Over the course of nearly 24 hours everyone on the team, all 16 volunteers, arrived in Managua – safe and sound, even if some were short on sleep. On Sunday morning, after a thoughtful, and very thorough hour long orientation by Habitat Nicaragua staff, it was time for the three hour drive to Esteli (pronounced ES-ta-lee). After checking in at Hotel Los Arcos and another filling meal we headed out to see our two worksites and meet the family we’d be partnering with this week.
We’ve only been here one day and already we’ve received a mini education on the state of the housing crisis here in Nicaragua. Next to Haiti, Nicaragua is the second poorest country in the western hemisphere. Up to 78% of the people live in inadequate shelter. And when we say inadequate we are talking lean-tos made from cardboard and tin, no locking doors or windows, dirt floors, without running water or sanitation. With a six month long rainy season you can imagine that dirt floors quickly turn to mud, making living conditions harsh and ripe for disease.
Many people ask us as international volunteers why do we not simply help where we live; after all there is poverty in the US and Canada too. In short, we do help at home, where it’s said that charity begins. But the chasm of need outside our North American boarders is deeper and wider than most people will ever see. And it’s a joy for us to immerse ourselves in another culture for a brief time and to connect with others who share our passion for adventure and doing good. Let us remember, the light that shines the furthest is always the brightest at its source.Everyone deserves a decent place to live. Think for a moment of all the things you could not do, all the opportunities you’d have to pass by, all the hopes and dreams you would never realize if you didn’t have a place to rest your head and raise your family. It’s astonishing that people, just like us, have to live in conditions so deplorable that just getting to tomorrow is a struggle.
Habitat homes are simple, they are safe, and they are part of a multi-faceted solution to a complex problem. As Habitat volunteers we want to be a part of that solution. Because our contribution, no matter how few families we help, does in fact turn the tide of poverty. If enough of us dip our toes into the water, we’ll create the tidal wave.