Donate to a Nicaraguan Through Us — Round 3!

Hello, strangers!

 

It has been a long time, and time creates distance.  Some of you may be trying to place me in your memory, to remember why this blog sounds familiar.  Allow me to help.

 

IMG_2229

 

I’m a guy who travels and writes when he can, exploring the world and asking questions to those who give.  I’ve been to Nicaragua twice, and some of you came with me.  Together, we did some pretty cool things.  We got a wonderful man a new bed along with some baseball swag from his favorite team, we placed four (now five) kids through private school for the last three years, we bought and sold jewelry made by the women of La Chureca to help them create a new source of income, we bought a bike for a girl with Polio so her dad could take her to her therapy sessions, and we did a lot more as well.

 

We did what we could with a little of what we have, and we were all lifted because of it.  Those who received our gifts got something special – care and love from strangers thousands of miles away, in ways that helped them in their daily lives.  And we, in return, learned of their stories, received some of their strength, gained inspiration from their courage.  We connected, and we were all made more happy because of it.

 

Mariselda

 

And now it’s time to do it again!

 

Britney and I leave for Nicaragua in a couple of days, and we’d again like you to come with us.  With $250 on the first trip we did some great things, with $775 on the second we did even more.  My goal for this trip, like last time, isn’t to raise a certain amount of money, but to involve as many people as possible.  On our last trip we were joined by 33 people.  This time, let’s shoot for 40.  Donate $5, 10, $25, $100, it doesn’t matter how much.  Remember that 100% of your donation goes straight to a Nicaraguan.

 

Here’s how it works.

  • Donate:
  • Let me know that you donated so I can keep a tally and let you know where your donation went!  Click here to send me an email.
  • Share it on Facebook, email, or whatever you want.  Let’s see how many people we can get involved with this!  Something like “I donated $25, you guys should check it out and donate too!” with a link to this article so they can read what it’s about.
  • Subscribe to this blog, if you haven’t already, to receive the followup articles about the people you helped.

Thank you for everything!

 

Jefferson, The Weekend Philanthropist

 

“My mission is to experience the world of charitable giving through study and direct involvement in order to find an under-served people and arrive at a clear, informed, and bold focus that will define the organizations I help create. Oh, and to have an amazing time while doing it.”  

Two Kids from La Chureca Looking For Sponsors

For the past year, my mom and I have sponsored two children from La Chureca, paying so they could go to a private school outside of the landfill.

The kids worked hard, but private school is difficult and there has been a lot of change going on around them, including the community being moved to concrete homes together with people from other extremely poor areas of Managua.

This year, our scholarship director in Nicaragua, a nurse who has been serving the people of La Chureca for over a decade and who volunteers her time to help administer these scholarships, has two more children who she thinks are up for the challenge of private school – all they need is the funding.

Benefits of private school over public school:

  1. Smaller class sizes.
  2. Higher discipline.
  3. Access to a psychologist, a library, and a computer lab.
  4. Incentives to be the best in their class (half-tuition paid for).
  5. ENGLISH!  This is huge.

Here’s how it works as a sponsor:

  • Just $25 each month for tuition
  • $80 at the beginning of the year for supplies, books, and a yearly fee from the school.
  • You’ll receive letters from your student and progress reports on how they’re doing.

There is a little bit of a time crush – If these two kids are going to attend private school this year, we actually need to get the money to them this weekend . . . . sometimes communicating back and forth via email is a little difficult, so I just received the student’s pictures today.

Without further ado . . . here are the potential students!

Ana will be going into first grade :)

 

This is Ana, and she will be going into the 1st grade 🙂

 

Nicaragua Scholarships

And this is Cristofer, who will be going into 3rd grade!

Let me know if you’re interested in sponsoring one of these promising children and I’ll get you some more info!

As you may know, a good education is one of the number one ways to help end the cycle of poverty.  In the words of Nelson Mandela, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

Also, a little fact – your donations helped kick-start this whole program in 2012.  Thanks again for your help!

