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Nicaragua Trip - October 2009

"Please don't forget our children,"
was the e-mail from Nicaragua.
KAH-FV packaged food for Haiti for 2 Saturdays but
now we need to again package food for Nicaragua.

Will you help feed these needy children?

Thursday, Oct. 8 (by Darrel Malcom)

Darrel Malcom, Greg Franz, Lynette Torres and Becca Widener landed in Nicaragua at noon and immediately were plunged into a different world. It was much more than the tropical temperatures and the Spanish language. We were met by Pastor RIP Jenkins and his daughter, Erin, and a bus with personnel from World Mission Outreach. Marcos Lopez was our driver and interpreter along with Pastor Douglas. Jody Bowman is Manager in Charge of Feeding Locations assisted by Cory Muskin. Kathie Pruett was staying with Erin Jenkins and is a college graduate volunteering at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital. Later Edgar Lopez, who is another employee of WMO, became the interpreter. They had prepared a picnic lunch which we enjoyed in Revolution Park in downtown Managua near the Presidential palace (in which no one now lives). The picnic was interrupted by a brief, but intense, rainstorm so we rushed back into the bus for our next stop.

graphic0Feeding children in Esperanza Vida

We drove to a church / feeding site in Esperanza Vida part of Managua. This area of about 1000 lower income working class households had been totally flattened in the earthquake in December, 1972, that destroyed so much of Managua.

The church and houses were destroyed in that disaster and Hurricane Mitch in 1998 wiped them out again and flooded the area with about two feet of water and muck covering the church foundation. It had been rebuilt along with the houses around it.

The previous Pastor had served until he was 80. Just prior to his death he had prayerfully commissioned Vincente Blanco to be the new Pastor and he has lovingly served the people of this area for over eight years. He and his wife started a feeding program for the severely malnourished children of the area.

Esperanza Vida children with Pastor Blanco

Our bus rattled over the bumps and potholes along the narrow street to come to a stop between the church on one side and an open air structure covered by rusted sheet metal where the children and a few mothers were lined up waiting to be fed. Normally the meal is served about 11:00 but they had put it off until 2:30 today to accommodate our plans. They waited in line with a variety of bowls and pans to receive the food portion for the day.

We moved through the waiting area to another area with a rusted roof covering two large metal kettles cooking over a wood fire with the area open on one side. One kettle contained the KAH food which they called a chicken-rice casserole and the other contained spaghetti. The children and a few mothers lined up with their own bowls to receive a helping of each food. They were orderly, friendly and appreciative of the food. Pastor Blanco indicated they regularly fed about 150 each day, about one-half of them from the church and the others from the surrounding community. If there is food left over after all have been fed they take it to some nearby homes of people known to be alcoholics or drug addicts whose families receive little assistance. It is a matter of trying to find those with the greatest need and building relationships as they are helping them.

Road to La Chureca, the city dump

From there we drove to La Chureca – the city dump. All the garbage from a majority of the 1,400,000 residents of Managua comes to this location. All day long the trucks drive this rutted, garbage strewn, dusty or muddy dirt road back to the location currently receiving the garbage. The continuous mountain of garbage circles around the edge of Lake Managua in a nearly seven mile long heap of smelly, rotting remains from daily life in the city. Fires spontaneously erupt and an acrid smoke hangs over the area.

At the edge of this Mt. Garbage about 1500 people live in make-shift housing. They grab incoming garbage bags in search of food, used or repairable items and anything that can be sold for recycle. They also climb over the previously piled garbage looking for the same items. A high percentage of both adults and children suffer breathing problems from living in this environment.

Playground and housing at La Chureca

A number of years ago the government moved all residents from this area to housing they had prepared for them. The problems arose when these people could not find employment and they gradually migrated back to La Chureca where they knew how to fit in and find an income from the dump. In resignation the government did arrange for electricity and water to be delivered to the area but many humane problems persist.

