Thursday, May 21, 2015

Te amo Nica!

I do love Nicaragua....what is about this place that is so compelling to so many people worldwide? We meet Americans, Germans, British, Australians....folks from Scandinavia, continental Europe....old, young, faithful, and those lacking in faith....all come here to this corner of the world to do good, to help, to learn, and to grow personally and professionally. And so do we in GLOBE -- with GLOBE Fellows having family hailing from Nigeria, Poland, Egypt, El Salvador and Pakistan, we bring our good intentions, our hopes and our dreams in our suitcases and travel to Nica where the simple beauty of the country and its people open our eyes, minds and hearts. We start as visitors, knowing each other and our hosts only superficially, in most cases; and we slowly morph into a family. We will leave with new friends -- leaving behind, but not forgotten, our friends in Nica, and forging friendships among our group that we hope will last a lifetime. To talk about the experience is difficult, because it is more sensed and felt then it is intellectualized. It is a concept, sometimes abstract, and always challenging us to understand better, dig deeper and grasp unyieldingly. We are GLOBE -- already armed with the knowledge and tools to hack away at dire poverty and to provide the means for those living in poverty to help themselves find a dignified route to a better place. What we wield is our knowledge and what we reap are the rewards of being blessed by our borrowers, of seeing them smile in gratitude, and of learning from them how we can do better. The Daughters of Charity work before dawn until after dusk every day of their lives to improve the lives of those in their community, and they generously take the time to assist us in bringing GLOBE to their neighborhoods. Sor Reyna Isabel is a model of organization -- creating a loan tracking system and accountability record-keeping that we can share with our other Daughters worldwide. Through grave illness, she only thanks God for her blessings. We all swear never to complain again. We know that won't last, but we are more conscious than ever of what we have, and why we should be grateful every day. Here is a story of one of our borrowers -- not atypical. Sonia took her first loan with us in 2013 to open a little store in the front of her home. She is divorced with 2 children of her own, and also caring for the two children of her sister who was murdered by the children's father. She is devout and cheerful. She took her business mobile, traveling with a suitcase filled with items she sells to other regions of Nicaragua to earn more income. She was so successful that she was able to pay her loan back ahead of time and with interest (we charge a nominal 3% calculated on a declining balance method -- so it is paltry in sum but important in teaching about the obligations that come with a loan -- and we should note that all interest stays in the community to contribute towards follow-on loans, purchase of books for the school, or needed medical supplies). She then asked for a second loan to build an extension on her house -- a common activity in and around Managua -- so that she could sell more at home and limit her traveling as she did not want to be away from her children so much. But her ex-husband, now remarried, has threatened to take the house from her, and has beaten her to make clear the seriousness of his threat. While legally, he hasn't the right -- the home is in the name of his children that Sonia bore with him -- she was reluctant to invest in a home that the courts might decide to turn over to him. So instead, the Daughters allowed her to open up a secondary sales operation of scholastic supplies right at the school, only a few blocks from her home. With a second loan, she can buy more inventory. She also wants to make metal sconces to sell and will buy those materials from her second GLOBE loan. Sonia gives the best hugs, and brings me to tears with her humility and grace each time I meet her. There are dozens of stories like this. We hear them feeling a bit shocked, a bit awed, and in immense gratitude for our lives that are so relatively free of such pain and strife. But we are not the only ones here in Nicaragua doing good. We are a part of the fabric of a large tapestry that includes our friends at Fabretto, People Helping People Global, La Esperanza, Supply Hope and its Mercado Fresco micro-franchising operation, Nica Children's Foundation, Comunidad Connect, Agora Partnerships, Pro Mujer, and the Latitude Project. We have visited with many of these organizations in previous trips and in this trip, and we meet the most glorious souls. Some are volunteers, others get paid a small wage and stipend. They are not doing this to live well, most certainly. At least not in the sense we might define "living well". But as Elliot at Supply Hope told me -- although he used to work at a call center making far more money, he gets much more immeasurable bounty working at Supply Hope where he helps people like Rosa and Marta, with whom we met on Wednesday morning, find a better life, realize their dreams, and nurture hope in their family's future. Elliot is a young man with great, age-old wisdom -- wisdom that most of us do not attain in our lifetimes. I will leave it to the students to illustrate all this with their amazing photos, but let me just close by saying something about these GLOBE Fellows and my GLOBE G.A. It is such a privilege to know these young people, to bask in their high energy, innate intelligence, and kind hearts. They remind me every day why I chose this profession. They give me tenfold what I could ever hope to give them. They will bring ideas back to GLOBE that will make the program stronger, and they will share insights that will hopefully let others see, through the Fellows' eyes, what they cannot see on their own. If only I could take every GLOBE student who has the passion for this kind of trip with me..... maybe one day. Signing off, in peace, Linda

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