4 Donation Projects Funded By You!

On my first trip to Nicaragua I asked you to donate a few bucks through me; I would keep my eyes open on my trip and get something nice for a random person along the way.  You donated $250 that went to three great people, and that article has become one of the favorites on this blog.  It showed many of us how far even a small donation can go in making someones day a little better and, I feel, connected us to those people in a real way.  When I opened up the donation pool for this trip 33 people were involved–family, friends, and readers–donating a total of $775!  The smallest donation was $5 and the largest was $100, and every one of those dollars counted.  Here are the stories of the four little projects we did we those donations.

Mariselda Bonía Martín

Buying a girl a bike in Nicaragua

Mariselda lives on Ometepe Island in the community of Los Ramos with her two parents and three siblings. She is 10-years-old, loves math and reading, and she also happens to have polio. Polio has affected her ability to walk normally, giving her stiff limbs and tight tendons that don’t respond well. Her parents started taking her to therapy when she was two-years-old, a long and expensive trip across the lake to Rivas.  The treatments went well and she learned to walk on her own, but over time her tendons have tightened again.  She can no longer walk safely, especially on steep and rocky paths around her home.

We approached their house with Ever Potoy, our new friend who was showing us around the community, and sat down to chat.  It took a little prodding to get her to talk with each question we asked, but we slowly got to know her.  After talking awhile with her mom and explaining what we do, I asked Mariselda what she would like us to do for her. She didn’t answer for a couple of minutes, but we waited, wanting to get her what she wanted more than what we thought she should have. I said, “If we could get you anything, what would you want?” At this point I hadn’t used any of the money in the donation pool – though I wasn’t going to use it all on one person, I wanted to do something important for her if I could.

Finally she answered: “To be able to walk.”  We spent the next twenty minutes asking what we could do to help her with that.  What she probably needs is another medical operation that could cure her of polio, but since we couldn’t afford that we went with the next best thing.

We used $184 for Mariselda (4,416 Córdobas)

  •  A new bike so her dad can take her to therapy – 2,000 Córdobas ($83)
  •  A seat for the back of the bike that Mariselda could sit on – 180 Córdobas ($7.50)
  •  A wrench for the bike – 100 Córdobas ($4.20)
  •  A new bed (she was sleeping on a wooden board with foam on it, we figured she deserved something nice just for her) – 1,500 Cóordobas ($62.50)
  • Some spending money for a few other things (tubes for the bike, a charger for her school computer that has educational games and stuff like that on it, and books) – 500 Córdobas ($20.80).

At her young age there still may be a chance that therapy will enable her to walk, but she needs to go twice a week.  With how busy both of her parents are it was impossible for them to do that on foot.  To help you understand their family’s income, every year Mariselda’s dad rents an acre and half of land for 2,500 Córdobas ($104). He plants beans, rice, and corn, and then sells that, earning about 5,000 Córdobas from each harvest ($208). I think there are two or three harvests each year.  Buying that bike on his own is probably something he never would have been able to do.

Mariselda with her bike, Ometepe

My friend Ever is going to continue sending pictures as she goes to therapy. I really hope her therapy works! She is a bright girl with a lot of potential, her family just didn’t have enough money to do this themselves.

La Chureca

The next three donation projects were all in La Chureca, Managua’s city dump, where over 1,000 people live, sorting through trash and selling what they can.  There are already some nonprofits doing great work to assist them with living healthily and transitioning to a different life. There are a lot of needs there.  The following three tell the story of La Chureca well, showing a variety of the issues that confront the people and the things that can be done to help.

Santa Reina

Santa Reina in La Chureca

Santa Reina was 6-years old when her family moved to La Chureca, coming in from the mountain farmlands of Matagalpa shortly after her mother died.  When her father couldn’t find any work they moved onto the trash dump to make enough money to survive.  Her father was abusive and negligent.  Santa Reina and her sisters had to find their own food until they got boyfriends and left home, Santa Reina at age 15, but they didn’t move away from the dump: it is home, it is the life they know.  Santa Reina told me,  “Even though it’s a house of plastic, here I am with my companion and my two children.”

A few months ago, Santa Reina became very pale and started bleeding from her gums.  The bleeding wouldn’t stop, she became increasingly weak, and finally went to the hospital where she stayed 42 days before leaving to be home with her kids.  She was diagnosed with a rare blood condition called aplastic anemia, an extremely dangerous disease in its advanced stages with Santa Reina.  Her doctor believes she only has a few more months to live.