Darrel Malcom, Jody Burnham, Mary Magdalena
Herrara and Edgar Lopez

Eleven years ago the Pastor of the church where she attended persuaded Mary Magdalena Herrara to work with them for one week in trying to help the children in this area. She was so moved by the needs, which she saw as an opportunity for ministry, that she has been coming back to serve there ever since. For ten years she walked the five miles from her home to and from La Chureca, often carrying needed items. Someone has now given her a tricycle type vehicle which becomes both a taxi and a small truck to make the round trip easier.

Children and housing at La Chureca

Under her leadership the New Jerusalem Church has been founded and continues to reach out to the residents. There is a school for about 60 elementary students but those attending high school must walk five miles to get to it. A few years ago someone helped build steel playground equipment and it is used continuously. The big slide is broken at the bottom so it is dangerous to slide down it but the kids still climb all over it.

They now hold title to this property and are erecting a steel framework to support corrugated roofing to protect the classrooms and the play area from the elements in inclement weather. Volunteers from the church and elsewhere are erecting the building as income provides the materials. They also are feeding over 150 from the area with the KAH chicken-rice casserole and other food as available. It is literally a life giving provision for many of the children.

Meeting place for "Oasis in the Desert" Church

Mary Magdalena is a small woman with a big heart and vivacious spirit. When we came for a surprise visit she greeted us with paint stained hands from working on the new ironwork, but with warmth and grace. Her love for what she is doing shines through her eyes and voice. She draws others like a spiritual magnet to see the needs/opportunities of this unattractive area and she is certainly making an impact on the people living there

From there we returned to our guest house for dinner, review of the day and much needed rest.

Friday morning began a long day of travel to visit four feeding locations, each distinctly different. The first stop was to “Oasis in the Desert Church” (our English translation of the Spanish name) in Nejapa just outside Managua. Pastor Ervin Farin and his wife have been with this church for four years. They were meeting in a covered roof area with a stage and chairs on the earthen floor. Nearby are the partially erected walls of their new church building.

Darrel Malcom, Lynette Torres, Auxiliadora
Komera and Pastor Farin

Both children and mothers were singing and having a brief service prior to the feeding time. Pastor Darrel was asked to bring greetings to the group during this service while the food finished cooking. Later he and Lynette Torres helped serve some of the food to the children in line.

Auxiliadora Komera was the cook who had also donated the land where the church is being built. Her eyes sparkled as she told her story. She said that when her own children were growing up there were many times when there was no food for them. Like any mother she ached for their pain but had trouble finding the needed nourishment. Now she was in a position to help others and she considered it such a pleasure to cook the KAH food so the current children would not have to go hungry like her own had to do. Like every other place we visited they thanked us heartily for the food we were packaging and sending to Nicaragua.

Food being served in Primitive Church

The next stop was to a Primitive Church in Managua under the leadership of Pastor Fabricio Morales for 11 years. This growing congregation has the walls and part of a roof completed for a large addition to their building. Twice each day they serve the KAH food and other food available to children and a few parents for about 400 total people daily. A room full of children and some mothers were packed into their worship area for a brief service prior to the meal. Again Darrel Malcom was asked to bring greetings, explaining that the food is packaged in a suburb of Chicago and that our group was visiting places to report back on how and where it was being served.

Edgar Lopez, Pastor Morales, Becca Widener (in rear)
and Darrel Malcom with children now healthy

This time the food was prepared in an enclosed kitchen area of the building. It was dished up and trays of it were then carried to the meeting area where it was served to all wanting it. As in other places visited it was served to children from the church but about half of it was for those in the community who were not a part of the church.

We asked Pastor Morales if he had any stories of children who had made significant changes from getting the food. He left briefly to return with three children and he said he could have gotten more. He described the bloated bellies and sunken eyes of all three children when they first came to the feeding program. Now they each looked healthy and doing well, even if a bit embarrassed by being put on display. He said again what we heard from others that the KAH food made the children healthy more than just keeping them alive. He asked us to thank those who are making it possible for them to have the food to serve.

