Nueva Vida Clinic, chose to add enough from their own Club’s funds to make it actually start to happen.
  • A retiree, needing to send a RDA (Required Distribution Amount) somewhere, chose to send it to us as a 501(c)(3) donation.
  • A South African guest staying at Casa Ben Linder offered to work as a clinic volunteer while in Nicaragua.
  • A concerned Mission/Outreach committee member has written that she is taking our work and its needs to leadership for inclusion in the church's annual budgets.
  • A supporter living only on social security, with no financial cushion, keeps sending in her monthly $25.00.
  • Long-time supporters are hosting Becca and family on the road, offering meals and hospitality and responding to the updated news she brings.

ALL help matters.  When you help, your responses* help our Nicaraguan neighbors and warm the cockles of my heart.  I am grateful. We are grateful. The poor whom we serve are grateful.
- Sarah

*If you want to contribute to this work online,

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Future Fridays - Solar - If Only...

Our electric bill in August was just over $2,000 including the clinic.

Electricity in Nicaragua has been costing about 4 times what it costs in the U.S., but now the price of electricity is rising even higher. Why?  Because ALBA1  provided Nicaragua funding for subsidies.

Many good-hearted people have suggested to us to get solar panels to cut our costs.  For the clinic alone, the estimate is $30,000 to put solar panels on the buildings.

When our son, Coury, and his wife, Cassie, put solar on their house they said, “We can afford it. The poor cannot.  So, we are doing our part.”   Interestingly enough, our daughter, Jessica, said the very same thing.  They understand that the poor cannot make that kind of investment and yet, it is the poor who desperately need that kind of investment.

Neither can we.  We gather weekly to talk about how to pay bills and payroll each month, the thought of sinking $30,000 into saving money in the future is just a fleeting thought.  We have staff to pay, medicines to buy, lab and dental supplies to buy, and maintenance on used donated equipment, used and abused vehicles, as well as the buildings.  Added to all that, electricity, fuel, and taxes are going up and up.*

We understand the dangers of climate change extremely well living in a country that is affected heavily by drought, hurricanes, and rising temperatures, plus we understand science.  We WANT to do our part and would love to use solar, but… no money.

If you can afford solar panels, use our children as your model and put solar panels on your house to do your part.  If you know someone who would like to invest in solar for us, great!  Pass the information on to us. And please support those locally, nationally, and globally who want clean energy… this is a support for the poor.

1ALBA (Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America)
is a pact between several Latin American and Caribbean countries.  It is slowly being dismantled with the unrest created in several of the nations, including Venezuela.

*If you can help with the ongoing needs, that would be wonderful! 
You can give here:

Monday, October 21, 2019

Rain Dances in the Forecast

Every morning, Mike gets up and checks the weather on his phone.  Two or three times a day, he checks the weather.  He has never watched the weather like this since we started the sustainable agriculture project 25 years ago.

When I was a girl, Daddy was a pastor in a rural area and he held a rain dance when dark, dark clouds were looming, after weeks of praying for rain…people laughed and laughed as the skies opened up.  As an adult, our friends would joke with us when we ran shelters that they could hire us out to end all droughts…all we had to do was go camping and the rain would fall and fall.
When we started working with Nicaraguan farmers, I internalized something that I knew but never really knew...  rain is important!  Too little, plants dry up.  Too much, plants rot.  Late rains, seeds do not grow or coffee blossoms too early.  Good rains and then no rain, lush plants wither.  I know, you are thinking, “Well, duh!  Everyone knows this.”  

Until working with farmers, rain was nice to me.  We laughed about rain dances and camping but now, I truly understand that rain is not something to take for granted.  Farmers can’t buy shoes for their children if the rains decide to come on a weird schedule.  If the rain doesn’t cooperate, food prices go up and poor people can’t eat if food is not available cheaply, and it goes on... 

Agricultural investors don’t get paid and interest rates rise when crops fail, burying the farmers further in debt.  Our sesame plant workers do not work if they don’t have seed to process.  It is nerve racking!  

And I don’t farm!  I just live with my husband, Mike, who watches and tries to balance the investors, buyers, workers, farmers, and on and on for the organic agriculture cooperativewhile he checks the weather.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Future Fridays - I'll Pay an Oxygen Tax!

