Today was all about getting our feet wet in the communities of Chacraseca, which is a rural county outside the city of Leon that is marked by a lack of resources. Our morning was filled with home visits, where residents (mostly women) were ready to share stories about different aspects of their lives.
One woman told us about her life as a high school teacher. She teaches civics, social sciences, and artistic expression in a school of 120 students. Resources are thin, but her passion for teaching is strong, and graduation rates keep going up year after year.
Another woman has had her life changed by being chosen to receive an ecological stove. Rather than inhaling the smoke of an open fire, risking frequent burns and declining health (a plight common among women here), she now uses significantly less wood in a stove that stays cool everywhere except the cook surface and that sends all the woodsmoke out of her kitchen through a metal chimney. She has become a strong leader in her community, and uses her influence to encourage others to try these stoves in their own homes.
Yet another woman currently lives in a shack constructed of wooden beams and black plastic sheeting. She raises her son in that small space, but is on the waiting list for a new house and continues to hope for the day when it is her turn to have a new home built on her land.
Both a man who spends his days farming the land through increasingly dry years and a woman who is too sick to work spoke about la lucha (the struggle). In this part of Nicaragua, life is struggle. But the struggle is not something they do alone. Instead, leaders in the community volunteer their time to work for the good of their people, and generally strive to do so in an equitable and fair manner.
After lunch, we visited the local hardware store — a small business created by women to meet the community’s need for a place to purchase building supplies locally. This business, which as expanded to include a cafe, was initially the recipient of a microcredit loan. These loans, offered to women by women, enable individuals to get start up money for small business ventures without providing collateral. The microcredit banks are initially funded by donations that come via Just Hope.
After the hardware store visit, we attended a special performance at the brand new Chacraseca Cultural Center. Students from their music and folkloric dance groups wowed us with traditional dances and songs about Nicaragua. The performance was wonderful! There are very talented kids here in Chacraseca.
At the end of the day, we spent time reflecting, listening to Juan Pablo singing/playing guitar, eating dinner, and hanging out. We’re all deeply moved by the things we’ve seen and people we’ve met today. Now we’re headed to bed so we can be refreshed for another very full day tomorrow!