REPORT ON TRIP TO NICARAGUA MARCH 13 TO 20, 2012
By Harry Van Belle – project coordinator
Day 1: Meeting at Caritas office and to meet the new director, Padre Elias Barrera Solano. (He still has a church with 2,200 parishioners.) Caritas is extremely happy to receive our donations. As always they will be happy to receive any donations – the need is great.
We discussed how they distribute our donations. Caritas Nicaragua serves all of Nicaragua. They meet every 2 weeks to discuss where the need is greatest, and discuss the many applications for help. Then they match the help with our donations. Caritas is a Catholic organization, but they help where it is most needed.
In the afternoon, we met with Dr. Ortega from Project Hope. I had met its U.S. Chairman, Mike Eshleman, last fall. They ship thousands of vaccines and medicines to underdeveloped countries. This was a great meeting to bring Caritas together with Project Hope. In the future, they may share resources with Caritas. Project Help may also be able to help Niagara Warehouse of Hope inGuatemalaandHaiti.
Later we visited Don Claver Nursing Home in Masaya. They received beds, clothing, soup mix, wheel chairs and walkers. They are so grateful for all the help from NWOH. It is a great nursing home – well cared-for and very clean.
Day 2: Went to Caritas office to pick up the 2 trucks with donations for the jail. Before we left we went to a small chapel to say a prayer for our visit to the penitentiary in Juigalpa with its 860 inmates, mostly men.
On arrival, we met Bishop Sandigo and other priests and jail officials. At the gate we were all searched for contraband. While at the gate we held a press conference with 2 national TV stations. We showed them the donations from NWOH: shoes, garden tools, wheel chairs, clothing, etc.
Bishop Sandigo made a special speech thanking the NWOH. We brought greetings from the Warehouse.
They escorted us into the jail where 280 inmates were seated in a long hall. Our donations were presented to the inmates and, again, Bishop Sandigo explained that we were representatives of the NWOH. Then in a service he stressed that we love them as Christ loves us. Afterwards we toured the jail (photos not permitted). Conditions were poor. Some inmates are serving 30-year sentences. What an experience.
The next stop was by way of a short-cut on a 2-lane road with very narrow one-track bridges. We played chicken with our eyes closed.
We arrived at a so-called nursing home in Boaco. It was the worst I have ever seen: filthy, three washrooms, two of which were completely broken, the other with a pail of water? The patients were ready to die – they even had caskets sitting there. Of course, Caritas staff will try to change this terrible situation.
Day 3: Visited Hospital Antonio Lenin Fonseca inManagua. This was a temporary hospital built of hardboard and a coat of paint, after the 1972 earthquake. They have 294 beds and are overcrowded. All are welcome here, free of charge. There is no government subsidy. This 35,000-square-metre facility serves the poorest of the poor. There are burn, trauma and neurology units. There are 150 doctors and 200 students. They would love to receive some paint to cover the dreary-looking walls, some hospital beds, computer monitors, linens, walkers, and wheel chairs – anything we can spare in hospital equipment.
Next we visited Psiquiatrico hospital with 196 patients, also in Managua. This place was unbelievable: most patients were walking around like zombies. Chairs, beds, benches were very old. Many old patients were behind bars. Sometimes the patients go on a rampage and literally tear the mattresses to pieces, so now some sleep in beds without mattresses. This hospital needs beds, wheel chairs, mattresses, soup mix and any kind of soap.
Day 4: Visited maternity hospital Fernando Velez Paiz. About 20-25 babies are born every day. We received the royal treatment. They have been receiving the beautiful layettes and also beds, 4 beautiful cribs, walkers, wheel chairs and of course many boxes of linens, gowns, gloves, etc.
They are in desperate need of folding chairs. Mothers stay in the hospital for 24 hours. Some fathers or family members may stay, but they must sit on the bed or just stand. We will try to send some next time. Their staff is so grateful to the NWOH for their donations.
Day 5: Went to church. Weather is mostly hot – low 90s, just a bit of a breeze.
Day 6: Visited Padre Mario, former director of Caritas. He is now pastor of San Pedro Church in Rivas. His church is growing, with the outreach in the slums of Rivas. He performs 300 baptisms a year. We’ve become friends the past 3 years. His enthusiasm to help the poor is boundless. Thanks to the NWOH, we can help the needy in his city.
Next we went to the Orphanage San Jose Obrero inGranada. The girls were so happy with dolls from Afra, goodies from the sewing room and backpacks. There are 40 girls, ages 3 to 17. Some are street girls, abused by their parents, or just dropped off by relatives. Some are orphans and will stay until they are 17. They are taught to make their own bed, wash their own clothes, and attend school. Rita and I were very impressed with the warmth of the staff and the clean environment. They are especially thankful to the Christian Gleaners for the soup mix, which they all love.
That’s all. Thanks to the volunteers at the Warehouse who work so hard to make these donations possible.
God bless, Harry and Rita.