“The Amazon is burning” cries the world. 

This is indeed a horrid catastrophe for greenhouse gases.  The Amazon produces 6% of the world’s oxygen and though that may not sound like much… I personally would like to have that 6% and you know what?  I’m willing to pay for it.

That poorer countries do not have either the regulations or the appreciation to hinder climate change is one of the two arguments I hear about how climate change is the poor’s fault.

Why is Brazil letting the forest burn?  For profit.  So, why don’t the rest of the world pay for the protection of the Amazon and other rain, dry, and cloud forests around the world?  Instead of carbon taxes, we pay oxygen taxes?  We pay so we can breathe.

I would pay an oxygen tax.

Many poorer nations are just now becoming more industrialized… living in poverty with an enormous gap between the rich and the poor, citizens of those/this (Nicaragua) nations will work for less and will tolerate pollution so they can survive and maybe get ahead just a bit.  Many poor nations are becoming what the U.S. was in the early 1900s… industrialized and polluted.

Nicaragua is an exception.   Nicaragua has tried to cut down on fossil fuel energy.  When we moved here 25 years ago, all of Nicaragua’s electricity was created through diesel-powered generators.  Now 70% is wind, solar, geothermal, and hydro-generated; while getting electricity to all of the rural areas has doubled.

25 years ago, cars and buses belched fumes all the time and everyone burned all their trash.  Now, there are vehicle inspections, trash pick-up and recycling in many places and the air is cleaner.

25 years ago, most of the sewage was dumped into the lakes and rivers and oceans, now there are more and more water treatment plants, and chlorination for potable water in the cities.

Nicaragua before the civil unrest of 2018, was on tap to have 90% renewable energy by next year.  They keep trying even with more limited funding (since April 2018)…opening solar power plants on the east coast, etc.

Nicaragua also has large rain forests, and like Brazil much has gone to agriculture, ranching and precious woods, but if other nations of the world paid Nicaragua money for oxygen imagine how much more of the forest might survive!

Also imagine a government intent on promoting renewable, clean energy and making Nicaragua a nation healthy for its people; if that government had money, how much more they would be able to do!

Yeah.  I’d pay an oxygen tax.


Monday, October 14, 2019

Before the crack of dawn... Coffee!

The life of a farmer is hard.   The life of a subsistence farmer is beyond imagination…or, at least, mine.

I’m a night owl…let me work late into the early morning hours but don’t let me see the sun come up.

Farmers get up early…really early.  As a pastor friend said one-time regarding a church retreat when the schedule called for 5:00 AM prayer time, “I don’t believe in God at 5AM!”  They do.  They are up and going long before 5AM.

Delegations that stay overnight at the remote coffee cooperative are impressed at how early people are up and working.  They are also impressed at the grueling work of farming.*

Weeding by hand.  Planting by hand.  Tending the crops day-in and day-out.  Struggling under the horrid heat of the sun.  Getting the land ready by moving rocks that come in with the rains.  It is hard and when you look at the farmers, themselves, they are lean and leathery from such manual labor.
And if they have a good crop because the rains cooperated, no volcano blew ash on their crops, the winds were not too rough, and they were able to hire enough seasonal workers for harvest…what is their reward?

Little…never enough to really save for the day when the weather, volcanoes, and winds don’t cooperate.

While you go to Starbucks to get your venti sized brewed coffee for $2.45 using about 1 tablespoon of ground coffee, the farmers are getting $2.00 per pound and that is for already processed coffee beans… organic and shade-grown.

Just?  Fair?  We don’t think so, when it is the farmer who takes all the risks and does most of the work and yet gets so little from that heaven-sent cup of java.

If you want to help, buy your coffee from and
If you want to help the peanut and sesame growers, support and

Also look at your food… your coffee… your tea… and give thanks for the farmers who grew them.


*If you want to contribute to our sustainable agriculture work online:

Not yet subscribed? Enter your email address here (doesn't work on cellphone):

Delivered by FeedBurner

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Future Fridays - the Over-consuming Poor?

For Future Fridays, we are going to post blogs on climate change and how it affects the poor and Nicaragua.  We hope you find these interesting and motivational.

