The Difference You Make in Family Nutrition

The Nicaraguan diet is as delicious as it is simple. The typical breakfast is the gallo pinto, refried rice and beans.

For many rural families, the gallo pinto is not only a breakfast dish, but more of a main diet that they have for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And more often than not, it is accompanied by other carb-laden foods, such as the tortilla, made of corn flour, or bread.

Such heavy carbohydrate consumption, combined with few fruits and vegetables, leads to many health problems which can start early. Obesity-related conditions like diabetes and hypertension are the biggest killers in Nicaragua.

Nicaragua actually has a rich cuisine, which makes use of ample combinations of local vegetables to produce flavorful dishes that are as delicious as they are nutritional. However, farmers don’t traditionally cultivate fruits and vegetables and buying them is often too expensive.

With your help this reality is being transformed, table by table and family by family.

Families learn how to grow healthy vegetables, such as bell peppers, onions, cucumbers, and more in their own backyards. Depending on their immediate need, they can both eat them or sell them. Many families have improved their family diet and their finances through this program.

Agricultural programs made possible by your generosity teach families to grow many fruits and vegetables for both family consumption and better income.

With the produce that they can now grow on their own, families now have a constant source of healthy vitamins to sustain their health. The added benefit is that families are learning tools that will support them in the long-term. Your impact through support of CEPAD’s training will continue in these communities long after we have moved on to helping others.

From Violence to Safety: Your help for Refugees

Gang violence in countries like El Salvador and Honduras has created a refugee problem for families in Central America. Many go to Nicaragua where your support of CEPAD means they can start over without fear. Karla is one of those affected by this violence.

Nicaragua is the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere while also being one of the safest countries in Central America. The most common cause for fear and insecurity in Nicaragua is petty theft caused by poverty and lack of adequate jobs.

Things are different in neighboring countries such as Honduras and El Salvador. Unlike in Nicaragua, large parts–or all parts, some argue–of Honduras and El Salvador are controlled by gangs. Each gang has control over a particular area, and when other gang members intrude into their sector, firefights and violence occurs.

For some, staying in their country is not an option–for them, the only way to be safe and have peace of mind is to leave the country altogether. Nicaragua is often their destination, due to the safety and lack of gangs in the country.

Once they arrive in Nicaragua with no belongings, no family and no contacts they are desperate for help to establish a new life.

With your aid, CEPAD works with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) to provide food, shelter, and legal aid to refugees from around the world, some coming from as far as Eastern Europe and the Middle East. Most refugees in Nicaragua are from El Salvador and Honduras.

Karla* is one of the refugees, running away from the gang violence in El Salvador.

Karla started dating a boy when they were 15. Shortly after they began dating he joined a gang and she wanted to end the relationship. However, when she found out she was pregnant she decided to give him some time, hoping that he might change after their daughter was born. A few years passed with no change.

One day her boyfriend was involved in a violent incident against a young girl belonging to a rival gang and he was sentenced to 14 years in prison. Karla was forced to visit him in prison with her daughter by members of his gang.

After many more years, and with her daughter having grown older and more aware of the situation, Karla decided she had had enough, and moved to Nicaragua. She had no acquaintances, no belongings, and no knowledge of how things work in Nicaragua. But she was told that CEPAD works to help refugees, and she sought out CEPAD offices to ask for help.

Your generous donations have enabled CEPAD to find her a home to stay in, and continue working with immigration to help her obtain legal status.

Her daughter, who is now 15, is enrolled in a school and is hoping to study English in college after she graduates. They still worry that they might be recognized, and asked for anonymity in this interview. But in Nicaragua, they don’t have to look over their shoulders, afraid that an enemy gang member might be stalking them. They have been reborn, in a sense, thanks to the joint efforts of CEPAD, the UN, and generous donors like you.

* Names have been changed for reasons of personal safety.

Your amazing support means better nutrition for Tomasa and her family!

Thanks to your generosity Tomasa’s family is eating healthier food they are planting themselves. She used to plant only beans and corn, but now they are planting and eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables including peppers, papaya, squash and spinach.

