Reflections on Tipitapa

Yolanda Mayo decided that a delegation to Tipitapa, Nicaragua, would be an exciting and moving start to retirement. It was a pleasure to have Yolanda on our trip, and we do hope she will join us again, even if breakfast is still an overflowing plate of rice and beans! Here are Yolanda’s thoughts upon returning to New York. Of the many experiences I had planned for retirement, Tipitapa turned out to be not only the first one, but the most challenging! Having travelled in Central America before and speaking Spanish, I did not feel the need for preparation. As a social worker for over 30 years, I have dealt with poverty, cross-culturalism, and most types of human needs. Yet, this short trip opened new windows of experience and brought me friends in two very different sister cities. First, the experiences of Tipitapa prompted a true understanding of the old Native American adage: Do not judge your neighbor until you have walked three moons in his or her moccasins. Learning from these experiences and directly sharing life limitations on a daily basis made a lasting change in my life. In seeing the strength, of the people, their daily challenges and struggles, their ability to laugh, love, and give of themselves (and what little they had), has left a profound impression on my life, leading to my questioning who actually has more, those The Tipitapa experience, as a human experience, is probably replicated daily in multiple countries around the globe, yet it has led me to re-frame the question of how best I can be of help to others. This, I thought, I knew well from my professional training. I have since questioned what are real priorities in the scale of human needs, how I can help others voice what they would want to say, what aspects of others’ culture is not to be touched by me, and how do I best understand other views. Critical to me has been questioning how I can develop true equity in a world of differences and commonalities.

“Pero todo no fue reflecciones serias y trabajo.” There was also fun! I met a fantastic and dedicated group of people who accepted my differences and led me to see myself somewhat differently. Everyone in the group, including Luke (the youngest), was a trooper.

From Luke’s reading to the children, to Arlene’s salsa dancing, and to everyone tolerating my food fetishes and difficulties in eating rice and frijoles for breakfast, my fear of worms when gardens are planted, and in making do with whatever was at hand. The group was superb, I learned to “let go,” laugh at myself, and accept that I am melindrosa. The next time I will be better armed with acceptance and openness in the true spirit of these concepts!

Community Hope - a report from the Dos Pueblos delegation, January 2011

We've just returned from our latest delegation in Tipitapa and everyone who took part agreed that the progress we witnessed on the ground was astounding. Not only were we able to watch members of the communities work as volunteers to build a fence, a library and provide their villages with potable water, but we also met so many dedicated and passionate community organizers that we can return to New York safe in the knowledge that our projects are taking great steps and are in safe and caring hands. Our first report comes from Scott Woods, who joined our delegation from Phoenix, Arizona. This was his first delegation with Dos Pueblos and we were honored to have him as part of our group.

“No mas no more, we must stop the dirty war, compañeros compañeras cry out, no mas no more.” While the lyrics from this School of America Watch song  (written by none other than our great friend and supporter, John McCutcheon) are more relevant to Colombia, El Salvador, and Honduras, Nicaragua too has fallen victim to failed international policies and internal strife. The civil war in Nicaragua ended decades ago resulting in a relatively peaceful society, one with promise, but one that still faces social challenges. The recognition of positive peace, in which the society experiences social systems that serve the entire population, is still a dream for many, especially the residents of communities in and around Tipitapa.

An ongoing interest in Latin American culture, governmental systems, and global policies affecting Central America, specifically Nicaragua, initially drew me to Dos Pueblos. In researching the history of the organization, I learned quickly of the many successful projects and contributions that Dos Pueblos has made to the communities of Nicaragua. The January 2011 delegation was not only an opportunity to gain a breadth of knowledge of the challenges facing Nicaragua, but also, witness the successes of Dos Pueblos and the “faces” of the various communities supported by Dos Pueblos.

Last year, I was involved in a campaign to bring attention to the displaced people in Colombia. The campaign used “faces” and personal stories in an effort to humanize the displacement of campasinas in Colombia. The people of Latin America are often forgotten as a whole when it comes to United States governmental policy and U.S. corporate actions. NAFTA, CAFTA, and the pending Colombian trade act fail to take into account the “faces” and the broad reaching ramifications of many policy actions.

As I disembarked Managua’s Augusto Sandino International Airport, and until my tearful departure eight days later, I was always greeted by warm, caring, happy, and smiling Nicaraguan people, perhaps even more so, from those living in situations of extreme poverty or with physical/cognitive disabilities.

