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A Journey of Caring and Understanding

new houseOur mission team from Schweitzer United Methodist Church spent a week in the area around Managua, Nicaragua with a twofold purpose: to lend people power to the construction of new houses and to become more familiar with the programs sponsored by the Rainbow Network.

The housing activity took place in the new housing community known as Colonia Silvia Mayorga. There are 25 houses in various stages of construction in this area. To Americans the small concrete block structures might not seem like anything to wonderful. But to a Nicaraguan living in a hovel such a house is part of a wonderful dream. The houses, which have a concrete floor and metal roof, can be built for no more than $1,800.

Though most were not used to manual labor, mission team members managed to help in small part by hauling water and sand and gravel, moving concrete blocks, wiring together steel rods that would be a part of the foundation for the structures.

Maria and childThose who will move into the houses are chosen by lottery. The lucky ones will be working on the construction if able. The house will not be a handout. The new owners will be required to pay back the cost through a low-interest loan over a period of years.

One of the people with whom we worked was Maria Espionoza who would occupy one of the houses she was helping bid. She could outwork most of the mission team members. It was through a visit to Maria's current "house" that we came to realize just how important the Rainbow Network housing project was.

shantyWhat we saw at Maria's, and at several other houses in the area, were shacks smaller than an American two-car garage, constructed of scrap wood, metal siding and black plastic. The dirt floors were dusty in the dry season and muddy in the wet season. Sleeping arrangements had to be stacked with children sleeping in hammocks above their parent's beds. Cooking was done on an open fire, often in converted oil drums. It was a heartbreaking sight for those of use from a country of affluence.

What the Silvia Mayorga community, Maria's new community, would look like when finished was easy to see in two other communities which have been in operation for some time. The community at Valley de Jesus has been in operation for about two years. Other members of Schweitzer Church helped with its construction. The buildings had electricity and there was large community well. Trees were slowly making the community more livable.

San Andres houseThe San Andres community, in operation for four years, was even more homey with trees and flowers. Although in some cases still crowded, the interiors represented much improved living conditions and were kept clean and livable. One tenant of this community was even using a covered area at his house to start a new church.

Having seen the great need for housing and what simple concrete structures can do for the Nicaraguans, we finished our house building activity with renewed vigor.

The new structures are simple but well built using the methods available in the country. The concrete used in hauling blocksthe project is mixed by hand in depressions in the ground. This means that the mission team members got involved in manual labor to which they are not accustomed such as hauling buckets of water, manhandling bags of cement, measuring out pails of gravel and sand, and moving cement blocks from one place to another. It often seemed like thankless work and, although I didn't speak Spanish, I got the distinct impression that the young men who I was helping were joking about how the "old man" worked. I got my reward, however, when on the last day of work, as we were leaving, I passed one of the young men, he smiled and in English said "Thank You." It made the whole trip worthwhile. Meet some new friends.

Housing is just one of the many projects provided by the Rainbow Network in Nicaragua. To find out more, visit its website.

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