Anemia, in its general and less severe form, is a condition that affects the usefulness of red blood cells.  Sickle Cell Anemia, for example, is a specific type of anemia in which red blood cells are crescent-shaped, inhibiting them from doing what they’re supposed to be able to do.  Anemia is common in impoverished areas.  Without enough nutrients like iron, B12, and folate, our bodies can’t produce the red blood cells it needs to operate healthily.

Aplastic anemia is an advanced and rare type of anemia affecting not only red blood cells, but the production of white cells and platelets as well.  Without enough red blood cells to carry oxygen, enough white blood cells to fight infection, and enough platelets to stop bleeding, those in advanced stages of aplastic anemia don’t live for long without treatment.  While many people in La Chureca are diagnosed with Anemia due to malnutrition, three have been diagnosed with aplastic anemia.  They happen to all live next to each other.

With a probability of 1.5 people out of 1,000,000 for someone to contract aplastic anemia (in the US, but it’s the only stat I have), the likelihood that three people who live next to each other will all contract the disease is almost impossible unless it was caused by a toxin common to all three.  The dump is very toxic, but John Doty, a doctor from Austin who helps fund the clinic, thinks the cause was likely lead.  Residents of La Chureca breathe fumes from burning trash, touch the toxins directly that are left behind on old trash, and have been known to fish and do laundry in the highly polluted pond by their community.

Pond in Managua's trash dump
Decades of trash runoff has accumulated in the pond. The highest toxicity levels have been found in the people who lived closest to it.

At this point, Santa Reina’s treatment is just about trying to help her have a comfortable life before she passes.  The permanent solution to this in the States is a bone marrow transplant or a treatment based specifically on the toxin that caused the condition.  Even with a bone marrow transplant, which would be very expensive, she probably wouldn’t live longer than five years more.

By getting blood transfusions, Santa Reina’s blood is replaced with the healthy blood of someone else.  Temporarily her body all the blood cells it needs again.  Volunteers say she’s instantly happy, energetic, and talkative after returning from the hospital.  As the days pass she becomes weak, begins bleeding from her gums again, and starts to faint easily.

Children in La Chureca
Yoanna and Sarah playing behind me while talking with Santa Reina. Sarah is one of the children with aplastic anemia

We used a total of $271 to fund the clinic in doing the following things:

  • To provide extra medical care for Santa Reina.  Right now she’s receiving a little more than one transfusion a month.  We wanted to help her have more frequent transfusions, if possible.   We hope more transfusions will mean she’s at home with her kids more often, something extremely important to her (when she was hospitalized for 42 days she eventually just got up and left because she didn’t want to be away from her kids for that long).
  • To pay for tests to see what caused the blood condition.  Though Santa Reina is at the end of her life, it’s possible that something could be done for the neighboring kids. With a better understanding of what caused their aplastic anemia more effective treatment can be given.  MPI has a volunteer who is a pre-med student, JJ, who has taken special interest in Santa Reina.  JJ will work with Dr. John Doty, sending him information he needs to do remote tests from Austin, TX.
  • To provide iron supplements, mouthwash, and milk for her and the kids. Iron competes with lead and other toxins in blood cells, decreasing the amount of time it takes for the body to remove toxins, as well as being a main nutrient needed in red blood cells.  Mouthwash is for those times when Santa Reina’s gums are bleeding and she can’t brush her teeth.

This video is eight-minutes long, I didn’t have time to cut it, but just wanted to let you hear her voice and see her personality.  I’ll subtitle it later.

Right now volunteers have been paying for some of the things for Santa Reina out of their own pocket.  She’s technically outside of their mission, but they all love her, she’s very nice and always happy to see them, and they want to help.  Hopefully this donation will help alleviate some of that cost.

Scholarships

Esmeralda is the head nurse and social worker in the clinic within La Chureca.  Being Nicaraguan herself, and with 10 years of experience in giving medical and social care to residents of La Chureca, I’m not sure there are many people who understand their needs better than her.  In our candid conversation about issues in La Chureca she brought up an unmet need – scholarships for promising children to go to private school outside the dump.

Scholarships to 2 kids in La chureca

As she and the principle of the school explain it, going to private school means more opportunity for the children: smaller class sizes, higher discipline, access to a psychologist, a library, and a computer lab.  Also, children are given incentives to be the best in their class – the top student in each class has their tuition cut in half.  They begin English courses from preschool all the way through 15-years old, an absolutely huge competitive advantage for them (there are many telecommunication companies that pay very well in Managua, and more opportunities to come as Nicaragua develops).