“My name is Tomasa del Socorro Loasisiga Diaz, I am 46 years old. In my house I live with my dad, my mom, my grandmother and four brothers, one of whom is disabled.

We have always dedicated ourselves to agriculture, we planted corn and beans but to cover our needs we also worked for other people so we could purchase sugar, oil, rice, peppers, tomatoes and other products we didn’t produce.

Our community has very little water, everything is very dry. My brothers have to walk 1 hour uphill to get to the place where we plant our corn and beans, for this reason our planting conditions have been very difficult and with the drought we have had for the last three years it has become even more difficult.

In our families our staples are beans, or gallo pinto (mixed rice and beans) with tortilla, cheese and a cup of coffee. If we had extra money we used to purchase a few tomatoes, at least once a week.

I have received 6 trainings thanks to CEPAD which have helped me to improve our plot, produce more and eat healthier food. We have seen a big difference in the way that we eat, our family is eating better products we are planting in our plot without chemicals.

This has allowed me to vary the food we eat because now I produce peppers, papaya, squash and spinach. It has also helped me to improve the diet of my brother who has challenges, who was malnourished. I have also learned how to prepare dishes using everything I produce….I feel very content and my family is excited about it.

Today with these trainings I feel very content and strengthened because now I can identify problems and diseases with our crops and I can produce nutritional food.”


Interview with Joan Parajon

Joan Parajon is the widow of CEPAD’s late founder, Gustavo Parajon. We recently caught up with her so we could share with you what she is up to and why she continues to support CEPAD.

-Where are you living today? What are you doing and how is your family?

Well, I retired in 2012 from being the director of the choir at First Baptist Church. “Coro Parajón-Dominguez,” that’s what it’s called. I had turned it over to a young man who was very enthusiastic about continuing.

And then, this April, surprise! The director said that he would no longer be the director. Since there were not a lot of directors waiting around to step in, the next morning I came back to my old post, playing the piano for the service and directing the choir. And I felt at home! After spending 38 years as the director, I certainly hadn’t planned this. The Lord has plans that we don’t know anything about. That was a big surprise.

I was eighty years old in April, and I hope that my energy keeps up for a while, but you never know!

Music is the core that ties my whole life together. I spend time with my family, with my grandchildren, and I get to drive them to school some days, when David and Laura (son and daughter-in-law) are very busy, or out somewhere in the countryside. I don’t see them enough because they’re very busy. A lot busier than I am. But I see them leaving, in time, to go to study in universities in the States. One girl came back to study here, after she had left. She liked it here, so she’s studying in a university here that is a US university, so I get to see her again. But they’re scattered all over.

I have a great-grandson now, who is in New Jersey. I haven’t seen him for a year, so looking forward to that. Family has always been my love, and I love all my grandchildren, and my children too.

I didn’t leave Nicaragua this year. This is the first year that I haven’t left. For twelve years, we went to Green Lake, Wisconsin, to the Music Conference every July. I took part of my family with me, and the children grew up singing in the choirs there until they were in High School and they graduated. So it was a very special experience for them that they won’t forget. It was worth every penny for the experience they had in the Music Conference. I recommend it to anybody. I hope to go back next year.

One week, but intense singing and listening. Great experience.

We also have a lot of contact with our church in Cleveland, where Gustavo and I became members when he went to Case Western Reserve Medical School, and we lived in Cleveland for eight years and we became members of the First Baptist Church, and then they became interested in Nicaragua, and they have projects that they do here, and we still have a lot of ties with the people in the First Baptist in Cleveland. So that would be our home church.

So there’s a group that comes from the church every summer, and they’re here for about ten days.

-In your opinion how has Nicaragua changed over the last 10 years or so? Do they seem better or worse than they used to be?

I don’t want to get into politics… (Laughs)

I’m happy here in Nicaragua. I feel that we have the freedom to worship in any way we choose. It’s a Christian nation, and I feel that there are some things that haven’t worked out exactly right, but I feel that it’s a wonderful place to be. I feel safe, and so there’s a nice atmosphere here, people working and trying to do something together. That’s my opinion.

