Microloan Provided Carmen Acuña and Family The Chance for a Better Life in Cañas Blancas

“Before CEPAD came, I didn’t even have this chair to sit on, “ said Carmen Acuña, patting the arm of her wooden rocker.

Now, Acuña runs a small convenience store and leads a cooperative bank for the women in her community, Cañas Blancas, and the surrounding areas. CEPAD provides credit for women so they can make investments to improve their economic circumstances. Carmen, a grandmother who is diabetic, earned enough from the store last year to get treatment for a serious illness while still helping with her family’s finances.

“No banks will lend to people in this community, CEPAD is the only one,” she said. “I am so thankful CEPAD took a chance on us, it helped keep me alive and so I could keep my family alive.”

CEPAD relies on support from partners to provide the initial funds for the loan programs in the communities. An investment of $3,500 provided the intitial capital so that 14 women in the Carazo region could drastically improve life for their families. Your gift can make that difference for women in other communities.

The loan program helps strengthen women’s opportunities in their families and communities as well, said Carolina Estrada Sandino, another one of the bank’s founders.

“A lot of times, the men don’t see women as competent to do anything but be at home,” Carolina said. “But now, my husband supports me in my business and there is more motivation to work together as a family.”

The program makes an especially big difference for the many women in rural Nicaragua who are single moms. These women often have to seek work outside the city and leave their children with relatives or neighbors. The opportunity to start a small business means women can better support their families and keep resources in the local economy.

Carmen said she thanks God every day for CEPAD and the opportunity to start her store. We at CEPAD are thankful every day for partners like you who make our work possible!

Support For Refugees Helps At Risk Families Start Anew

Nicaragua’s neighbors Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, experience daily violence, institutional corruption and the myriad effects of drug trafficking and gang activity. A partnership between CEPAD and the United Nations helps dozens of refugee families make new homes in Nicaragua as they flee violence and poverty in their home countries.

CEPAD became the U.N.’s Nicaraguan partner to assist with refugee placement in 1979. We work with the U.N. and the Nicaraguan government to provide refugees, typically families, with orientation to the country, basic material supplies like clothes and rent money, spiritual and psychological support, and help with the asylum process.

“At the moment of arrival there was confusion, fear and uncertainty to know we would start our new life here in Nicaragua without knowing anyone and with few economic resources,” said the father of one of the families CEPAD helped in 2013. “But we stayed strong as a family because we had one another, and this helped us search for a way to lift up our circumstances.”Now, that man and his wife and four children live safely in Nicaragua and run a business in a small city. He said they are grateful to CEPAD for making their transition smooth.

The U.N.’s Refugee Agency predicts the number of refugees fleeing certain Latin American countries will increase this year because of rising levels of criminal activity. CEPAD is proud to help provide resources and support to refugees who come here seeking hope after years of living under constant threat of violence.

Psychological and Social Program Gives Youth Room to Grow

Kimberley Flores

Kimberley Flores

Laughter and the thwack of wood against papier machete fill the air in Bálsamo, a community near Matagalpa.During the last year, 15 youth in the community met twice a week through CEPAD’s psychological and social program to learn about the environment, practice public speaking, and develop interpersonal skills like leadership, patience and respect. Today, they celebrate with an end of year presentation and piñata.Kimberley Flores, a student in the program, said she felt a change in her self and the other students after completing the program.“The other kids used to make fun of me because I’m fat, but now we respect each other and I have more confidence,” Kimberley said.

She plays more and is healthier too, added her mom Caridad. The program encourages kids to eat nutritious food and play sports, and the psychological and social program leaders in many communities also organize baseball and soccer teams.

With your support, CEPAD works with more than 600 youth every year through its psychological and social program. Your donations and partnership make a huge difference in the lives of kids in Nicaragua who otherwise don’t have access to sports or other after school programming.

CEPAD’s psychological and social program aims to work with young people in communities who are at risk of drugs and alcohol abuse, physical abuse at home, low school achievement and other challenges. Older teens in the community lead the groups of 7- to 12-year-olds in twice-monthly workshops.

The teachers receive training from CEPAD staff on how to identify abuse and depression in children, how to teach values, and how to creatively engage children in activities related to themes like the environment.

“A lot of the kids used to be really shy, but now they will sing in front of the group or lead a prayer,” said Diana Hernandez, 16, who leads the group in Bálsamo.

The skills and knowledge students gain include concrete behaviors, like how to protect the environment by not littering, and broader concepts like leadership and optimism.

“Before, if I had a test in school I would always be pessimistic and not do well,” said Katherine Tatiana Luquez Gutierrez, 12. “Now I know how to have a good mind set and I do a lot better in school.”

We are so thankful for all supporters like you who make it possible for students including Katherine and Kimberley to become better students and leaders. Your pledge today will ensure we can continue to empower youth around Nicaragua!

Improved Nutrition and Financial Security In Communities Wows Volunteer

By Leala Rosen

Rachel and I visited Nicaragua in January and spent two weeks learning about CEPAD’s work empowering small farmers and improving food security through sustainable agriculture training. During our time with CEPAD, we stayed at homestays with farmers who have participated in CEPAD agricultural trainings. We stayed on two farms – one was with a family that had been the first Community Agricultural Promoters in the community, and the other was in the earlier stages of working with CEPAD to improve their food security and nutrition.
Community Agricultural Promoters work with disciples in their communities in order to teach others about organic, sustainable agriculture techniques in order to improve crop yields and water efficiency as well as increase food security within the farmer’s homes.

