Nicaragua

BONUS FEATURE: Return of the Clackers

Among the various background noises in El Limonal, Nicaragua—chickens, children’s laughter, the growl of the well pump—one stood out: clackers. You remember those, don’t you—two acrylic balls on the end of a string? Bang ‘em together, and instant noise! The toys were very popular in the 1960s and ’70s in the United States.

In every video recorded in the village, videographer Alessandra Zeka and I would have to check to make sure a crowd of clackers wasn’t coming our way. Sometimes shooting was simply impossible. Clackers, needless to say, are still popular in Nicaragua, and in the village of El Limonal—chances are, this is the only toy a child there has.
—Barbara

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BONUS FEATURE: The Economics of Clean Water

Most of the villagers of El Limonal, Nicaragua—up to 70 percent—work at a nearby dump, sorting through trash to glean recyclables such as bottles, cans and old bicycle frames. The work is grueling, and often children as young as 5 accompany the adults to help with the search or guard the haul.

The new well installed by the PLU team will raise the economic prospects for the entire village, as clean water will result in fewer illnesses. In addition, less time will have to be spent on finding water, so more time can be devoted to going to school or other activities. Clean water also might result in a bakery for the village, and a much-needed source of income.
—Barbara

When Kids Get the Camera … Nicaragua Edition

Everyone on the PLU Study Away trip to El Limonal, Nicaragua, took a ton of adorable pictures —even the children of the village! Amid lots of shared laughter, the children became the photographers and flipped the camera’s focus to the PLU team, capturing lots of eyeballs, nostrils — and smiles!

BONUS FEATURE: ‘Showtime!’

EDITOR’S NOTE: RESOLUTE staffers Barbara Clements and John Froschauer pored over more than 400 video clips from the PLU team’s Study Away experience in Nicaragua to create the spectacular main video on the RESOLUTE site. But there were SO many more stories to tell. In this one, PLU Assistant Professor Mark Mulder prepares the team on its first day in the village with a pep talk he used in a previous job as a reserve police officer.

Here’s the back story, from Mulder himself:

For five years, I was a commissioned police officer. I approached the position with a true heart of service (particularly since reserve officers choose to serve without pay), and one day when in a special DV (domestic violence) training session, a leader spoke about making sure you were in the right mindset when walking into a situation and suggested “showtime” as a way to mentally prepare.

I ultimately struggled a little with that approach, because no matter how I framed it, it still felt rooted in an “act.” So I focused more on the phrase. Given that I was there to serve and show love to others, I realized that it could work for me if I split the words apart. The show was the heart of service and caring that I could display, and the time was now. I shortened it in my mind to “show (my heart) time.” As a reserve police officer, I found this to be helpful framing as I entered situations that could be very much unknown as to what was happening or what skills I would need to utilize onsite.

The settings may be very different, but the root is similar for our students in El Limonal. There are times when you exit into the unknown and you don’t know what to expect. In many cases you may feel somewhat uncomfortable. The path to serving others is to be well-prepared, and to work through any unknowns and discomfort and just do it.

Our students didn’t know what to expect when the exited the van for their first day of service in the community. But, they were well-prepared, and more importantly, their hearts were ready to serve. Thus, it became “show (my heart) time.” And, were they ever ready… the students were incredible in carrying out their service and care for others once they exited the van for the first time.

PLU Contributes to the Sweet Success of a Nicaraguan Honey Co-Op


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Members of the honey cooperative near Leon, Nicaragua.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Our June 2014 edition of RESOLUTE features a beautiful story on a PLU team’s Study Away trip to  Nicaragua to install a well in a remote village. That, though, is just one of the stories, and experiences, from the team’s journey. We’ll call this one a side trip.

By Barbara Clements
RESOLUTE Managing Editor

LEON, NICARAGUA—No bee in its right mind would be out today.

Pacific Lutheran University’s Nicaraguan team has spent the last hour travelling on a dirt road north of Leon to a honey cooperative. It’s the dry season. The land seems dipped in a sepia wash.

Wind gusts of up to 50 mph have closed down our world to about 10 feet in all directions, if that, outside the now-dun-colored van. The dust seeps through the cracks in the window, but the van lacks air-conditioning. So the choice is between choking and keeping relatively cool in the 90-degree heat.

Once the van lurches into the cooperative compound, which includes a school and community center, we learn that, in fact, no bees are out gathering honey in nearby fields. The cooperative leaders moved the hives out of the wind and grit.

The group sits in old-style ’50s classroom seats in a room decorated with childish coloring paper—“B” for burro, L for loro (parrot), etc. The leaders of the co-op explain that originally they were just gathering wild honey from colonies in the fields before starting their cooperative four years ago. In the last four months, the cooperative has produced 2,145 kilograms of honey—light amber with a malty taste. It takes its hives from field to field to pollinate groups in this largely agrarian society.

The cooperative created its business model through a loan from La Base, and eventually from the Nicaraguan government, which encourages these worker-owned cooperatives.

When La Base first met the beekeepers of Chacra Seca three years ago, they had been collecting honey from wild hives for more than 14 years. With support from the mayor’s office of Leon, they decided to form a cooperative and came to La Base for a loan. They used the $3,000 to purchase five active hives, build 25 bee boxes to house wild honeybees and obtain safety and technical equipment. They began to collectively manage this set of hives, and for the first time take control of the process of production. In doing so, their aim was to provide a more secure source of income for themselves and their families.

The president of the cooperative, Saturnino Vivas, explained through an interpreter that, “We started from zero” and now have about 200 hives. The cooperative has paid back its first loan from La Base and now is working to pay back a $34,500 loan, which is 85 percent financed by the government and 15 percent from La Base. Pacific Lutheran University has—in a microfinance loan of $1,000—contributed toward this effort. From the original 10 farmers, the cooperative has grown to 19 owners, said Vivas.

Needless to say, success has been sweet.