Looking at the last two pallets of
food, not quite enough for one day

The group then went to World Mission Outreach headquarters for a tour of the facilities and lunch. Larry had been called back to North Carolina for an emergency but Donna Wright made us welcome and we ate lunch together. Staff members gave a tour of the school and warehouse. They are providing food for 120 feeding locations similar to the ones we visited, feeding 16,000 hungry people, mostly children. They had less than two pallets of Kids Against Hunger food left from the KAH-FV shipment in August and very much need for delivery of the container on the way. The next week they were to start delivering food to the various feeding sites and they do not have enough of the KAH food left.

Lining up for meals at Church of Faith in Jesus Christ

In the afternoon we drove to the Church of Faith in Jesus Christ in Villa El Carmen. It seemed to be a growing church with building expansion in progress but with open fields around the building. There must be many homes nearby because Pastor Juan Pineda said they are feeding two shifts, one in the mornings and one in the afternoons for a total of about 400 per day. They serve church families but about half come from the community. Pastor Darrel again had opportunity to bring greetings and explain we all are partners in the process of packaging the food and having it available for those who are hungry. He and Lynette Torres again had opportunity to help serve some of the food.

For this church the food was prepared in a separate building with a serving window. When dismissed the children filed out of the church building to line up outside the serving window to have their bowls filled with food. Lynette commented that it was evident how much they want this food because the children had gotten dressed, came to the church building, listened to the announcements and waited patiently in line just to receive a small bowl of food.

Children and cook with Darrel Malcom at Hogar Rancho Hebron Orphanage

We interviewed some mothers to ask what it meant to them to have their children being fed this way and they shared a great deal of gratitude. Their children were now able to eat this food and did not have to go hungry. Before we left some of the men traveling in our group joined several of the boys in an impromptu soccer game with a badly underinflated ball in an adjacent field

We drove about an hour, including some side roads off the main highway, to reach the Hogar Rancho Hebron Orphanage in San Marcos. Pastor Nicholas Bias and his wife, Carla Podago, oversee about 60 children in this orphanage. An additional 35 to 40 from the surrounding community also come for the meals. We arrived at the same time a bus load of volunteers from South Carolina had just returned to the orphanage. They had taken a group of the resident children for a week of camp at Skylark Ranch and were returning for reporting and sharing an evening meal with the staff. We met for awhile to ask questions and explain our mission to Nicholas and Carla. They stressed how, like so many groups, they were short of funds and depended on those who volunteered money and services to keep the orphanage serving the needs of the children. As we parted the last words from Carla were, “Please keep the food coming as we need it so much.”

Darrel Malcom and robert Trolese

A tired but rewarded group headed back to the guest house for dinner and sleep. Saturday was a time for some “tourist” activities to see another side of Nicaragua as we visited Masaya volcano, the Masaya Market, a boat trip on Lake Nicaragua and dinner in Granada.

On Sunday we worshipped in the English language service at the International Christian Fellowship for the 8:30 am service. The service lasted 1:45 hours followed by visiting with friends, fellowship time with refreshments and some good contacts. Some visitors from a group working in the St. Louis, MO area asked for information about starting a Kids Against Hunger satellite in their area.

Eric Su, Darrel Malcom, Jorta Vargas and Greg Franz
at Casa Bernabe Orphanage

At 11:00 we worshipped in the Spanish language service of Verbo Managua in the building they have occupied only since February….. They managed to purchase an old warehouse property with two fairly large buildings. It is located only seven blocks from their old facility and is in a part of the city that is scheduled for upscale development. The music was lively and loud with good participation from the audience of nearly 1000 people. This service lasted almost two hours.

Following the service we met Robert Trolese and he gave us a tour of some of the buildings along with plans for future development. To the left of the main entrance to the worship area they have created a restaurant where several were eating lunch and visiting. Plans are to open this to the public several days a week as a means of building relationships with the community. We moved through this to an open space and another building that is being rebuilt on the property. Here they are creating a place for a program to train women in skills that enable them to be paid more that the meager wages most were earning from house cleaning and ironing.

