Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Day 2 in Nicaragua

Yesterday was another great day.  After breakfast we headed to Supply Hope in Mangaua, a non-profit organization that is researching and developing income-earning opportunities through micro-franchises for the under-employed citizens of Managua.  We had the opportunity to visit a woman named Margaret running a Mercado Fresco through Supply Hope, a type of small supermarket that offers fresh healthy foods in the low-income neighborhoods, where people typically eat junk food because that is all that is available to them.  The woman running the supermarket looked to be in her early 20s and had four children to feed.  Previously, she had worked in the trash dump collecting recyclable materials.  People working in the trash dump typically earn less than two dollars a day.  In fact, 80% of the population in Nicaragua typically lives under this poverty line.  By allowing women like Margaret to operate Mercados Frescos, not only is affordable, quality food made available to these low-income communities, but wages also increased for these operators from two dollars a day to seven dollars a day.

The Nicaraguan people are so friendly, at the end of our visit to the Mercado Fresco, Ricardo, our guide from Supply Hope, offered to show us around Managua when we return on Saturday.

After that visit,  we were on our way south.  We had another visit with Jon Thompson, founder of Comunidad Connect, another non-profit organization operating in Nicaragua.  Jon taught us about water filtration, its importance, and the dangers of unclean water.  He told us that 40% of infant deaths are from diarrhea, which is often caused by unsanitary water and is easily prevented.  To fight this, Jon's non-profit runs a program called Nica Agua (clever name!).  This program offers people water filtration buckets in exchange for two days of community service.  This combines the social goal of public health with community needs.  Nica Agua also provides education on the importance of clean water and how to maintain a filtration system, and has a very good success rate in convincing people of its importance.

We then visited a family who was using a water filtration bucket.  Felipa, the head of the home and mother of the children, was incredibly friendly.  She welcomed us into her humble home and told us how much clean water had helped her family.  She even told us that her mother was 96 years old, and would be more susceptible to illness from water, but was healthy.  She showed us her animals including chickens and chicks, pigs and piglets, and a cow.  We had so much fun seeing the different animals and speaking with Felipa, who also showed us her mango tree and offered us mangoes.  It's amazing how people who have so little are willing to share with us what they do have and are so selfless.

We ended our day by checking into our hotel in San Juan del Sur.  STJ Law Alumnus and our guide David Grossman owns the Maderas Village and was nice enough to offer us rooms here.  We swam in the Pacific Ocean, which is delightfully warm and extremely powerful.  The beach is so beautiful and we had a great time.

I really can't describe how overwhelming this experience is.  I've never seen so much poverty, but I've also never seen such a spirit of giving.  There are so many inspirational people helping out here trying to better the lives of the Nicaraguan people, and the low-income citizens themselves are willing to help others.  I'm really enjoying this trip, and think that this is an incredibly valuable and rewarding experience.  

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