On The Road Blog
Resilience and Resourcefulness in Nicaragua
- By Eva Miller on November 19th, 2014
- Category: Blog, Featured, Featured Blog, Home, Latin America and the Caribbean
During my recent trip to Nicaragua, I had the chance to finally meet in person the staff and leaders of our Nicaraguan grantee partners, whom I consider to be a particularly resilient and resourceful bunch. While Nicaragua shares many similarities with its Central American neighbors, some of the intractable problems common to the region seem magnified in Nicaragua. For example, Nicaragua is poorer than the rest of Central America in terms of its GDP per capita, and it is actually the second-poorest nation in all of Latin America and the Caribbean, after Haiti.
Nicaragua also lags behind neighboring countries such as El Salvador and Honduras in some other indicators of human development relating to education and health. Its history has been tumultuous—the effects are still being felt of a 10-year civil war that cost $178 billion and the lives of 60,000 people. Also of note is Nicaragua’s susceptibility to earthquakes and climate-related disasters. The country is situated in the direct path of many tropical storms and hurricanes, and it received devastating hits in 1989, 1998, and 2007.
Just this year, Nicaragua has experienced four major earthquakes, the last of which occurred on October 14—just a few days before my visit. Although this last earthquake did not cause significant damage, the entire country was on alert for possible tsunamis and aftershocks, and school was canceled. And on the day I left, the country was preparing for the arrival of Tropical Storm Hanna, predicted to bring strong winds and heavy rains.
Against this backdrop of challenging circumstances, the already inspiring efforts of our Nicaraguan grantee partners seem even more impressive. For our grantee partners Fundación Fénix (Phoenix Foundation) and Asociación de Hombres Contra la Violencia (Association of Men Against Violence), who reach kids by working with schools, cancellation of classes makes it more difficult for them to carry out their work and forces them to be creative in finding other ways to provide their services.
Similarly, travel to remote regions to visit kids in their homes becomes logistically complex for grantee partner Asociación de Sordociegos de Nicaragua (Deafblind Association of Nicaragua) every time storms wash out bridges or roads. And as if these factors were not enough to inhibit the success of these organizations, our grantee partners are also working to address neglected issues and serve marginalized populations for which there is often little support from other institutions or from the government.
Despite these odds, our four current partners in Nicaragua continue to reach some of the most vulnerable and remote children and youth in the country. They are providing family counseling services to gang-affected youth, helping children with multiple disabilities gain communication and mobility skills for the first time in their lives, ensuring that adolescent girls know and defend their rights, and creating safe spaces for boys and young men to challenge traditional ideas about masculinity.
Here is a brief overview of the organizations that GFC supports and the many amazing things they do:
Asociación de Sordociegos de Nicaragua (ASCN), which translates to Deafblind Association of Nicaragua, promotes the full integration of deafblind individuals into Nicaraguan society by teaching braille, sign language, and safe mobility techniques to deafblind children, youth, and adults. GFC supports ASCN’s home-based, individualized education program for deafblind children and young adults aged 5 to 24.
Through this program, teachers who are deafblind themselves travel all over the country to provide three weeks of individualized, intensive instruction to deafblind children in their homes. The educators also work closely with parents, siblings, and entire communities to build awareness of deafblindness and increase the social acceptance of deafblind children and adults.
During my visit with ASCN, I observed an individual home-based class in Managua in which a 13-year-old deafblind girl was learning Nicaraguan Sign Language for the first time in her life.
Fundación Fénix (Phoenix Foundation in English) helps children and youth in the Ciudad Sandino neighborhood of Managua to avoid criminal activity and gang involvement, stay away from drugs, continue their education, and build skills to generate income. GFC supports Fénix’s drug prevention campaign in local schools. Fénix’s current programs include family counseling services, workshops in schools on positive values and the risks of drug use, a youth-run farm, music and English classes at its center, and a microcredit program for women.
During my trip to Nicaragua, I had the opportunity to attend a celebration of Fénix’s drug prevention campaign, at which 1,000 children, 170 teachers, over 100 parents, and the US ambassador to Nicaragua were also in attendance!
Asociación Movimiento de Mujeres por Nuestros Derechos Humanos (MOMUNDH), which translates to Women’s Movement for our Human Rights, works to prevent gender-based violence and promotes sexual and reproductive health and rights for women and girls in the town of Villa El Carmen, about 40 kilometers outside of Managua. GFC supports MOMUNDH’s child and youth programming, including its program for girls aged 13 to 17. The program for girls consists of monthly workshops on a variety of topics related to violence prevention and human rights and uses soccer as an incentive to encourage the girls’ participation. While in Nicaragua, I traveled to Villa El Carmen to see the program in action.
On the day I visited, the girls were gathered in the computer lab of a local school to learn about the risks of sharing personal information online and how to protect themselves by applying effective privacy settings to their Facebook profiles.
Asociación de Hombres Contra la Violencia (Association of Men Against Violence in English) works with young men, families, and children to challenge concepts of Nicaraguan masculinity, promotes respect for the rights of sexual minorities, and increases access to reproductive health information and services, especially in regard to HIV/AIDS prevention. GFC supports AHCV’s issue workshops for children aged 8 to 12, as well as violence prevention and HIV/AIDS awareness programs for young men aged 14 to 22 who are in conflict with the law.
During my visit with AHCV, we discussed some of the exciting changes taking place within the organization that will allow for a new, more overt focus on children and youth as well as greater opportunities for youth leadership and decision making.