Yamilett and Jorta Vargas with Darrel Malcom
at Casa Bernabe Orphanage

After this we joined Bob and Myra Trolese for lunch at La Eskimo and they shared some of their history in Nicaragua and what they hope to see in the future. They gave insight into the history and dreams for Nicaragua that motivate this quiet and visionary couple. They observed that Nicaraguan people are generally warmly pleasant and generous with what little most have. They have been so beaten down by political corruption and natural disasters that it has left them hard workers but with little vision of possibilities beyond what they already know.

Two of those preparing the food at
Foursquare Church in Managua

From there to went to Casa Bernabe to greet the children, deliver some gifts from sponsoring families in Poplar Creek Church and interview the new directors of the orphanage. Jorge (Hortay) and Yamilett Vargas had only been appointed for one month. They have been with Verbo Church for 13 years, had served as temporary house parents for several children entering Casa Bernabe and had a great love for this work. She had taught in the school for 6 years and now she is Director of the School and he is Superintendent over the whole operation. They are assisted by Erick (Jennifer) Su who is Director of Community Outreach and also an interpreter who speaks very good English.

They now have about 60 children in the orphanage and 190 enrolled in their school (which can accommodate up to 300 children). The new leadership hopes to raise part of the costs for operation of Casa Bernabe through enrollments in their school and use of the newly completed Guest House. Nicaragua law requires the children to be released from orphanages when they turn 18. The Verbo Churches have created a “discipleship program” for these over 18 who have no place to go. Here they learn skills for life and future jobs while still able to live in this facility.

Mother who brought children for food

Monday morning we drove to the Foursquare Church in Camino de Santidad where Pastor Arsenio Sanchez has been serving for 27 years. In April, 2007 they started a feeding program as an outreach to hurting people of this area.

Cory said this section was considered one of the most dangerous in Managua. Pastor Sanchez said the unemployment in the area is at least 75% and there are many hurting families. They serve up to 300 children between 11 and 1:00 and have seven different ladies who take turns preparing the food and working with the children. One of them has a heart condition and one day was not feeling very well so they suggested she go home. Her response was that she would rather be here helping feed the children than anywhere else. If they sent her out one door she would come back in another one. Almost 90% of those being fed do not regularly attend the church.

Pastor Sanchez spoke about some of the needy children. They found a family of seven children where both parents are drug addicts and the children were going hungry. Now they come each day to get the nutritious food provided. We met some of the children and others would come later. I asked one lady (through an interpreter) about what the feeding program met to her and she said it was so good to have it available. I asked if she had other food at home and she dropped her eyes in embarrassment and said “no.” When I asked how many children she said, “Five, and they were all eating this food provided at the church.

Greg Franz serving children at the
Foursquare Church in Managua

he children were seated along each side of a walkway between two buildings with no roof over this area. When it is raining there is little protection for them. The congregation has been able to purchase a lot next door and they are in the process of putting up cinder block walls. They want to put a roof on it to protect the children when they come to eat during rainy times and provide Sunday School space on weekends for the church. Like so many other things this project is dependent on funds coming from somewhere to supplement that raised by the local people.

This was a congregation in the midst of the poverty plaguing Nicaragua and they are feeding children who might not have any other source of healthy food unless Kids Against Hunger and others can give them assistance. Pastor Darrel broke down in tears as they drove away, both from sadness in the desperation of the children, and joy because we can be part of a much needed solution.

The group from KAH-FV had gone to Nicaragua to see how and where the Kids Against Hunger food we package is being used. We found ample confirmation that it is getting through to provide much needed meals to malnourished children and a few parents. Both World Mission Outreach NIC and Verbo Church orphanages and feeding locations are conducting programs to meet real needs in a variety of situations. The children are hungry! Now Kids Against Hunger – Fox Valley needs to find ways to package more food for Nicaragua.


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Kids Against Hunger - Fox Valley

P O Box 88536, Carol Stream, IL 60188-8536  
Ann Kennedy, Treasurer  
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