There are so many things that happened in the US now. Violence is all over. When I go up there to visit, I am afraid something might happen, but I don’t feel that way here. So I am in the right place right now.

-What are your thoughts on the last presidential election?

(On the Nicaraguan elections) I didn’t vote, of course. I’m still a US citizen.

I feel like the Ortegas have done a lot for Nicaragua, especially for the poor people. That is their concentration. The upper class people are unhappy, and maybe the middle class also. The poor people love them because they receive a lot from them. I know that the election was not fair, because there weren’t any other candidates. But I don’t get involved politics here.

The Ortegas are nice people. They liked Gustavo very much, and were very supportive of what he did. The first Christmas in 2011, the year he died, they called me on Christmas Eve to tell me that they were thinking about me that night, the first Christmas without him. I thought that was a very kind thing, thoughtful, that they took time to do that.

-Why do you continue to support CEPAD as a donor?

Because I believe in CEPAD! I also support Amos. My son and daughter-in-law are the directors and founders of Amos. Laura and David.

-What do you think of CEPAD’s continued work?

I’m always very supportive of CEPAD. They do wonderful work all over Nicaragua, and I’m very proud of the organization that it has become. Wish I had more time to know more, and to go out and visit some of the projects. But I’m very glued to music right now, especially now.

-Can you talk about when Dr. Parajon founded CEPAD? What did you think at that time? Did you think he was crazy for taking on such a big project?

It was chaotic. It was such a terrible time here in Managua. I couldn’t believe that such a thing had happened—the earthquake. This is in 1972. It was a terrible shock, and our lives changed dramatically that night.

Right away, within a couple of days, he was on his way down to the Baptist school to have a meeting and receive representatives from different churches, and there were donations coming in from around the world, and some churches were getting more than others, so he and others thought and talked about it and decided there should be a way to distribute the money and have a group called CEPAD for this work. Originally the “D” in CEPAD was for damnificados. As the years went on, they changed the meaning to development. But at the beginning, they were sharing food everywhere, having kitchens to feed people that had nothing, it was a time of chaos, really, to try to help as many people as they could.

I had just learned how to operate a ham radio, and I was on the radio like 7 hours a day, talking to people out there that were calling in to ask if I could go look for their mom, that she lived in this and this address, and we would go and find these people. Some of the houses didn’t exist any longer. It was a time I’ll never forget. It was terrible. But CEPAD came and the organization got everything lined up and organized. The churches were cooperating together, and it was nice—churches cooperating together.

As the years went by, there were fewer churches in the group, but in the beginning they were all cooperating together, and that was wonderful that we could all work together for the Lord.

-Is there anything you would say to people who donate to CEPAD?

Don’t forget about us down here. There are so many things going on around the world and in your own country, but CEPAD has been working hard all these years, and needs your continued support to continue.

2017: Working Together for Nicaragua

With your renewed support in 2017 we will can provide more training to the poor in Nicaragua. Here are our key priorities for the coming year, you will make this and more possible! Please make a gift today to make this happen. (Click here to make a gift)

You Can Help Confront Climate Change

Climate change continues to be a very real threat to the poor in Nicaragua. We will help farmers install water capture systems to provide them with alternatives for watering their crops to ensure sufficient food production year round. With your support we will also continue to emphasize the use of seeds with short crop cycles that are drought resistant, all of which will help to support farming families to feed themselves.

You’ll Feed More Families: Good Nutrition for Kids

Children are the most vulnerable to poor nutrition which can affect their health, growth and well being. In 2017 we will prioritize the monitoring and improvement of the nutrition of children under 5.

This will be accomplished with your continued gifts through family gardens planted with fruits and vegetables and through cooking classes for mothers aimed at recipes using locally produced fruits and vegetables.

You Can Invest in More Leaders, and Transform More Lives

Village leaders will continue to receive important trainings to develop their knowledge and ability to advocate for their village members. You will help us to coordinate meetings with village leaders and local municipal authorities to ensure funding for projects prioritized by the leaders.

Creating God’s Kingdom Here on Earth

In 2017 we want to show you how important you are and the incredible impact you have through your gifts. Together we are helping to build the Kingdom of God here on earth, one family at a time. Thank you for your amazing support and what it makes possible in Nicaragua.


