Tag Archives: Center for Development in Central America

What Should We Do With the Stranger?

I read many reflections, blogs and printed materials over the course of each week, mostly having to do with Nicaragua and various forms of aid and development work being done there.  Some are very good and others less so, but I came across one a few days ago that I think bears repeating here.  It is taken from the newsletter published by the Center for Development in Central America (CDCA),  which has worked in Nicaragua for the past twenty years as of 2014.  CDCA has worked tirelessly on behalf of impoverished Nicaraguans on many fronts, and Winds of Peace has been able to work with them on several projects over the years.

I have reproduced reflections from their newsletters in the past, and I do so here with an analysis for your consideration which gets straight to the heart of a major U.S./Central American policy issue, the immigration of Central American children.

There are many issues around the response of the government of the United States and many of its people regarding the children crossing the border: immigrants vs. refugees, corrupt Central American governments (and yes they are still propped up by the U.S. government as they have been for 100 years), drug trafficking, gangs, Democrats vs. Republicans.  

So many issues bandied about and yet- in reality- the only issue that exists is: do we welcome the stranger?  The child?  Or do we not?  That’s it.  Simple.  Clean.  Do we or do we not?

People frequently ask us why we like living in Nicaragua.  Well, this is one reason: Nicaragua DOES welcome refugees.  Let’s face it, people fleeing their poor countries have to be mighty desperate to come to Nicaragua, the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.  But they do come and they are coming and Nicaragua, more than any other Central American country, affords them more access to their social safety nets- such as they are.

What does that say when the second poorest nation is receiving refugees while the richest is turning children away?  What does that say about the soul of the richest nation?

The leaders of the Nicaraguan government, who are not perfect by any means, understand what it means to live under dictators, death squads, terror and horror, and they translate that understanding into action by welcoming others who are living it now.  

Why would you send your children on such a dangerous journey with strangers?  Mine are grown, and the only reason I would send them thousands of miles away, riding on top of trains, would be if I thought…no, if I KNEW…they would die if they stayed.  Do the people in the States who debate this “crisis” and advocate deporting the children really believe in their hearts that Central American families love their children less than they love their own?

Frankly, the only actual crises are the crises in the nations from which the children come… not in the U.S.

In Honduras, the city of San Pedro Sula has more murders per capita than any other place in Honduras, which has more murders per capita than any other country in the world.  During July alone, in this small country, 87 teens and children were murdered, some tortured, and the vast majority of the culprits were not found.  

And this is where the first nine children were deported to… San Pedro Sula.  Depending on accounts, 5 or 7 of the nine were killed soon after landing.  Killed.  We, the U.S., sent children back to be murdered.  Does this mean that the deportation will stop?  No, it does not.

Choosing whether or not to welcome these refugees is easy.  Choosing whether or not to deport these children to die is simple.  This is not a complicated issue… we are not in muddy water here, folks… it is a clean issue, because there is really and truly only one right place to stand… with the kids… we need to stand with the kids.

Who are the strangers we encounter?  And what should we do with the stranger….?

The Agony of Genesis

I have referenced many times our work with the fledgling spinning cooperative called Genesis.  It started from the ground up with tenacity and determination as its primary assets.  The original eight founders attracted additional members over time, both women and men, and commenced with the most impressive building project I have ever known.  (See my entry here from February 4, 2010.)  We have watched and waited as the coop awaits the shipment and installation of their spinning equipment, a feat yet to happen.  The delays have been agonizing for the people who have worked on this project with almost no income, only the prospect of one day having their own business.

Genesis has been accompanied and assisted in their endeavor by the Center for Development in Central America (CDCA).  CDCA has provided loans, assistance, administrative help and emotional support to those members who have been able to hang on to this point; many have had to leave in order to find employment or income from whatever source they might.  But I received a newsletter from CDCA the other day that wrenches the heart.  Here’s a portion of that report:

Obtaining the spinning plant machinery has been a nightmare….  Lies have been told to us regarding shipping dates time and time again.  Hopes have been dashed time and time again….  Petrona talks about her husband who died never getting to see this dream become reality, while Chilo hopes to see the reality before she dies… she has been diagnosed with cancer.  They have worked…worked…three and a half years with no pay trying to make this dream a reality…these are not people whose spouses have jobs to support the family…these are really poor, poor people.

Many women dropped out in that first year.  A few more over the next two years.  The ones remaining kept the hope and the vision.  Now much has boiled down to just tenacity.

These members of Genesis are the most tenacious people I have ever known.  They soak up learning even though for some it is a real struggle…they just soak it up.  They keep coming day after day doing labor that is back-breaking to build their building…the oldest woman is in her sixties and one of the men is lame…and yet they struggle on…and on…and on….

Their strength is humbling.  Their willingness to learn is inspiring.  But it is their tenacity…their sheer will…that can take your breath away.  They are amazing examples of [the Star Wars character] Yoda’s saying, “Do or not do, there is no try.”

If ever there were people who deserved a chance to bring their dream to reality, these are the ones.  The rest of us are mere beginners when compared to the perseverance of these Nicaraguans….