It’s 11:30 a.m. and lunch should be almost ready, but this home of seven people has only a small bowl of boiling water on their firewood stove.
The father just came back from a busy morning at the farm, bringing some beans that would be used for lunch, the only ingredient of the first meal of their day.
The global food crisis has hit so many people. Guillermo, father of three Compassion-assisted children and another who isn’t registered, used to have a steady job making bricks. But now he is no longer permanently employed. He lost his job because there wasn’t enough demand for bricks. He found another job at a farm taking care of beans and a corn plantation. Those two partial jobs together make an income of about $37 per month for Guillermo and his family.
Ventura, Guillermo’s wife, in her effort to help the home’s income, baby-sits her granddaughter, making about $75 per month with which they have to find a way to cover all of the family’s expenses such as food, clothes, water service, school supplies, soap, toothpaste, etc.
Since the family cannot buy as much as they used to, what they have in a normal day for breakfast is a cup of coffee with bread or just coffee.
For lunch, beans, a piece of cheese and tortilla that Ventura makes. And for dinner, most of the time is just another cup of coffee.
“The crisis has affected our health. We cannot improve our home or buy new kitchen utensils. My husband is working extra but still getting the same,” says Ventura.
Many parents of registered children from child development center NI-147 lost their jobs at the factories. Bernarda, the center director, says,
“The majority of the people in our community used to work at the eight factories located in the area, but with the crisis, six of the factories have closed. By now almost 80 percent of the population is unemployed.
“The factories closed between July and August of 2008 as a result of the economic crisis in the U.S., the factories primary importing country. Alternative jobs have appeared like fishing in Lake Managua, selling firewood, domestic work, going to the dump, street sellers and farms.
“Families are desperate because they don’t have food for their children. Kids get sick for not having a balanced meal, the local health center doesn’t have medicine, and finances are not enough to pay a medicine at the pharmacy.
“Our country has been impacted significantly. Many people are leaving to go to Costa Rica, the United States or Spain to find a job to support their family and to have a better way of living.
“As a student center, we have not given up because of the crisis. We have faced it and continued on.
“In the short term, activities like monthly birthday celebrations have been reduced to one celebration every three months, field trips, camps, mother and father’s day have been cut to be able to solve the food situation. We are very interested in that our children get some food at the center.”
Reina, the partnership facilitator says,
“One of the reasons for this crisis in Nicaragua is unemployment. There are very little opportunities to find a job. Amendments have been made to the development center budget in order to reinforce the food area.”
In the long term, student center staff hope to receive a special funding to give a daily meal to the children. The center is open three days a week. Last year, two of those three days, children received a meal and one day a snack.
As a consequence of the food crisis, this year children have one meal and two snacks. The meals include rice, chicken or beef, salad, tortilla. The snacks are cookies or sweet bread with milk or orange and carrot juice. The student center staff tries to give the best food they can to the children because they know these children need it.
Despite all the worries that parents and student center staff go through to feed these children, the children happily play and enjoy each other’s company after having a good meal.
At the beginning of the year the registered children get school supplies, shoes, and a uniform. This is a great help to the parents, especially those with many kids like Guillermo, who has four school-age children. Their oldest daughter works at a factory and with the little she earns; she pays her own school fees.
Unable to cover the entire home expenses and without a good economic forecast for next year, Guillermo’s family feels discouraged. However, in the midst of it all, Ventura says,
“We thank God for the staff, for Compassion and sponsors for helping the children of our community.”
Out of Guillermo’s children, Esmeralda is the only one sponsored. She likes to go to the child development center because she learns to color, pray, sing and she likes the food there.
Her sister Maria likes to go because she listens to the Word of God. Moses’ story is her favorite. Auner, their brother, likes to sing and to eat at the student center. Bernarda says,
“Through this ministry, the dreams of the children will come true. If it wasn’t for the ministry many children might be involved in gangs, but now they have a new vision to excel, to learn values. They won’t grow in the same mentally poor home.
“Children know that things are possible in the name of Jesus. I thank God and Compassion’s ministry for opening the doors to our church, trusting to partner with us.
“Thanks to the sponsors and donors for the support that makes this possible. Keep making an effort to help these children. God will bless you abundantly.”