Finding Hope When You’re in a Hard Place

Two battles are happening at the same time – a battle against extreme poverty and a divisive political battle here in Nicaragua.

As a Nicaraguan-born humanitarian worker here, on staff at the U.S.-based Food for the Hungry, I’m used to serving the daily realities of Nicaraguans living in extreme poverty. But when violent protests broke out, our staff found ourselves literally “in the middle” of the conflict: our office was located right across the street from the university where revolts against the government were brewing.

Since last April, Nicaragua has been in a colossal state of convulsion, when government reform to social security laws enraged the entire population. For many, it was the tipping point after 11 years of divisive government rule. Perhaps, the most alarming thing was how the conflict simmered, and then exploded overnight. Nicaragua used to be the safest place in Central America. There was relative peace for the past 30 years, since the last war in the 1980s between the Contra and Sandinista political parties. In fact, Nicaragua had become a promised land of sorts, enjoying a booming economy with tourism, private investors bringing in money, a healthy employment rate, and abounding opportunity for high-quality education. Now, the country is economically devastated, on the verge of recession with skyrocketing unemployment; and just like any country where sociopolitical conflict erupts, the most marginalized are the ones who suffer the maximum consequences.

The thought of my baby girl growing up in such a dark environment breaks my heart. But I know now more than ever, I must remain here because the need is great and I know that hope remains.

Our staff has had to learn how to continue our humanitarian work amidst political revolt. There is a town called Quilalí, nestled in the mountainous region where a lot of Nicaraguan coffee is grown. Quilalí is impoverished, boxed-in from major markets by its mountain geography, and a prime example of how marginalized communities are at even greater risk under the economic repercussions of conflict.

One of our staff introduced the idea of starting a savings group in Quilalí, shielded from the impacts of the tanking Nicaraguan economy. Fifteen residents representing merchants, industry partners, entrepreneurs with small businesses, and farmers joined together last November—right around the time the U.S. began to impose punitive sanctions on Nicaragua. Municipal authorities do not generally get personally involved in our programs, but even the municipal mayor of Quilalí joined in, seeing how this savings initiative offered an opportunity for families to battle economic insecurity.

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Ariel Morales