We used $210 on scholarships, giving two children the opportunity of a better education

  • $80 each for beginning of the year costs (books, supplies, uniforms, etc.)
  • $25 each for the first month’s tuition

Meet the students:

Scholarships in La Chureca

Judith Mercedes Contreras Betancur – 11 years old, in 4th grade of primary school.

Scholarships to private school in la chureca

Roberto Antonio Martinez Chavez – 15 years old, in 1st grade of secondary school.
We’ve only provided the first month’s tuition for these two students – if you’d like to become one of their permanent sponsors please let me know!  It costs exactly what is above – $25 a month, $80 at the beginning of the year.  Esmeralda will be coordinating all of this in her spare time – I’ll send her the money each month and she’ll send me receipts, grades, and she’ll also send letters from the kids to the sponsor so you can be up to date (again all her idea).  Also, if one of the kids gets the best grades in their class and earns half-cost tuition, we’d like to do something special for them.  Kids have two breaks each year–one in summer and one in winter–and Esmeralda would like to give them the money they saved on tuition as spending money.
The impact of a good education can make a huge difference for a child – consider signing up to support one of these two 🙂

Jewelry Cooperative

Jewelry made in la chureca
Picture courtesy of Manna Project International

There are a lot of challenges facing the people of La Chureca.  With the Spanish program almost at completion, residents will be moving into their new homes shortly.  It’s a great opportunity, but presents a lot of challenges as well.  For example, they won’t be able to bring their animals with them, they’ll have less income, and they’ll have to pay electricity and water bills for the first time of their lives.

Four months ago, Manna Project International launched a jewelry cooperative, bringing women together to learn a new skill and have the chance for more income throughout their lives.  MPI received a $27,000 grant from Walmart to get started, but will soon be self-sufficient from sales.

handmade jewelry from nicaragua

They’re selling the jewelry in local malls and in the Airport, and are constantly looking for new retailers in Nicaragua, but so far haven’t found anyone to sell it in the States.

I’d like to help with that.

Jewelry from Managua Nicaragua
Made from cans and bottles

We purchased $105 worth of jewelry with your donations and brought it back with us to get started, and are working on being permanent retailers, hoping to provide consistent demand for their jewelry to help them have a better life.  More details to come 🙂

Special thanks

First of all, thank you so much to everyone who donated!  I hope you enjoy these stories as much as I do.  I’ll do my best to keep you up to date with our new Nicaraguan friends so you know how things are going.

Also, thanks to the nonprofits and people who helped me while in country.  Outmore Adventures, Manna Project International, Austin Samaritans, and the many others I’ve come into contact with since.

If you’d like to help

This trip was part of my continuing goal to understand philanthropy and find the type of nonprofit work I want to focus on.  I’m looking for an unmet need that matches my skill-set, something that I believe in passionately enough to [hopefully] make a long term impact.

I’ll be going on more trips, every 4 or 6 months.  I pay for the trips myself, but open it up to you to donate through me.  100% of every donation goes to the people the donation was meant for – I pay all the PayPal, ATM, and conversion fees.  If you’d like to be a part of it next time just send me an email and I’ll let you know when I’m accepting donations!

Also, if you’d like me to take a look at your nonprofit or an organization you think is doing some great work, I’d love to hear from you!

Check out the album on Facebook

Thanks for coming, and please – share this story with your friends 🙂

The Great Jersey Hunt!

Hey all!

Yesterday you met one of my new friends, Juan Antonio Carbrera – and he has one more request I wanted to call on your help for!  You see – Juan’s favorite hobby is baseball.  He loves watching it and talking about it, so I offered to do a couple of things for him for fun!  Video time!

Rough Translation

(Juan) “Thanks to everyone who contributed so this could help me, I feel very happy with my new mattress, for the other supplies, thank you very much. Thanks for sending Jefferson with this help. I thank you with all my heart.”
(me) “Haha, its all good, and we’re going to send you a baseball Jersey too, ok? And . . .”
(Juan) “Great, then, I’ll be waiting as well!”
(me) “Which team?”
(Juan) “Atlanta or Texas!”