With Nicaragua being the second poorest country in the western hemisphere, a considerable level of financial despondency was expected. It was emotionally disquieting to witness the pain and suffering, but more disconcerting is the fact that much of this suffering results from a lack of compassion on the part of distant political and corporate leaders. I witnessed the many successes and happiness that Dos Pueblos and other NGO’s have brought to the various communities; on the other hand, I would be remiss if I failed to share some of the less favorable situations and the affected faces.  The economic strife witnessed was broad reaching within the areas of human rights, nutrition, health, and education.

Day one of the delegation brought us to the community of Santa Marta.  I learned that at one time, the area around Santa Marta was home to sugarcane fields and a state-run sugar processing facility that employed many people in Tipitapa, which was subsequently privatized in the 1980s and eventually closed down. They have been replaced by many sq km of fields filled with rice paddies. This seems like a perfect fit until you learn that the co-op responsible for the rice uses nearly all the available water, leaving a well in the community of 200 plus families nearly dry.

While the pain I witnessed was heartbreaking, the projects supported by Dos Pueblos and this delegation, however small, do make a huge difference. It is difficult to say which project has or will have the most impact. A well project from last year enables 200+ families to have potable water. However, the community has no school, and the nearest community with a school, San Benito, does not have the resources to support students from other communities’ even if they could afford the bus fare.

Various micro-finance projects allow women to prosper and contribute to the community. While nearly all micro-finance projects have contributed greatly, the children’s smiles indicated that the expansion of a small community store to include the sale of ice cream (Eskimo) was particularly welcome and successful.

The delegation with Dos Pueblos to Nicaragua and the delegates have made a lasting impression. Kicking a football on a dirt street with the kids, watching a young boy roll an old bicycle tire with a stick, smiling the entire time, and the smiles on the children’s faces at the library will forever bring a smile to me.

The people of Nicaragua will always be close to my heart and in my thoughts. I will continue to share my witness and will return soon in hopes of contributing to more growth and opportunity for the people of Nicaragua. I cannot express how proud I am of the children and their contributions to their communities and families, and how sad I am that often they do not have the opportunity to just be kids.

Come With Us To Sunny Nicaragua!

Come With Us To Sunny Nicaragua

January 22-29, 2011

Roll Up Your Sleeves and Work Side by Side With The People of Nicaragua. Join Dos Pueblos in Grassroots Strategies For Change Where You Can Help Empower Communities in Tipitapa.

On This Trip You Will Have The Opportunity To:

Join a team of concerned citizens to explore the healthcare and education needs of Nicaraguan children and their communities.

  • Engage in programs that address health, children’s literacy, and women’s economic empowerment by working side by side with local families.
  • Participate in meetings with local government officials and community volunteers to address current local issues.
  • Visit artists and tour Nicaragua’s beautiful colonial streets, or hike a volcano!
  • No Spanish? No worries, translators will be provided.

Cost: $700 (double occupancy) $875 (single occupancy). *Airfare, departure taxes, tips and personal expenses are not included. $200 Deposit due Dec 1st .

What’s Included:

  • Local hotel or home stay
  • Two meals per day—breakfast and lunch
  • All local transportation in air conditioned vehicles
  • Tour leader, guides and translators
  • Workshops
  • Pertinent written material

Space is Limited. Contact Lupe Ramsey: info@tipitapa.org or call 917-776-4246.

EVENTS ARCHIVE

 

Join our Delegation and see Nicaragua!

Roll Up Your Sleeves and Work Side by Side With The People of Nicaragua. Join Dos Pueblos in Grassroots Strategies For Change Where You Can Help Empower Communities in Tipitapa. On This Trip You Will Have The Opportunity To:

Join a team of concerned citizens to explore the healthcare and education needs of Nicaraguan children and their communities.

  • Engage in programs that address health, children’s literacy, and women’s economic empowerment by working side by side with local families.
  • Participate in meetings with local government officials and community volunteers to address current local issues.
  • Visit artists and tour Nicaragua’s beautiful colonial streets, or hike a volcano!
  • No Spanish? No worries, translators will be provided.

Cost: $700 (double occupancy) $875 (single occupancy). *Airfare, departure taxes, tips and personal expenses are not included. $200 Deposit due Dec 1st .

What’s Included:

  • Local hotel or home stay
  • Two meals per day—breakfast and lunch
  • All local transportation in air conditioned vehicles
  • Tour leader, guides and translators
  • Workshops
  • Pertinent written material

Space is Limited. Contact Lupe Ramsey: info@tipitapa.org or call 917-776-4246.

