Friday, May 24, 2013

Day Two: Supply Hope and Nica-Agua

Que fantastico segundo dia! We rode to Supply Hope, a non-profit organization to focuses on micro-franchises and they have a one major micro-franchise, called Mercado Fresco. Supply Hope has 12 Mercados Frescos all throughout lower income communities throughout Managua.  Ricardo and Claudia who introduced Supply Hope and the idea of micro-franchise. Mercado Fresco is geared towards providing healthy foods to lower income areas of Nicaragua. Along with providing fresh food, Mercado Fresco offers sanitary products. Ricardo explained to us how cheese, for instance, is put in the same trucks with pigs, then the cheese is being put on the floor, near farm animals and lots of trash put the floor. It is incredible how many of the low income communities find it acceptable. I can’t blame them though; it’s expensive to go outside of the area and why bother traveling when the cheese is nearby. 

The idea of a Micro-Franchise is interesting. It's having a business plan and enlisting someone who seems to be qualified enough to maintain and follow the plan. There is training that has to occur in order to understand business transactions along with understanding the needs and importance of proper nutrition and sanitation when selling. There also has to be space between franchise stores, or else they would cannibalize, meaning that they would be competing against each other. In order to run a store like this, it is imperative that customers understand why they should purchase these goods as opposed to the junk food or dirty produce that's nearby and easier to access. 

We traveled to what used to be the dumps and we met Margaret, who runs 1 of the 12 Mercados. We saw fresh produce and I was pretty hungry, so I definitely would bought something from there had I had cash on me. It’s just a travesty that in Nicaragua and especially in Nicaragua, there are a lot of adults with diabetes. This is attributed to the dieting. A typical Nicaraguan with a lower income, purchases a soft drink and chips for breakfast. It’s cheap and it’s fast, so why not? And a lot of the markets in the area usually only have junk food and soda. It’s nice to have these kinds of snacks every now and then but to have it every morning is definitely going to cause harm in the long run.

I’m very thankful for just having options to eat whenever I am back in the states and it’s an incredible job that Supply Hope is doing. Ricardo explained that this is definitely a project that will take time. Along with selling this fresh produce, it’s also imperative to educate the people to understand why eating fresh produce is beneficial and why all that junk food can harm you. Margaret explained how bad her living conditions were awful. These houses might lack insolation, air conditioning, and doors but before, this area used to be a dump. A landfill. Los Chachareos as our driver mentioned. After our goodbyes and a few pictures, we parted ways and were on our way to Tola.

After a two and a half hour drive, we arrived in Tola. There we met Jon Thompson, who ‘wears several hats’ in the community. He graduated with a degree in history and then received his masters in social work. He started off as a volunteer that would go a few times a year to help but then He has his non-profit, Comunidad Connect, and he also works for Guacalito De la Isla. He really wanted to bring more to the children. He mentioned that you can’t exactly force something on a different type of people but you can expect that they need education, health and water. So he decided to bring both of his main ‘hats’ together to provide water filters for children and provide a medical post to help those already sick. In Nicaragua, 40% of infant mortality is attributed to diarrhea. Along with diarrhea, people in the community often get UTI and other preventable diseases, all of which clean water can fix. However, Jon mentioned that he went to a conference and asked what was the most important thing about the water filters that are being provided to people who need access to clean water. The answer was not how many filters but how to maintain, how to use, and how to keep healthy and avoiding contaminated water. He then was inspired to create a project called 'Nica Agua".

Jon then took us to see one of the families who owned a water filter. In this community, service is a huge aspect of maintaining. For families to receive filters, they must take a course in health and also learn how to use the filters before actually getting the filters. Then, they must complete hours of community service. Jon and his non-profit also follow up on the families who receive these filters. We then went to a family who owned a filter. It’s crazy how back in the US, there are these expensive filters that are 50, 100, 200 bucks and our tap water, for the most part, is drinkable. Water is so precious and here in Nicaragua, it’s extremely hot and humid, people need water constantly.

The woman of the household was named Felipa (Had a huge laugh about that!) and she explained to us how wonderful and useful the water filter (the blue bucket shaped item) was. She said that the overall living of her family has increased and that she uses it for everything. She was incredibly sweet and thanked Jon for his tremendous effort and determination in aiding everyone around the area. Jon was really humbled and definitely content in staying humble. After she had told us the benefits that the filter and Jon brought to the community, we walked around the house, and then we were on our way to San Juan del Sur. Seeing her face light up with joy and pride in having Jon around was truly amazing. Just goes to show the gratitude that one can have for a lifetime.

We drove through San Juan del Sur and we found ourselves at a hotel called Maderas Village, David Grossman’s hotel. We dropped our bags and after a long and hot day, we walked over to the beach to cool ourselves with some ocean waves. We watched the sun sink into the sea as the grey clouds came closer to us.

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