Guest Column

August 12, 2013

Poor barrio hides heart of life

NICARAGUA — Every humanitarian harbors the same fear in his or her heart.

We stepped out of the van, loaded down with bags of rice and beans in the heart of a small barrio in Nejapa, Nicaragua. A smiling middle-aged woman in a pink shirt greeted us outside the school.

She is the professora de la escuela, and she was there to guide a small group of North Country Mission of Hope volunteers around the barrio, to deliver some food to those in need. Little did we know we had stumbled into the heart of life.

We walked around the corner of the dusty dirt road with a few tin shacks on either side. A broken rowboat lay under a tree. An elderly woman with a cane stood smiling at us with a friend, waiting.

We gave her a bag of rice and beans, and Sister Mary Schneiders told the woman that she liked her pretty, red-patterned skirt. 

“Would you like me to give it to you as a gift?” the woman asked in Spanish.

Something didn’t add up — that she offered an ornate skirt, while we offered a small bag of food.


Next, we met another woman on the road. We handed her the bags, and she patted her armful of food and inhaled deeply, nodding her head.

“I’ve waited for someone to come. I’ve waited for someone to care. That day is today, and God has blessed me.”

The immensity of her gratitude and relief seemed only to shrink the bags of rice and beans, in my eyes.

With almost no time for reflection, we found ourselves at the mouth of a small hut. We heard a call from someone inside for us to come in.

In the dim light, we saw the figure of a woman on an old bed, low to the floor, obscured by clutter. The small amount of light, from a single bulb hanging from the tin ceiling, shed on the concrete and tin walls, filthy and decaying.

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