The Strength of Women

GirlandbookThis June, board members and volunteers visited our sister city.  This delegation took place during a difficult time - as Nicaraguans recognize that wealthy countries can’t provide the same levels of support due to the global economic crisis. The US nor the EU will fulfill their levels of aid to Nicaragua in 2009, and the Millennium Challenge Account created by G.W. Bush cancelled its remaining $60M amid allegations of fraud in local elections last fall.  Money sent back to families by Nicaraguans who have emigrated north has also fallen dramatically. We were impressed that upon arriving at the airport in Managua, all passengers were screened for swine flu with a thermal camera before being allowed in the country. Nicaragua also launched a major public health campaign to prevent the H1N1 virus from affecting its population, dispatching thousands of health brigadistas to educate people and detect any new cases. This theme of good organizing in the face of financial scarcity was repeated throughout our trip.  With the help of community organizers, we saw these realities in Ciudadela San Martín when delivering much-needed school supplies. Next we visited the community water well to see their plan for new pipes to bring potable water for 120 additional families. We also looked at a location for a feeding center, as lay-offs at the free trade zones continue to idle employees as jobs leave for China.

Mayor Cesar Vazquez and Vice mayor Ligia U. Santana informed us that Tipitapa continues to grow. Ligia took us to a new settlement Cristo Rey, where cardboard, plastic and aluminum sheets serve as new homes for the latest residents. We were glad to hear that all property titles in this community were only being given to women, but the good news ended here as Ligia informed us that with the swell of thousands of residents in less than a year, and no electricity, water, or social services, the risk of disease and crime is high. I asked if she thought that only a woman could pull this community together. She asserted, “women do this kind of hard work everyday around the world, and get nothing for it. Here we are giving them property for the hard work that is involved in keeping families together, especially in these impossible circumstances.”

The women of Nicaragua have become the beacon for change, and we were glad to hear this from the halls of the mayor's office to the communities women serve. The fight for most women is twice as tough – not only do they need to earn a living but they must also provide family care, and run a household. They are survivors of war, economic and sexual exploitation – yet they refuse to give in to despair. Instead, they teach us how to organize, to build health clinics, nutrition programs, schools and literacy campaigns. Women such as Rosa, a community organizer who helps over 200 children, and Lucia, a mother of 6, who built her own home and installed pipes to bring water to her family illustrate the power of women.

We left Nicaragua filled with hope but sobered by the increasing poverty we saw. We returned home ever committed to the struggle for health, nutrition, equality, and an end to economic injustice. Please join us in supporting these women and their strength in making this world a better place.

Little New Yorkers Make a Big Difference

LittleNYersIn Tipitapa, where clean drinking water and electricity are in short supply, one might think that books and learning materials are secondary, but when you see the impact of Rosa’s children’s lending library you realize this is not the case. The library is the only place where children can borrow a book, and for some it is the only opportunity to read at all. More than one parent told us that children who take out books each week and participate in group activities such as reading classes, repairing books and teaching others to read, are going to be the future leaders of the country – we know they’re right! What makes the library so important is that it is not just a place for education, it is also a safe haven where children can spend time with friends, learn about hygiene for better health, and a place where they can get moral support that they may not get at home. Our delegation brought five 50 lbs bags of school supplies and Spanish children's books, kindly donated by PS87, a public grade school on the Upper West Side of Manhattan for the children of Ciudadela San Martin. Given the success and demand for Rosa’s existing library, Rosa has started a small library here that serves handicapped children and the children who labor at the local dump.

The big day for the delivery arrived and we were told, “some children will be waiting for you”. As we approached the red gates of the school, a group of policemen stood in the street. Were they waiting for us? Our thoughts were soon confirmed as we turned into the school to see around 200 cheering children sitting in the sun with their teachers and parents. We were suddenly confronted with five times the children than we were expecting. Everyone was excited about the gifts from the students at PS87, but the idea of handing out the materials was now impossible – Rosa’s meticulous inventory of all supplies down to the last pencil for 30 children had to be rethought. She was also surprised, and remarked that as funds and resources have become scarcer, word travels fast around the communities, and parents (mostly mothers) do their best to provide educational goods for their children.

We thank our little New Yorkers at PS87 for contributing to Rosa’s dream of making education a reality for so many children, especially for handicapped children who are often forgotten, and are a source of shame for families in places like Nicaragua. Through school supplies and books, Rosa is able to show parents their children’s talent!