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Yale Alumni Bring Needed HealthCare to Leon Region

A group of more 68 people from the Yale Alumni Service Corps visited Trohilo, a small community near Leon, to provide medical care and other projects. In five days, they provided medical consultation and care to more than 400 people from Trohilo and nearby communities.
Jelen Yalisa Espinoza, 16, said she came to the clinic to get treatment for a headache and couldn’t remember when she had last been to the doctor previously. In Trohilo there is a health clinic with a doctor and a nurse, but the clinic is only open part time. They don’t have the capacity to serve everyone who needs care, said nurse Esperanza Quiroz, and there are no specialized doctors in the community, like cardiologists or internists. Many people have to travel to the city of Leon to receive treatment or medicine. “I feel confident to say they have saved lives by diagnosing people, like women with cancer, who never would have known they were sick otherwise,” Quiroz said.

She has been working at the clinic for 8 years and said the two primary health concerns in the community are women’s health needs like Human Papilloma Virus and the devastating Chronic Kidney Disease that kills many people in the community, especially men who work in the nearby sugar farms — dehydration and exposure to pesticides both greatly increase the risk for that illness, she explained.

“Everyone who lives here is at risk for CKD,” she said.

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Every Day Is International Women’s Day

We hope you had a great International Women’s Day! We celebrated el Día Internacional de la Mujer a couple days late with a breakfast and devotional to honor the women who work for CEPAD and those we serve with our programs.

About 60 percent of CEPAD’s staff are women, including at the leadership level with Damaris Albuquerque at the helm as executive director and Anita Taylor leading our partnership and delegation programs. In our programs, we work to support and empower women through our programs by providing microloans to help women start small buildings, training women on their rights against violence, and more. Women lead CEPAD’s community development committees in many regions, and they learn skills to be leaders in other areas of the community. Read more

"I am a strong woman"

On a recent delegation trip with Amos Trust, Jenny Richardson wrote this poem and meditation after meeting with women in a rural community to learn about their experience with Prestanic, a microcredit organization that has strong ties to CEPAD. We are thankful to share it here.
I am a woman.
I raise my family in one room and create our home.
The government gives us materials for a roof
and we can shelter from the rain.
I wash our clothes in the stream
and watch the bright colours dancing as they hang on the washing line.
I pick the fruit,
Growing in abundance,
to feed my family.
Do you think I am poor?
Do you not see, I am a strong Nicaraguan woman?
I helped my mother to sell the bread she made.
It was all too much
and I left to live on the streets.
I took drugs but have been given a road to a new life.
I want to be a fashion designer
and my mother will be proud of me.
Do you think I am poor?
Do you not see, I am a strong Nicaraguan woman?I meet with my friends
and we delight in sharing news of our business ventures.
We slaughter pigs,
sell clothes,
Bake bread,
And with our profits we repay our loans and provide for our children’s education.
Do you think I am poor?
Do you not see, I am a strong Nicaraguan woman?

I teach my children to harvest the ripe coffee,
To work the processing machine outside our home.
To sort the best coffee beans for market
And to carry the precious load to market.
Do you think I am poor?
Do you not see, I am a strong Nicaraguan woman?

I have lived through change in Nicaragua.
Friends have died in the 1972 earthquake.
Relatives have been caught up in the fighting between the Contras and the Sandinistas.
Yet I welcome the hope that the government gives me.
Do you think I am poor?
Do you not see, I am a strong Nicaraguan woman?

You ask me about faith.
I am a Catholic and an Evangelical.
Faith is a gift of God.
It is no ones property.
I live with dignity as a daughter of God.
My theology takes me out of the door of the church into the streets
To work for justice and reconciliation.
Do you think I am poor?
Do you not see, I am a strong Nicaraguan woman?

We nurture our children
And they are proud of being Nicaraguan.
As they grow stronger
Nicaragua will continue to flourish.
They are are our hope and our future.
Do you think we are poor?
Do you not see we are strong Nicaraguan women?

I am Mary,
A girl from Nazareth.
Engaged to be married.
I trust God.
He will liberate the poor.
He will bring down the mighty.
He has chosen me and I say ‘yes’.
I will be the Mother of God’s son,
With all it’s joys, challenges and responsibilities.

Do you think I am poor?
Do you think I am weak?
Do you think I am holy?
Don’t you see, I am a strong woman.

Fall 2013 CEPAD Report

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Together, We Help Thousands of People Each Year

In 2012, CEPAD provided direct training and resources to more than 1,000 people in rural Nicaragua. Those people are each charged with sharing what they’ve learned with their communities. That means thanks to your support, CEPAD reaches thousands of people every year with our programs. We couldn’t do it without you!

A Single Mom Gains Leadership and Farming Skills

As the only breadwinner in her home Tita Rocha was delighted when she was chosen to be a Community  Agriculture Promoter to learn about conservation techniques as well how to diversify her crops and improve the type of food that her family can eat throughout the year.

“I am happy because I am changing the way I work the land. I am now planting different crops that will yield food for my children in different times of the year, making use of techniques of soil and water conservation to protect my land and my plants.”

Tita participated in three trainings provided by CEPAD and learned conservation techniques which included preventing soil erosion through the use of live and dead barriers, making natural pesticides and making organic fertilizer.

As a Community Agriculture Promoter Tita also has other farmers who she is sharing the information she learned with to help them also improve their crops and protect the environment.

For Tita the value of these trainings extends to her children as well. She is teaching them what she has learned which is helping them to be more involved in the work that she does.

In the future Tita hopes to plant all of her land to reap the benefits of her newly diversified crops. “In the future I hope to plant the rest of my land,  putting into practice what I have learned through the trainings.”

Thanks to your support of  CEPAD’s programs together we were able to train 516 farmers in 2012 in these farming techniques, improving their food security as well as their  treatment of the environment. This post originally appeared in the Fall 2013 CEPAD Report. Subscribe to the e-newsletter to receive the report and other news from CEPAD.