Our foundation works in and around San Juan del Sur, in the department of Rivas, in southern Nicaragua.
Following is a brief description of Nicaragua, taken from the CIDA website:
Nicaragua is the second poorest country in the Americas, next after Haiti. Almost one out of six Nicaraguans live on less than US$1.25/day. Nicaragua ranks 129 out of 187 countries on the United Nations Development Programme's 2011 human development index.
Most of Nicaragua's rural poor live in the vast, dry central region, where natural resources are limited, land has been overexploited, and water and electricity are scarce. Small-scale farmers and landless farm workers are the most vulnerable. Families live on marginal land. They depend on agriculture for their livelihood and devote two thirds of their meagre income to purchasing food.
The country has experienced some of the highest food price increases in Latin America because of the 2008 global economic crisis and earlier natural disasters. Gross domestic product growth dropped in 2008 and 2009 but is anticipated to rise in 2010.
The administration of public institutions and the management of the economy and the national budget are steadily improving. But the commitment to democracy, human rights and rule of law is being questioned by civil society and the media.
Eleven reasons NOT to go to Nicaragua…
1. Every time we complete a project, five more appear out of nowhere and they are all important.
2. Police everywhere. Luckily, many traffic police don’t actually have vehicles, so we are perfecting the art of not noticing when they try to pull us over. When they do, we either have to pay a fine right then and there or we have to try to talk our way out of it. And yes, we are getting better at that!
3. Nicaragua is a beautiful country, but recycling is still a long way off and actual garbage cans are few and far between.
4. Banks and government offices…so many delays and mountains of red tape!
5. The simplest tasks become monumental feats of endurance and patience.
6. Long stopovers in the Houston airport. Border security. Customs. Enough said?
7. Changing money from Canadian to American to Nicaraguan and back again. As if our poor Canadian dollar wasn’t low enough already!
8. Long and exhausting conversations in Spanish.
9. No matter how high the temperature gets, shorts are for children and gringos.
10. There are fifteen kinds of poisonous snakes, not to mention scorpions.
11. Being asked to make impromptu speeches and then trying to remember everyone we are supposed to thank. You might imagine we would have picked up the pattern by now, but perhaps we are just eternally optimistic that we’ll somehow be overlooked (OK, if we hide behind this tree, maybe Veronica won't notice us.)
And one that keeps us coming back…
The people. They are unforgettable. Their patience and tolerance with us as we attempt to make ourselves understood, their careful explanations of the often unbelievable situations they cope with daily and their respectful requests for aid-all of this means that we know before too long that we’ll be back on that United flight, on our way once again to Nicaragua.
And we always leave for home knowing we did the right thing to come back.