You Changed Lives in 2016

We want to celebrate the successes that were made possible thanks to YOU in 2016! There are many families that are healthier, happier and living better lives thanks to your generosity. Here are a few of the important highlights that were made possible by you.

You’re Supporting Leaders: Building Infrastructure and Improving Lives

33 projects were funded and carried out by village leaders in 42 villages. You made 3 trainings possible in 2016 and now leaders have made strides in improving the conditions in their villages. These projects are making significant changes for village residents as they included

  • digging wells
  • installing latrines
  • improving roads
  • installing electricity

More projects are being solicited and carried out thanks to your support every single day!

You’re Giving a Voice: Youth Learning about Healthy Relationships

Nicaragua has one of the highest teen birth rates in Latin America. Thanks to your amazing support  hundreds of youth have participated in trainings and forums to learn about healthy relationships and the importance of education and stable relationships   prior to starting a family. These are topics that are often taboo, thank you for making this happen!

You’re Feeding Families: You Helped Teach Women Good Nutrition

Women in Matagalpa learned about creating products with high quality for their businesses and about financial education. 6 women received loans to invest in their businesses.

Women in all 41 villages where CEPAD works produced fruits and vegetables for their families and learning about the importance of good nutrition. They have harvested peppers, lettuce, squash, carrots onions and tomatoes. These family garden participants receive constant support and follow-up from CEPAD’s field staff.

To make more amazing things possible in 2017 please consider a donation right now! Click here to make a gift. 

From Farming to Tech Jobs: Computer Training with Your Help

Nicaragua is one of the poorest countries in the Western hemisphere. Minimum wage is barely $170 per month—with 48-hour workweeks. Thanks to your help, youth in Matagalpa have hope for their future. Your funding has supported computer training which has allowed youth to access college majors and job prospects they may not have otherwise. Thank you!


Forty-nine students graduated on Thursday, October 6, from the Computer Training Program run by CEPAD in Matagalpa. The training program consisted of over 120 hours of hands-on coursework. The courses were taught by professors from local universities, and were made available to everyone with an interest in learning more about computers. The program has graduated over 270 students over the past five years.


Matagalpa is a municipality with many young people, nearly 50% are under 16. Unfortunately, there are few opportunities for so many youth if they don’t have proper training. Matagalpa is mostly made up of virgin forests, agricultural areas, and fields for livestock. While past generations have been content with their living and working conditions, greater access to information and the rapid changes of the modern world have caused the younger generations to seek better and more modern opportunities for work and life.



Milton has high hopes for his future thanks generous support of CEPAD’s computer programs.

Milton is one of the students who graduated this October. A native of Ocotal, a small village located 30 minutes of unpaved roads away from Matagalpa, Milton is a 17-year-old who is studying to become an industrial engineer. He comes from a family of seven, including his parents, two older brothers and two younger sisters.


His experience so far in life has been mostly working in the field, growing beans, corn, and other vegetables. Only a decade ago, he would most likely have been destined to the same work for the rest of his life.


However, with the modernization of Matagalpa, Milton wants to set his sights higher, and become the first one in his family to become both a college graduate and an industrial engineer.


One of the biggest hurdles for engineering students in Nicaragua is knowledge in using spreadsheet programs, such as Microsoft Excel, in order to perform complex mathematical calculations. This is also true in Milton’s case. Milton has no access to a computer at home, and CEPAD’s training program is the only way he can become more experienced in computer use. The 6-month long program has provided Milton with the tools necessary to excel in his coursework, and by extension, his future career.


By becoming an industrial engineer, Milton will be earning more than 3 times the Nicaraguan minimum wage. This will make sure he earns more than the basic living expense for a family of three, which the government estimates at around $400 monthly. He will be able to provide for his family, and if his spouse works as well, they will be able to buy a house, transportation, and perhaps even give back to their community.


However, the road to success is not easy. Milton is working hard to pay for his college tuition, which at $50 a month, is a meager sum by US standards, but a difficult burden to Milton and his family. Having access to CEPAD’s computer training has allowed Milton, and many others like him, to continue his dreams by acquiring computer skills without having to buy a computer or pay for expensive classes.


