from Joanie Parker—Meal-a-Day Director
Planning a trip to visit Meal-a-Day partners starts months in advance. First, all the partners need to be contacted to find out when they would be available for a visit. Then an itinerary is planned, and flights organized. For our September 2015 trip to Nicaragua, we were blessed to enjoy Sara Schlageter’s company (see sidebar article for Sara’s firsthand account).
We began with a visit to Hogar Amiguitos, a home for orphans or children whose parents have no means of supporting them. We were excited to see the small home on the property that the Meal-a-Day Build Team had helped construct during the summer for one of the employees. A special memory of the visit was eating the simple evening meal with the children. After a prayer of thanks, they dug in—surely happy to be blessed with enough to eat.
During that same day, we visited a nearby school for children who have never had the opportunity for an education. Sara and I accompanied one of the part-time teachers to pick up the students in the afternoon. They lived in a community up a long, very bumpy dirt road. The children had been working in the fields all day, but still had energy to jump into the back of the truck. It was very crowded and, to me, scary to think what would happen if there were an accident. Meal-a-Day has since helped to provide a van for transporting these children. They ranged from probably age 6–14. Their class was well-organized and incredibly well-behaved. They were just learning the alphabet and how to write the letters.
That day we also visited the local dump… generations had lived there in simple huts, sorting through the garbage for recyclables. A perpetual cloud of smoke rises from just over the cliff, where they throw everything they dispose of. What a dreary place… yet there were many smiles when a few small children were introduced. They were being educated at the above-mentioned school—the first of that small community to have the chance to study.
We traveled over really rough roads the next day to our hotel where we would stay for a couple nights in order to access a very isolated village to see a potable water project. The hotel was in renovation—their restaurant was set up in half a room where the other half was under construction (dirt floor, concrete being poured, etc.), as well as a motorcycle driving in to park as we were eating. The next day was to be crazier—we drove a couple hours to a river, took a simple boat across, and met a huge pick-up type truck that was used more as an ATV. We were given a “seat” in the back, which was a board placed across the sides toward the front of the bed. We hung on for dear life to the top of the cab as we jolted over deep ruts, through rivers… for at least an hour—it would have been four if we had gone by horseback as originally planned. The project was a great success, but the villagers realized they’ve been isolated from other conveniences, as well… electricity, latrines, easier access to healthcare, better school. They gathered for an impromptu town meeting and asked for advice. Since then, a request for latrines has been made and supported by Meal-a-Day.
During the following days we visited a community we’ve visited a couple times before to check how their potable water and solar pumping system was functioning. They were happy to report that all is well. Nearby, we revisited a man who had a small well with a solar powered pump. On our prior visit he had proudly showed us the result of his new ability to irrigate (due to equipment and education provided by a program Meal-a-Day had supported), a large field of grains and vegetables. This time, the field lay bare, no crops for two seasons due to failed rainy seasons and dropping water tables. His efforts to dig a deeper well were revealed in a pile of crushed rock, but to no avail water wise.
Sara and I finally had our horseback rides the next day… not that we really were anxious for them. But gracious hosts, who had also fed us a wonderful lunch, insisted that us feeble Americans might need assistance on the “long” walk back from the very successful micro-hydro power project they were so proud to show us.
Clínica Verde was our next visit. This is a first-world clinic in an area where many have never had access to good medical care. Their focus is on women and children. A Canadian ecclesia has sponsored a nurse there through Meal-a-Day for years. We also now support a pharmacist salary and have helped them install solar panels.
We soon returned home to our comfort and easily accessible utilities, etc. These trips are a reminder of how fortunate we are living in the US. It reminds me so often of the responsibility those of us so blessed have to others so much less fortunate.