Ok – so I’m giving the shout out to you all to see who can track down an extra Atlanta Braves Jersey!  Also – if you’re a baseball aficionado and know of some great baseball highlights movies, please post the titles below so I can burn him a DVD with some great content he can watch when there isn’t a game on TV.  We’ll send out the package, and ask him to send us back some pics sporting the new jersey, and see how he’s liking the other things you helped donate.

Just post down below if you can help out with either of those – thanks!

The 3 Donation Projects Funded By You!

Two days before I left for Nicaragua I decided to open up the donation coffers and give you all the chance to help a Nicaraguan in need through me.  In those two days $250 was donated!  Woot for my first fund raising event!  Since the average income in Nicaragua is a little over $1,000, that much money can go a long way when put in the right place.  The problem is . . . who to help?  After directly experiencing the negative side effects of charity in Granada and San Juan (free-loaders and loss of personal responsibility) I felt inadequate to judge who could use the money the best, so I asked the locals from the non-profits I was working with to point me in the right direction; to send me to a great person in their community but who was in need and really deserved a break.  So, without further adieu, here are the three recipients of your donations 🙂

Juan Antonio Carbrera

Juan, a kindred spirit to myself, was climbing a tree when he was 11, fell out and landed badly on his back, resulting in his paralysis neck-down ever since.  Sometimes I go to a charity program and try to help out and just end up feeling crappy by the end of it – the drag of seeing people who are depressed and out of luck can pull you down.  The opposite was true with Juan – he is a bright, happy, talkative, and funny guy who makes the best of his situation and stays positive in spite of always seeing what he can’t do because of his accident.  He has a supportive family, staying with his brother and his sister in law, who foot the bill for his medications, his depends, food, and other care.  That can be expensive, so we wanted to help them out while at the same time adding a little comfort to Juan’s life, who spends most of his time in bed.  After chatting with him and his sister-law-for a bit, Alejandro and I took a trip into Rivas to pick up the goods (30 minutes away).  This is what we picked up:

10 packages of depends (the kind Juan likes best) to help out the family with costs of care – $65.

A brand new orthopedic mattress to replace the one he was using, which was over 10 years old.  It gets hot in Nicaragua, in case you don’t know, and fans only go so far – this bed won’t only be more comfortable, but also help keep him cool.  We got a 34% discount from the mattress dealer since it was for charity – $102.

4 cases of Juan’s favorite drink: Powerade – $30.

“La Viejita” – (“little old lady,” but more endearing sounding in spanish . . . )

This woman has a pretty sad story, but continues forward regardless of the difficulties in her past.  She is 65 years old and lives by herself about 10 minute’s drive from Rio Blanco on a rough dirt road.  Her husband died years ago, and her two sons became drunks, ran the farm into the ground, and left her to herself.  Each day she goes to a nearby farm that lets her pick limes and then walks to town to sell them for .5 Cordobas each (a little over 2 cents), usually making 30 Cordobas a day, which she lives off of.  We got to her home a little late, as the sun was setting, and she was already about ready to lie down to sleep.  The smoke was thick and the room dark, and there were a few chickens there to keep her company, but other than that she was alone.  I couldn’t help but think of my grandma and imagine her in these conditions, abandoned by those she had raised.  But the community continually reaches out in the ways they can – by giving her rides, helping organize donations through the churches, letting her pick the limes, and letting her live in her home by the side of the road.  We were able to buy her $25 worth of food – 2 bags of rice, 2 bags of sugar, 2 bags of corn meal, coffee, quaker oatmeal, 4 pouches of instant soup, a loaf of bread, a soft fleece blanket, and soap.