The 49 students who graduated this year, and the 270 who graduated from the past 5 years, all have similar stories of their own. All of these stories have been made possible through your thoughtful and caring contributions. Often what these young men and women need is a glimmer of hope that they can actually achieve what they set out to do, and they will find the strength to keep going.


You provide hope for a better future to these young adults. Our training program helps them apply to higher-earning jobs that give them access to more advanced career paths. Professional jobs in architecture, engineering, and banking all require computer proficiency, and therefore remain out of the reach of the majority of the rural poor. CEPAD’s computer program is accredited by all regional universities, giving them a much needed advantage for getting a job.


With your continued help, we can keep empowering many Nicaraguan youth and young adults into a more promising future, and together make a better Nicaragua, and a better world. If you would like to continue to support this and other programs please visit our donate page

The Village of Sompopera Now has Running Water

Pedro and Yanira used to have to carry water for their family, their crops and their animals. Every villager in Sompompera struggled after wells dried up due to a prolonged drought. After your support for training, village leaders ran over 5 mile of pipes to bring water from a mountain spring. Life is now different in Sompopera, all thanks to you.


For the last 30 years, Pedro Herrera has farmed his land in the mountains of Pantasma, in the northern region of Nicaragua. His large mustache parts to reveal a set of silver-plated teeth as he greets us at his porch. “People from CEPAD are always welcome at my house,” he says.

Pedro’s village of Sompopera faced big challenges. The families in the village didn’t have potable water. The lack of rain caused the water springs and wells to dry up. There were only two options, they could either purchase water from a truck that entered their village once a week or they had to walk a mile or more to the nearest clean water source.

Pedro’s family had to transport the water they needed by hand or in an ox cart. Even though an ox cart is a luxury for many, they still couldn’t get enough to water for their crops and to adequately provide water to their farm animals.

Six years ago, CEPAD began work in the village of Sompopera where Pedro lives. Pedro is one of the community leaders. He remembers attending the first trainings provided by CEPAD and learned things he had never learned before. He then used that knowledge to help people around him.

With their new knowledge from CEPAD Pedro and the other village leaders knew they now had the ability to make much needed changes. They formed a cooperative and worked hard with local government and others to fund the installation of over 5 miles of water pipes to bring water to the village from a mountain spring.

After three years of hard work, the project is now close to being completed. The most backbreaking work is done. The pipe has been purchased and is expected to be put in the ground next week. “See that trench beside the road? It goes all the way up the mountain to the natural spring.” Pedro continues, “every family benefited by the project was responsible for digging 20 yards of trench.”

In 2014 CEPAD finished work with the village of Sompopera but Pedro and the other the village leaders are now equipped to continue solving problems affecting their neighbors.  Pedro smiles again, only the second time he has smiled since we started talking, as he looks at the recently dug trench. “Next we need to get some electricity into the community.”

One of the most important aspects of CEPAD’s work in the communities is that the work and improvements continue long after the five-year plan ends.

This project is almost complete, but the work of the community leaders is all but done. Thanks to the support you provide for CEPAD’s work in this community, these leaders will continue bringing change for their families and neighbors.

Rodolfo’s Home Garden Changed His Life

Resting on a hand built reclining bench sits Rodolfo Pineda and his young daughter Katherin. A young boy races past the porch lined with flowering plants. The front of Rodolfo’s house is a little “pulperia”, a local name given to a small store with daily need items.

Rodolfo greets us warmly and explains he was part of the CEPAD program during the previous five-year cycle in his community, Sompopera. Though the work that you made possible is officially over, he and the other community leaders continue to work together to improve their community. Rodolfo is eloquent and talkative. He immediately begins sharing about his five-year experience with CEPAD. All the benefits Rodolfo has for his family were provided by you. This is just one family in one town, your gifts make similar things possible for families all over Nicaragua. The following is a transcript of what he said:


“It seems that CEPAD has been a forerunner and I have discovered more of the good work that CEPAD carries out in other communities… for example the contours, fruit trees… The other day I went to an event and I was asked if I wanted to be part of a government fair composed of people who have home gardens. They come and pick you up in a truck and take you to the events put on by the Ministry of Home Economy (MEFCCA). If CEPAD hadn’t helped us with the home gardens we wouldn’t be able to go to these fairs and sell and improve ourselves in better fairs. This is an open door for us to work with other entities.