We just watched a comedy news show clip of Pres. George H. W. Bush giving a speech on climate change and how we, the United States of America, as a nation had to start addressing climate change now… or then in the 1980s.

From the show we learned that evidently the Koch brothers, who were invested heavily in oil, funded scientists and politicians to deny climate change.  Until then most politicians and scientists knew human-made climate change was a fact.  Wow.

Two arguments I hear the most about the problems of climate change are:

Over population… poor people keep having babies…
And poorer nations have no regulations (next week, I address this).

Aren’t the poor such an easy scapegoat for almost every problem?  Why?

Because they have no voice.

Nicaragua is the second poorest country in the western hemisphere.  The poor do not fly anywhere, nor do they drive much… unless there are three on a motorcycle1 … mostly they ride the public bus or their bicycles or walk.

They don’t have computers, air conditioners, freezers, washing machines, dryers etc.  - all those electricity eating appliances.

They build their little houses out of trash… left-over zinc pieces, pieces of wood they have gathered, etc.

They don’t throw away clothes, food, etc., unless it cannot be worn or eaten or used in any way.  They are not wasteful.

They take bottles they reuse to the market to buy that day’s oil and other needs.  They rarely eat meat, chicken, or fish.  And on what land they do have they plant herbs, vegetables, and trees.  No lawns.

In other words, they do not consume the earth’s resources like the rest of us.  A whole small village of poor children do not consume the earth’s resources or contribute to greenhouse gases like two well-off children2  in the United States.

Over population is not the problem… over consumption is.

The poor do not over consume… ever.

1 About 10 years ago, I once saw a family of five on a motorcycle…father driving with 2-year old in front of him, 4- year old between him and mother who was sitting side-saddled nursing her baby! Scared and impressed the bejeezus out of me!

2  Consider…the driving to and from school, the heated or air-conditioned house, the prepackaged foods that are eaten for snacks and taken for lunches, the closets and dressers full of clothes, the televisions, dishwashers, washing machines, dryers, and kitchen gadgets.  The video games, the going out for recreation to the movies, the mall, the arcades, or driving to and from play dates….and it goes on and on.   The mountains of trash and recycling.

*If you want to give online to our work with the poor:

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Monday, October 7, 2019

"Thank You for Believing in Me"

Stuck in my head is the Raffi song, Brush Your Teeth.  For some reason this morning I’m singing it over and over in my head…🎵 When you wake up in the morning at a quarter to two, and you don’t know what to do… Brush your teeth.🎵

We said goodbye to Dr. Inya Gonzalez five weeks ago.  Inya, the dentist of our clinic for eight years, is moving to Canada to be with her husband who had taken a job in Montreal in January.

At her despidida (going away party), there were tears, laughter, memories, photos and more tears.

Inya and Dr. Dirk Anderson of Rock Hill, SC, really gave birth to our dental clinic.  Dirk provided equipment for two rooms, supplies, and expertise from his many, many years of dentistry. 
Inya came in as a young dentist and learned, adapted to our work environment, taught others, and headed up the dental program making it something amazing.

Focusing on saving teeth, sealants are applied to children’s teeth as well as fluoride.  We hired a hygienist to clean teeth and stressed every six months preventive care.  We actually have patients who come in every 6 months!  We hired an assistant who was one of the first graduates in a dental assistant program.

Inya, Ligia and Fabiola have been a good team serving the community of Nueva Vida; the 20 feeding programs of ORPHANetwork, our partners in providing dentistry to children; and now the whole area of Ciudad Sandino that lost its low-cost dental care when the Nicaraguan government had to cut that program.  We, and many patients, miss Inya.

But we now have Dr. Julio Escobar.  He lives in Ciudad Sandino, which is really convenient.  He has seven years of experience, also nice.  He is funny…which is essential!  He worked with Inya a week before she left and she liked him… which is a relief.

When I said goodbye to Inya, she said, “Thank you for believing in me.”  I was surprised and taken aback.  Where did that come from?

Evidently little things we do matter to others.  Little things we might not note can lead to wonderful outcomes.  Inya grew and is a really good dentist, unfortunately Canada will now have her.

Note: if you want to give to help keep the Nueva Vida Clinic's services going, you can give here: