CONGRATULATIONS to all the Challengers on our first six Charity Challenges of 2011, biking from Guatemala to Honduras, the inaugural Nicaragua Volcano Challenge, Brazil's Chapada Diamantina Challenge , Guatemala's first Caribbean Kayak Challenge, Perú´s Cerani Pass and Ecuador's Volcano Challenge. Nicaragua's second volcano Challenge is set for 3rd-6th November and the third Guatemala Volcano Challenge dates are set for 27th November -2nd December.

Click on the following for our most recent official project reports for Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Perú and Brazil.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Nicaragua - the life behind the smiles

Two months ago GVI Phoenix started its first community development project in Nicaragua. The project is located in the rural community La Cruz situated outside of Estelí in the Segovia Mountains in the North of the country.

The community began twenty five years ago when the Torres Cheves family was forced to leave Santa Cruz - a small village located half an hour south of Estelí – due to the struggling economy and civil war. Close to the local garbage dump they were able find some plastic sheets and sticks to build a home on the dirt path leading up to the dump.

Since then the community has grown to more than 60 families with this number increasing monthly. Johana, a 13 year old who wants to be a lawyer, had to move to La Cruz three months ago from Estelí with her family because they could not no longer afford the rent.

Along with her 5 other sisters and mother they live in small one room shack built out of wooden sticks. The families of La Cruz live in very impoverished conditions; their houses consist of corrugated metal, plastic sheets and wooden sticks with no electricity, sanitation, or potable water.

Their only source for drinking water is a local well and the nearby stream which they use to bath and wash their clothes. Many of the families have been forced to live on the dirt path leading up to the garbage dump which is made up of rocks and loose earth.

Due to the heavy rains it is not uncommon to see up to a foot of mud outside some of the houses. Haley, a bright and enthusiastic 7 year old who laughs at just about anything, is unable to come to school when there is heavy rainfall.

The only source of livelihood for La Cruz is the nearby garbage dump located up a steep hill 2 kilometers from the community. Children as young as 7 run behind garbage trucks as they pass by their homes grabbing onto the back hoping to get a ride because the climb to the dump is too hard for many of them.

The garbage dump itself is a bleak and depressing scene. Approximately one square kilometer in size covered with all kinds of trash one can think of, street dogs and vultures picking through cartons of rotting vegetables and cattle carcasses. Here members of La Cruz, children included, wait for the next truck to arrive hoping to find something of value.

They rummage through the bags of trash with hooked sticks or simply their bare hands mainly looking for plastic bottles, aluminum cans, or any other scrap metal. Children as young as 5 years old can be seen, some barefoot, drinking the remains of discarded pop bottles or eating food that others have thrown away.

Aluminum, iron and plastic are resold to buyers at the dump for a very depressingly low price. One pound of aluminum, which can take hours to find, is sold for 9 Cordobas, around 50 American cents.

Until 2 years ago the community had no school or any form of formal education. The school, approximately 8 meters by 4 meters, was built by a charitable organization, however is very basic consisting of a corrugated tin roof with wood and fence for the walls.

When GVI Phoenix arrived two months ago there was one local teacher in charge of teaching three grades and a preschool class. The scene was chaotic, kids running in and out of the classroom with very little structure to the classes.

Furthermore, the pay for Nicaraguan teachers is extremely low and it is hard to find someone committed to make the trek out to La Cruz daily. The local teachers’ only give classes for half the day and their attendance can be sporadic hence the children never know when they will have classes.

The Nicaraguan government does not provide any materials for the school so the children bring what they can to write on, sometimes pens and pencils found in the dump.

With any community development project it takes time and patience. That being said, within the last two months we have seen some great progress in La Cruz with the help of GVI Phoenix. GVI staff members and volunteers have been helping give classes with the local teacher, Loyda, to help alleviate the ratio of students to teachers.

As well Ana, a local community member has been helping with the preschool class. The majority of the children arrive at school without having eaten anything. Within the last month with the help of the Nicaraguan government, the school has started a food program. The Mothers of the community take turns cooking rice, beans, and tortillas in the morning as well GVI Phoenix provides daily fruit for the children supplying a well balanced meal.

GVI Phoenix believes that every child has the right to an education so we have been doing everything in our power to help realize this goal in La Cruz. We have provided new curriculums for the teachers and materials for the kids, however just being present and consistent has really helped increase the number of students and bring some structure to the classes.

Julio, a 15 year old that works in the dump in the mornings and who had to give up school 3 years ago when he came out to La Cruz now has the chance to continue studying in the afternoon drop in class that GVI now holds. He is an extremely bright boy and a real pleasure to be around, however without the chance to finish school he will most likely remain working in the dump.

Not only does the school provide the children with an education, but with a place to interact with other kids, make friends, and give them structure. For many of the children they pass their days playing on the dirt road, throwing rocks, and watching the garbage trucks.

With the help of GVI Phoenix they have a place to go, something to eat, and a chance to learn.


Swati from New Orleans said...

Dom, the image you portray of the families and their lives in La Cruz is very moving and touching - you get to the core of a person's heart, if they are a good-hearted person. Wow, again!

How does GVI Phoenix make a difference?

The following film was made in Guatemala, though the message is the same across all GVI Phoenix projects