Jader Roberto Rivera Lopez

Giving in Nicaragua

14 days ago, after sunset, Jader was a few blocks away from his home when a rough guy he knew called out to him from across the street.  This guy had broken his sister’s arm a few years back and gone unpunished, so Jader didn’t respond, which angered the drunken man.  The man came up to Jader, who was sitting on the curb by himself, and tried to kill him . . . hacking at him with his machete, something commonly carried in the area to cut underbrush and kill snakes.  Jader showed me the scars . . . one across his neck on the muscle right next to the jugular, one across his belly, and the rest on his arms.  Shocked, surprised, and badly hurt, he somehow stumbled to his knees amidst the blows, got up unto his feet, and started to run.  He made it close to his home by the time he collapsed into a gutter; highly polluted water flowed into the wounds in his left arm, forcing it’s amputation a few hours later in the hospital.  Jader has had a difficult life; his father died when he was young, leaving 8 kids to his widowed mother.  She was strong, selling tortillas and doing laundry to support the family, and taught her children to be hard workers.  Jader became a truck driver for livestock in the area – now, with one arm gone, he’s planning on starting a little shop and selling goods from it.  He’s a faithful member of a local Evangelical church, and stated “Since I’m alive, there must be a purpose,” and believes god will help him accomplish that and make a good living.  His assailant, yet again, goes unpunished, but he’s trying to avoid anger, having faith that God will see to justice in the end.  We had only $25 left, so we bought him some supplies – 1 bag of rice, 1 bag of sugar, 40 small packages of instant oatmeal, 2 bars of soap, toilet paper, powdered milk, toothbrush and toothpaste, and gave him 300 Cordobas ($13) in cash to use with medication or whatever else he needs.  It will cost him about $1,000 to start his shop, for which he’ll probably take out a loan, if he qualifies, at a rate of 12 to 14%.

Thank you so much for your donation – for making this experience possible for the beneficiaries, letting me be a part of it, and letting yourself be uplifted by it as well.  This is the kind of thing that makes living more frugally meaningful; the impact of a small amount of savings can mean a world of difference to someone in a developing country.  The issue with donating is making sure the resources aren’t crippling the productivity of the recipient, the funds are going to someone truly deserving, and that a large percentage of the donation isn’t lost to administrative costs.  While these types of projects for these 3 are crucial and meaningful, my goal over the next year is to find a focus for non-profit efforts that doesn’t just attempt to alleviate the pain of a few, but create uplift in the system as a whole; a sustainable, self-directed program for and by the people themselves which will help others like these three for generations to come.  So – please subscribe, share your thoughts, and lets find that focus together.  Thanks for reading!

(p.s. – special thanks to Alejandro at Comunidad Connect and Maria Inez at Project Schoolhouse for working with me to find good people and a good way to help them)

Come to Nicaragua With Me!

nicaraguan child smiling

Hey all!

My Nicaragua trip is coming up in 2 short days!  I’m busy getting everything packed up, immunizations handled, and all that brooha, and thought I’d like to give others the chance to participate with me in my trip!  I’ll be going around to different non-profit groups and in the cities trying to experience the world of philanthropy and the people of Nicaragua, and I’ll be meeting a lot of people who deserve some love from my American friends – so if you’ve been wanting to give to a good cause but haven’t found an organization you feel passionate about, here’s a good opportunity to give a little bit and see the impact a small donation can make in someone’s life.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Let me know how much you want to donate.  You can use PayPal or deposit it to my account at Wells Fargo titled “Nicaragua Donations.”
  2. I’ll look for a good opportunity to help someone out, and snap a pic of them so you can see who your money went to!  I’ll keep track of this while I’m away and update you when I get back.

Who it could help:

  • A talented artisan who lives by what they sell in the market each day.  It can buy excess cloth so they can build an inventory and start making a profit.
  • A farmer (for the same reason) to buy extra seed or fertilizer so they can buy more seed the next season.
  • Kids in rural areas who need books for their school.
  • A mother who deserves something nice from the market.
  • A hard working day laborer who wants to help send his child to college.

Of course the donation could go to any number of people as the opportunities present themselves, or directly to a non-profit I come across that I think is doing great work.  Who knows who will receive your donation?

Let me know if you’d like more details!

(If you’d like to participate – let me know who you are and how much you’re donating so I can keep track, and then you can donate via PayPal (click the button on the right) or by depositing to the separate Wells Fargo account I have titled “Nicaragua Donations” (just go into Wells and ask them to deposit it to me in that account and they’ll know what to do).  Everything donated will go directly towards helping others, none of this will go to paying for my trip.  If I don’t find someone to use your donation for I’ll give you a call and see if you’d like me to send the funds back to you or donate it somewhere else you’d like.  Also, this isn’t a tax-deductible contribution since I don’t yet have a 501(c)3 established, but is a great way to see the direct impact of your contribution!)