“CEPAD’s interest is that people who have some land should start using it, because before we didn’t use it because no one showed any interest… but having a house with fruit trees around it is very important! It raises the price of the property, provides shade, keeps the house cool and our children eat better.”

It is no longer necessary for me to give my money to the doctor for him to tell me that my kids lack vitamins, because now [these vitamins] are found directly in my home garden. If I told you all the benefits CEPAD has provided right now we would fill a book.”

“Another thing that CEPAD has pushed is the incentive to plant a tree. There are many who won’t take the time to plant one because they won’t see an immediate benefit. This is very selfish. It is lack of culture. We work for our future generations, not just for us. It is important to leave behind a good footprint.”

“Many times people come by, as well as CEPAD people and I tell them ‘I have a home garden in the back. Go pick something and take it with you!’ ” 

“The fruit trees are now giving, and with our challenging economy, they are providing us with some “pesitos” [money]. There are some merchants that come through and buy from us when there is great demand for limes… coconuts. Right now they are buying starfruit.”


As Rodolfo walks us towards the back of his property and shows us his fruit trees and other plants he has learned to harvest from from CEPAD, one thing is clear, he has taken advantage of all the training and coaching from CEPAD. However, he is also more than willing to share his knowledge, as well as the fruits of his work, to anyone and everyone.


The Beautiful Hues of Relationship

PC(USA) Mission Co-Worker, Justin Sundberg, serving with CEPAD, reflects on the word that he feels best summarizes the work of the organization and asks you to reflect as well.

by Justin Sundberg

In Jinotepe, to the south of Managua, CEPAD has worked for 8 months in the community of, “Los Encuentros” (the Meeting Crossroads).  When I visited there last month, I left nearly ecstatic considering its future after meetings its CEPAD-trained leaders.

During my encounter in Los Encuentros, leaders described what they had been learning.  One woman, Glorieta, rushed in late to our meeting. She had not personally been to any of our trainings, but a friend of Glorieta, trained by CEPAD, had trained her.  Glorieta was beaming as she pulled necklaces, bracelets and earrings from her pockets. In Spanish, she burst, “He ideado unos!”  In English, her statement could be rendered, “I’ve created some of my own unique designs,” shared modestly, but proudly.

What a truly amazing organization CEPAD is.  I share about it often.  But what if I had to describe it in a single word, which would I choose?  What word would you choose?

CEPAD heavily invests in a small number of community leaders in each of the 42 communities in which it works.  Then we ask these leaders to train or disciple others.  They are encouraged to find their sweet spot of entrepreneurship, to experiment and to create an income stream.  Glorieta is one such disciple and bourgeons with jewelry making ideas.

So what single word, then, sums up CEPAD?  Perhaps ‘’enthusiasm,’’ or “hope.”

Some could say, ‘relationship,’ in all its beautiful hues, best describes CEPAD:

The friendship that you, our North American partners, have with Nicaraguans

Rural farmers and their families working as a team, straining to create new horizons

CEPAD technical staff and villagers, locked hand in hand, as they commit to a 5-year schedule of trainings, experimentation, and countless new achievements and gains for the community

People like Glorieta, and her friend who passed on the blessing of her own training so that Glorieta could secure income-generating skills

In relationship we recognize more clearly what it is to be created in God’s image.  CEPAD weaves together its commitment to Christ, to people and to development in webs of relationships that create hope and possibility. . . . and concrete outcomes that benefit families!

Thank you for helping so many Nicaraguans benefit from relationships with CEPAD. Join us in giving God thanks for the ways that relationships infuse the work of CEPAD.  And stay tuned, in future newsletters, for stories about how your commitment and relationship with CEPAD is changing lives of ordinary Nicaraguans.