Tuesday, March 29, 2011

All in a day's work

Greetings from balmy, sunny Managua. I’ve been thinking of writing a summary of the various projects in which we are currently engaged here in the Mateare/Ciudad Sandino rural areas. Many of you pray for our people and a better life for them and some send donations to help the projects along. Both categories are greatly appreciated. So that you know where your efforts are directed, I’ll mention and explain the various endeavors. Some are directly funded by organizations, others use your donations and there are times when your donations help to ‘fill in the gaps’ of the formal projects which makes everything move along with less struggle.

Educational Assistance:

Scholarships – small amounts of money to facilitate four university students ($25.00/month for transportation and food) and five high schoolers and two primary school students ($25.00/month for transportation). This current year we’ve added a family that has to spend $2.00/day just to get their two little ones to school each day and a young woman who neither hears nor speaks but who has worked very hard to complete secondary school and has now entered university level studies. Her mother deserves a great deal of credit as she’s been determined that her daughter with different capabilities will have a future. There are many more seeking help but this is all we can handle right now.

Family Life Improvement:

Latrines - more sanitary ‘outhouses’ that can be kept cleaner with hopes for advancing an even more ‘user friendly’ version.

Cement and Iron Tanks to Retain Rain Water - round cylinders constructed by our own people to catch and store the water from the heavy rains for use during the six dry months of the year.

Laundry Sinks - concrete structures for washing clothes, fitted with a tube so that the used water will be directed underwater to irrigate plants in the area and keep mosquito/fly reproduction down due to pooled water under the sinks. Before the women were using a stone on which to wash their clothes.

Improved Stoves for Cooking - the concrete wood burning stoves located inside the houses are being fitted with a chimney and simple flue so that the smoke is directed outside of the home thus creating a healthier atmosphere inside the home.

Family Vegetable Gardens – assisting families in planning, executing and harvesting vegetables according to organic principles in order to improve meal menus.

Animal Production:

Pregnant Cows – helping women purchase a pregnant cow which multiplies the animals and produces milk and cheese for nourishment and for selling.

Set of Chickens – helping families purchase five chickens, one rooster and screening for a pen, which will provide eggs, meat and a larger group of chickens.

Ecology Measures:

Energy Plots - assisting farmers in establishing “small forests” of trees by means of reforestation, so that these trees can be used for future use…fuel for cooking, for the making of saleable carbon, construction etc.

Water Projects – assisting communities in working toward safer drinking water and more water availability for irrigating gardens, maintaining animals, cooking, cleaning, washing clothes etc.

Clean Up Campaigns – part of the wonderful work of our Ecology Brigades to preserve our environment and teach ecological modes of living and working.

We also help out with emergency situations by working with the community in a collaborative way to meet the need. My home parish helped one community repair their well and replace their tubing and we’re working on other water projects, as water is the basic and first need for all.

Hopefully, this helps to explain a bit of what we do in Cantera. This is just one aspect but probably the easiest to grasp and mostly takes place in the rural areas.

There is a lot of accompaniment and development of personal qualities for leadership and community organizing, as well as workshops on topics of gender, development, spirituality and evaluation. Work with youth of the city is also a priority. There is a whole area of Cantera in Ciudad Sandino, once a refugee town, where we have a pre-school and many youth development opportunities as well as a library where youth can come and study using the textbooks that are available. A well developed network of natural medicine is also an important aspect of Cantera.

Hopefully, this helps to make your efforts more tangible and explain how Cantera works using the principles of Popular Education and self-determination.

I thought I’d end by mentioning one of my many joys here in Nicaragua…the children. Just this morning as I was sweeping and cleaning the road and trench in front of our house, I became aware of a little lst. grade neighbor girl standing beside me. She was all ready to leave for school …. scrubbed, shampooed, pressed and fresh looking and just wanted a hug and a few words before picking up her backpack and heading off … a great way to start my day! What joy have you had today in the midst of personal concerns and global problems? Don’t miss the joy!

Until the next time….blessings and gratitude. Thanks for all you are and do.



Thursday, March 10, 2011

Random Acts of Kindness

It’s about time for me to check in once again. Actually, I’m overdue! Hopefully, those of you who are still in the grip of winter weather are finding some hopeful signs of a warmer future. Here we are still experiencing the more pleasant time of the year but each afternoon I’m reminded of the heat to come as it gets warmer each day. I’ll not complain!!

Recently, one of the sisters of my congregation visited us for a week in preparation for bringing a group of high school students to Nicaragua next February. I thought it might be interesting for you to hear the observations of a person who was experiencing a very different reality for the first time. Her perceptions are very typical of the folks who come to such a land as ours.

Everything is so different! … There’s very little personal space! … There are people selling everything, everywhere. … There’s a lot of physical openness (the outside and the inside are one!) … There is plastic everywhere, in every form There’s constant noise. The people are very warm and receptive … It’s hard to orient yourself. Kids are kids no matter where you are on this planet. … There are lots of smiles. We can live with less. We’re really not entitled to anything

These observations give us much to ponder as we begin Lent and try to be open to life in whatever form it presents itself….through each person - no matter the diversity, through nature, through insights and inspirations etc.

One of our sisters is working with our program, “St. Joseph, Worker” located in New Orleans, LA which invites volunteers to participate for a year in various social work activities. In her recent blog Jackie proposed uniting with others in doing Random Acts of Kindness – “being attentive to new life and goodness” during the Lenten Season. Maybe you’d be interested in joining in this venture. I’ve started and hope to see it through until Easter. If you’re interested in learning more about the St. Joseph, Worker program, the link can be found on our website: www.csjoseph.org which also includes the ‘Sister Act 3’ link.

Life here goes on with very little improvement for the poor of the land. We’re in the dry season so at least there aren’t experiencing the problems which come with the intense rains. Every now and then there’s a ray of hope and so one hangs onto those moments. Of course, the children are always a symbol of hope. So I’ll include a photo of our children as a reminder that we all need to hope but also work toward a better future for all.

What Random Act of Kindness did you have the opportunity to perform today?