Nicaragua is a hidden gem among travel lovers. With beautiful colonial architecture and stunning ecotourism opportunities, it is a dream for many surfers, hikers and wanderers. But amid the political unrest in Nicaragua in 2018, tourism came to a standstill.
Starting in April 2018, protests began in several cities in Nicaragua in opposition to social security reforms. Eventually the reforms were cancelled, and the demonstrations ended in September 2018, when protests were declared illegal. But much damage had already been done.
The decline of tourism meant one thing to families living in poverty in La Flor, Nicaragua: malnutrition.
La Flor is an island village in Nicaragua where the main economic activities are agriculture, cattle farming and fishing. Families live on their harvest of fruits, vegetables, fish and meat or take them to Moyogalpa, the nearest city, to sell and earn an income.
When the sociopolitical crisis hit the island, the tourists stopped coming. Hotels and restaurants that once thrived soon found themselves struggling. Locals lost their jobs or had to close their market stalls.
Jose Moreno, a father of three children in Compassion’s Child Sponsorship Program, is one of the parents whose family was gravely affected.
“There used to be work on the island. I would be able to work a day here, another day there,” says Jose. “But ever since the crisis started, people are no longer hiring farmers like me.”
The rise in unemployment was accompanied by an increase in the prices of basic food. This mirrored the global issue of rising hunger. The already-difficult situation became overwhelming for struggling families. Many could no longer afford to provide even one meal a day for their children. Before the crisis, father Misael Mairena would feed his children breakfast before school. This was no longer possible.
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“We used to prepare their breakfast, and the schools gave them lunch, but now we struggle to provide something as basic as food,” says Misael. “The schools no longer have food for them, so we grew desperate. As a parent, I always try to provide at least food for them, but we couldn’t anymore.”
Some families left for Costa Rica out of desperation. For those who stayed, the impact of the crisis on the children was dramatic after only a few months. A routine health checkup revealed more than half of the children in the Child Sponsorship Program were malnourished and sick.
Amid this crisis, the church stepped up.
Compassion’s local church partner in La Flor is supporting families who are struggling after the devastation wrought by Nicaragua’s sociopolitical crisis of 2018 through the Good News Child Development Center.
Knowing they had to act fast, center director Yessica Alemán and her staff worked on a plan to aid the families, restore the children’s health and provide them with spiritual and emotional support.
The first part of the plan was providing a balanced meal that would help fulfill the children’s nutritional needs. A nutritionist was brought in who recommended providing children a breakfast of rice, beans, eggs and plantains to help the children gain weight.
They also prepared an extra meal for the children to take to school and another to eat when they returned to their afternoon classes at the center. Eighteen families whose children were severely malnourished also received monetary gift vouchers to purchase groceries for their families.
The church’s intervention in response to unrest in Nicaragua worked.
Center staff saw the results of their hard work during the children’s annual health checkup, one year after the crisis began. The children’s health had improved dramatically. And by providing nutritious meals and snacks, the church not only helped to restore the children’s health, they also made parents feel loved and supported during their time of need.
“I’m really thankful for the work they’re doing,” says Marlene del Socorro Selva, Jose Moreno’s wife. “They gave us help and hope when we felt desperate.”
Pastor Manuel of Good News Church sees this as just the beginning of the ministry that God has put in their hands. He hopes to continue impacting the lives of the families in the community of La Flor.
“It fills me with joy to see how the lives of children have changed ever since they became part of the program,” says Pastor Manuel. “I see the way the Lord has made miracles in their lives and is moving in a supernatural way in the community.”
Thanks to the tireless efforts of center director Yessica, Pastor Manuel and the dedicated staff, families are recovering after Nicaragua’s political unrest. Children are overcoming malnutrition to become strong, healthy kids who praise the Lord for the wonders He has done in their lives.