|Nicaragua ministry battles poverty one family at a time|
By Gwen Kisker*
August 27, 2009 | MANAGUA, Nicaragua (UMNS)
Fires fill the air with toxic fumes. Flies cover rotting hoofs of
cattle. Vultures surround a pond of murky water waiting for a weak,
malnourished dog to die.
For 175 families, the Chureca refuse dump is also called home.
More than 2,000 people comb the garbage daily for food or recyclable
materials to sell for less than a dollar a day. Each time a truck dumps
fresh waste, a swarm of humanity descends with makeshift picks and
Many of the 2,000 people who search
the dump daily in Managua,
Nicaragua, are children.
The dump is sustaining them and killing them. More than half of the
children born here will die before age 6, according to some estimates.
It is into this place – named one of the 20 horrors of the modern
world by the Spanish magazine “Interviu” in December 2007 – that United
Methodists have come to help offer a way out.
Started six years ago by United Methodist missionary Cheryl Avery, Project Chacocente moved eight families to fertile farmland in Masaya, about 20 miles southeast of Managua.
A new life
“My corn is beautiful!”
Nelson Ortiz is proud of his crops and his new life after 25 years in the dump.
“When I was in Chureca, I was very sad because I no eat every day. My
son no drink milk. Now in Chacocente, my family eating lunch, dinner,
breakfast. I study. My children study. My wife, she make bracelets,
hammock. I feel very, very happy,” he says.
Ortiz earned his high school diploma and sold five roosters to buy the guitar he plays for visitors.
The Ortiz family moved from the city
dump in Managua, Nicaragua, to a new
home on fertile farmland in Masaya,
about 20 miles away.
Ortiz’s brother, Jose, says moving to Chacocente saved his life, “In Chureca, every week I was sick. But now, I feel well.”
The success stories are made possible through the partnership of residents and the ministry.
At Chacocente, residents sign a contract to work for the project for
five years, raising crops to support the community, building their
homes, furthering their education and learning crafts and trades. Upon
graduation, the families own a house, two acres of land and a
One goal is to help families open a small business before they go out on their own.
The dream is bigger.
“One of my dreams is that we could take more people out of the dump and
we could disappear the people. I know we need to have a dump place, but
what we need is to remove the people,” says Omar Hernandez, the
international relations director for Project Chacocente. “They don’t
need to be there. They don’t have to be there. They’re people, they’re
human beings. They deserve to have a better life.”
A brighter future
“Que es… ‘shoes’?”
A dozen students jump up and scream the answer in Spanish.
Elementary students treasure the chance to learn English, art and music
at the private school on the grounds. Teenagers attend a public high
school within biking distance.
David Arellano, 14, shares his plans to become an engineer as he irons
his uniform in his two-room cinder block home illuminated by streaks of
sunlight. “I feel with my family, so good.”
Nelson Ortiz plays the guitar
at his home in Masaya.
Also feeling good are volunteers from the United States like the
youth group from Christ United Methodist Church in Bethel Park, Pa.,
that visited in July. The 66 United Methodist Volunteers in Mission
helped weed and plant crops, lay floors for the school kitchen and
auditorium and build additions on two homes.
“It’s really interesting to work side by side with them because
there’s a huge communication barrier, but with gestures, laughter and
smiles, we can get the work done,” says Maeve Kirby, a youth group
Gregg Stierheim, the youth director at Christ United Methodist, chose
Project Chacocente to support because of its goal of self-sufficiency.
“It aims to end poverty. You can give someone that’s hungry something
to feed them, but that doesn’t solve the problem. Just as without
education, poverty is tough to eradicate,” he says.
“Chacocente gets to the heart of that issue, one family at a time,” he
says. “And given enough time, hopefully they will make a massive dent
in that situation, at least in Nicaragua.”
*Kisker is a freelance writer and producer in Pittsburgh.
News media contact: Fran Coode Walsh, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or email@example.com.
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