Known as the land of lakes and volcanoes, Nicaragua boasts fertile Pacific lowlands, north-central highlands and Atlantic/Caribbean lowlands. Nearly a fifth of the nation is set aside as protected parks or reserves — unique ecosystems teeming with a variety of wildlife. Nicaragua includes diverse ethnicities as well.
In Nicaragua, children’s very lives and futures are at risk, as they struggle with poverty and lack of
Indigenous peoples, Europeans, Africans, Asians and people of Middle Eastern origin all call this breathtaking land home. Nicaragua’s wealth of natural resources and rich culture, however, belie the deprivation in which most of its residents live.
This largest Central American nation is also the region’s most destitute — it is the second-poorest country in the Western Hemisphere — and is riddled with natural disasters, political instability and widespread poverty and underemployment. The vast majority of Nicaraguan workers earn less than two dollars a day.
Thanks to caring people like you, Children Incorporated has helped thousands of children living in poverty in Nicaragua since 1964.
We work with our volunteer coordinators in local communities to provide health and nutrition, education, hygiene items, clothes, shoes, and other essentials that help children and families rise above the poverty in which they live.
Your support makes all our work possible to help children in crisis in Nicaragua.
How do I sponsor a child in Nicaragua?
You can sponsor a child in Nicaragua in one of three ways: call our office at 1-800-538-5381 and speak with one of our staff members; email us at firstname.lastname@example.org; or go online to our sponsorship portal, create an account, and search for a child in Nicaragua that is available for sponsorship.
Located southwest of the capital of Nicaragua is Boaco, a town that was built on such a steep hill that it is described by locals as having two floors – a first floor with homes and businesses, and then another tier of houses and shops high above the first, considered the second floor.
It was fitting to hear that the city is referred to as having two floors because part of our visit to the Casa Betania Welfare Center was to visit the completed two floors of the clinic that are a part of the Sisters’ home and our affiliate project, which supports 86 sponsored children in our program.
Saving Children and Saving Money
The clinic at Casa Betania
When we arrived at Casa Betania, we were warmly greeted by the children and our volunteer coordinator, Sister Cristina. Casa Betania itself has been in Boaco for more than thirty years, and Children Incorporated has been affiliated with it for almost as long as it has been in existence. The children had taken the time to come to the Home on a Saturday, a day they wouldn’t normally be there, to meet with us.
Of the more than eighty children in our program, 63 of them attend a local primary school, seven are in university, and the rest are in high school. The Sisters at Casa Betania — five in all — provide support for the children in shifts by days of the week. Since there is only one Sister that works with the students as an afterschool tutor, and the others help with cooking meals for the children, the students take turns coming to the home once a week after school, Monday through Thursday, to receive help with their homework and have a meal.
Like so many of our projects, not only do the Sisters support the children in the community — their parents also go to the home to discuss business and finances, and the Sisters encourage them to work together to earn an income. Some women get together to make tamales to sell on the street, and then they share in the profits; others clean houses or work as cooks in wealthier families’ homes. The fathers tend to work in carpentry or help the women sell food – but jobs are limited in Boaco. The Sisters also help the families save money; they offer to act as a bank, so the families are able to put funds aside throughout the year.
The Power of Padrinos
On top of receiving food and tutoring, children also receive clothes and shoes, thanks to their padrinos, the name they call their sponsors — which literally translates to “godparents” in English. All of the support is really important for the children, but the Sisters feel that the homework and tutoring help is the most crucial part of the program. Classrooms in local public schools are overcrowded, so teachers can’t give children the attention they need. The Sisters at Casa Betania would like to hire an additional tutor, but paying a salary is a concern, since they don’t get funding for educational support from the government or other organizations that offer aid.
On top of receiving food and tutoring, children also receive clothes and shoes, thanks to their padrinos, the name they call their sponsors – which literally translates to “godparents” in English.
A Doctor Among the Sisters
After visiting with the children, Sister Cristina showed us the clinic. Three years ago, thanks to our gracious donors, Children Incorporated provided $7,000 in funding to help complete the clinic after a local woman who was providing the financial support for the large addition was suddenly unable to help anymore. Now that the clinic is complete, what used to be a very small dispensary with just one room is a large clinic with multiple examining rooms and a full pharmacy.
One of the Sisters completed medical training, and is now a doctor, seeing upwards of forty patients a day, four days a week at the clinic. A Canadian health organization provides medications free of charge, and anyone in the community with an illness or wound is welcome to visit for treatments and care. Another staff member at Casa Betania is working on getting her nursing degree so that the clinic will be able to see even more patients.
