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Church volunteers in Nicaragua

Valencia United Methodist team builds bathrooms to replace the two outhouses for area elementary sch

Posted: February 16, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: February 16, 2013 2:00 a.m.

VUMC volunteers work alongside Chacocente residents for the new bathrooms that will replace the elementary school's two outhouses.

A team of volunteers from the Valencia United Methodist Church traveled to Nicaragua the first week of March to offer assistance to poor families. The families live in shacks in and around an area known as la chureca, a large trash dump located in Central Nicaragua near the city of Managua.

During past trips, volunteers helped the residents of this area by constructing homes and building a high school in the area of Chacocente. Chacocente is the area which many la chureca residents now call home.

This year, the team helped to build bathrooms for the elementary school, which until now consisted of two outhouses. Volunteers enjoy coming back each year knowing the economic and personal impact their assistance offers the families of the destitute area.

“We have seen such growth in the families that live in Chacocente in the last four years,” said Deb Manahan, a fourth- year returning volunteer. “They have the deeds to their houses and land and are so thankful. My whole spiritual growth is renewed every year we do this.”

Volunteers were especially impressed by many of the women and children who helped alongside the volunteers. Many of the women would carry two or three cinder blocks while many volunteers could only lift one.

“It was an incredibly powerful experience,” said first-time volunteer Robin Dal Soglio. “It really gave us the feeling that we were all in it together.”

Volunteers were surprised to see that the government began bulldozing the area of land around the trash dump, where so many families had built shanty homes. Instead, the government provided small houses about 20 square feet in size about a mile away.

Progress in poverty

The team was also able to visit Accion Medica Cristiana, or AMC, a medical clinic the church helps fund. The clinic is run by a Methodist missionary and offers free medical services. It also helps to train people to provide dental services. These dental assistants visit the rural areas of Nicaragua, like the crime -ridden Atlantic Coast, that need it most.

“Many of these people have silver teeth or rotted-out teeth,” said Manahan. “Getting a toothbrush and toothpaste is a big deal.”

Nicaragua has approximately one dentist per 20,000 people, making AMC services and training severely needed. The church team was able to take nearly 1,000 toothbrushes, tubes of tooth paste and floss to the families in Managua. For many, this was their first toothbrush.

In spite of the progress that has been made, Nicaragua remains the second poorest country in the world. Volunteers from the team know there is still more to do and look forward to returning next year and continuing to help.

“Our next goal is to try to provide these families with a well so they can have running water,” said Pastor John Shaver. “We still feel God has work for us there. ”


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