The Sisters have their hands full between supporting the children four days a week and running a clinic during the week as well; but as Sister Cristina told us, there are so many kids in need in the community, and they would gladly bring more children and families into the home. With more padrinos, the Sisters could support more children, and the community would continue to benefit with both education and health and well-being.
Almost as soon as we arrived in Managua after our flight from San Jose, I could tell that Nicaragua was vastly different from Costa Rica. As we drove out of the capital city, the jungle landscape we had seen just one day before had been replaced by flat, open land where cows and horses roamed for miles. Along the road to Leon, the second-largest city in Nicaragua after Managua, we saw cowboys, both young and old, leading herds of animals, and I felt like we were in an old Western movie.
Andreia, International Project Specialist, with Sister Olga, our volunteer coordinator
That feeling didn’t change when we arrived two hours later at the La Recoleccion Home, a school for girls that has been around since 1880. La Recoleccion itself looked like a movie set – the large hallways and courtyards of the school were picturesque, towering stories above us. Lush trees and blossoming flowers grew all around, and archways leading into grand halls were enormous. I hadn’t known what to expect on my first trip to Nicaragua, but its beauty overwhelmed me, which was striking, considering we were in one of the poorest countries in the Americas.
The Land of Lakes and Volcanoes
Geographically, Nicaragua is the largest country in Central America. It is a multi-ethnic country of six million people, and the main language spoken there is Spanish. Tourism in Nicaragua has grown exponentially in recent years, but the population of the country still remains very poor. 48 percent of its people live below the poverty line, living on less than two dollars a day.
The country is primarily an agricultural one, and its minimum wage is among the lowest in all of the Americas. For that reason, many Nicaraguans leave to try to find better work in neighboring countries like Costa Rica, even though that means leaving their families, including their children, behind.
But those who are accepted have a safe place to be during the day; and for some, La Recoleccion offers an escape from a world of poverty during the night as well.
A Safe Place for Girls
At La Recoleccion, more than 1,300 girls attend the school every day. Sister Olga is our volunteer coordinator at the school, which also serves as a girls’ home. She has been working at La Recoleccion since 2014, when she moved from Honduras, where she had been working as our coordinator at another affiliate project since 1998. In all, Sister Olga has been associated with Children Incorporated for almost twenty years; and like Sister Bertalina at Santa Luisa in Costa Rica, she has worked at multiple projects in multiple countries!
Of the 68 girls enrolled in our program and attending the school, 25 live in the home full-time because their families have moved away to look for work. Many of the girls who don’t live at the Home live with single mothers who work long hours away from home in fields, or as housekeepers for other families. Violence is a concern because the girls are at home alone in the afternoons while their mothers work late – and unfortunately, abuse sometimes comes from people the mothers are associated with, like stepfathers or boyfriends.
Sponsored girls smile for the camera
Since its inception, La Recoleccion has been assisting girls who are orphaned, abandoned, or neglected, offering them educational and additional support through sponsorship, like with school uniforms, school supplies, meals, and room and board. Of those girls that don’t live permanently at La Recoleccion, there is the option for them to stay after school until their mothers get off work.
A Beacon of Hope
It’s hard for Sister Olga to decide who gets to go to the school – more parents approach the school about enrolling their daughters than there is room for students in the classrooms, even though it is a very large school. But those who are accepted have a safe place to be during the day; and for some, La Recoleccion offers an escape from a world of poverty during the night as well.
The girls are well-cared-for by Sister Olga and the teachers and staff, so they can worry less and focus more on getting a good education. The girls also receive counseling, and Sister Olga offers sewing classes to their mothers so that they may acquire the skills they need to make a better living for themselves and their families. In the beautiful land of volcanoes and lakes in Nicaragua, La Recoleccion offers a safe and special beacon of hope for so many girls and their mothers.
HOW DO I SPONSOR A CHILD IN NICARAGUA?
You can sponsor a child in Nicaragua in one of two ways – call our office at 1-800-538-5381 and speak with one of our sponsorship specialists, or go online to our donation portal, create an account, and search for a child that is available for sponsorship in Nicaragua.
In so many countries around the world, drought is a constant worry, causing problems for crop cultivation and keeping impoverished people from having access to drinking water. In San Jose, Costa Rica, in the slum neighborhood that surrounds our affiliate site, La Milagrosa, a welfare center that supports more than seventy sponsored children, families have the opposite problem. Instead of the rainy season bringing relief from arid conditions, it causes those families to fear losing their homes to the mudslides that often come with it.
Sister Vielka is pictured with a mother and daughter outside their home.
Costa Rica, with a population of about 4.5 million people — nearly a quarter of whom live in the metropolitan area of the capital and largest city, San Jose — is one of the most stable and prosperous nations in Latin America. Because of that, it’s not cheap to live there and everything is expensive, especially food. But despite the high cost of living there, the country attracts a lot of migrant families.
Costa Rica is surrounded by nations that are much worse off than it is. Nicaragua and Panama have higher poverty rates, less stable governments, a lack of employment opportunities, and violence is more rampant there. This leads families, desperate for better lives for themselves and for their children, to migrate to Costa Rica in search of employment and a safer environment in which to live.
Unfortunately, what they find when they arrive is low-paying jobs for men in construction or field labor; and the only land they find to build on as undocumented immigrants is government-owned and in the hills of San Jose, which is subject to frequent mudslides. The rainy season lasts from May to November, so for half the year, work can be inconsistent, and families are concerned about losing their homes and all their belongings.
The Sun Shines on La Milagrosa
At La Milagrosa, which is run by our volunteer coordinator Sister Vielka, children receive food on a monthly basis, as well as educational support, mostly in the form of encouragement from the Sisters. Most of the children live with their single mothers who struggle to find support in a foreign country. Some receive food stamps from the government, but most are trying to get by on their own, away from their home country and extended family.
Six Sisters live at the home, and they not only make sure the children are fed, but they also offer emotional support to the mothers, who might find work cleaning houses or doing laundry. But those jobs fill only for a few hours a week, which isn’t enough — and it causes them a great deal of stress. The Sisters talk with the women about their issues, and counsel them through tough times.
Instead of the rainy season bringing relief from arid conditions, it causes those families to fear losing their homes to the mudslides that often come with it.
As we visit with the children at the home, Sister Vielka explains that they have to turn in their report cards and show passing grades in order to stay in our program. She says that this rule has been working really well to not only motivate the children, but also to keep their mothers engaged in their learning.
The Sisters would love to one day run an after-school tutoring program so that the children could receive additional support; that would require funding to hire a teacher to work with the kids. La Milagrosa is currently not receiving any support from the government or elsewhere, and there are few resources outside of Children Incorporated sponsorship to do more to support the kids’ education.
When It Rains, It Pours
We left La Milagrosa in the early afternoon to walk through the neighborhood to visit the homes of some of our sponsored children. It was a bright and cool day, and there was not a cloud in the sky. We walked with Sister Vielka and her assistant Gisela down a steep hill, and then down a dirt path covered by giant, lush tropical plants, taking us off the main road into what felt like a jungle within a city.
Gisela told us that seven years ago, rain took five houses from families in the middle of the night. Luckily, the occupants were able to get out safely in time, but they all lost everything they had in the mudslide.
Andreia Beraldo, International Project Specialist, outside the home of a family who lost their bathroom to a mudslide last month.
We walked up tightly-packed dirt steps that had been carved into the side of the mountain to reach our first home, where a woman greeted us in the doorway. When we walked into the living room, she pointed to the floor with one hand, as she held her small baby in the other arm, and told us that the floor used to extend further out — but rain had washed part of it away, exposing the ground below and leaving a huge hole in their home.
It seems like only a matter of time before the rest of the floor will go sliding down with the rain, leaving this family homeless. Last month, rain took out their bathroom, which had been on the side of the house. When we walked outside to leave, we could see what was left of a small structure where there was no longer a toilet, but only another hole left in the ground on the property.
With each home visit, we seemed to go further and further up into the hills. Since the land is owned by the government, the families risk not only having their homes wash away in the rain, but also being removed at any point. Gisela explained that when it rains a lot, the children aren’t able to get to school, because it becomes too dangerous for them to be walking around.
After visiting four or five houses, we could see why so many of our conversations with families and the Sisters were about the rain. Each house was barely clinging to the blanket of dirt beneath it on a dry day like that day — looming on all of our minds was what will happen when the rain inevitably comes.
As we walked back to La Milagrosa, the clouds started to come in heavily; and in the distance, we could hear the rumble of thunder. By the time we reached the Home, it had started to pour.
HOW DO I SPONSOR A CHILD IN COSTA RICA?
You can sponsor a child in Costa Rica one of three ways – call our office and speak with one of our sponsorship specialists at 1-800-538-5381, email us at email@example.com, or go online to our donation portal, create an account, and search for a child in Costa Rica that is available for sponsorship.