Posted by Leonardo Zapata
(Originally posted on Facebook)
The celebration of our 15th anniversary sadly coincided with the arrival of Hurricane Eta, which made landfall as a category 4 hurricane on the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua. Inevitably, I have mixed feelings between the joy of celebrating 15 years of Nuevas Esperanzas (and the struggle that these years represent) and the sadness and concern for all the damage that the hurricane has caused. Apparently, the worst is over, but experts are asking us not to lower our guard. And although the Atlantic Coast was certainly the worst affected, the communities on the Telica volcano communities are not exempt from suffering serious consequences, especially if the forecast of prolonged heavy rain for the next few days is correct.
Although the Telica families will probably not see the roofs of their houses blown away, nor is there any danger of flooding, the risks they face are not minor. The tragedy that occurred on the Casita volcano in October 1988, a product of Hurricane Mitch, is most uppermost in the minds of all Nicaraguans who were old enough to understand. Although the hurricane did not really enter Nicaragua, its slow passage through Honduras caused huge amounts of rain throughout the country, causing a landslide on one slope of the Casita volcano, which buried more than two thousand people in an instant. Small landslides were also recorded on the Telica volcano at the same time, but fortunately they happened in unpopulated areas and there were no victims to mourn. However, the risk is ever present.
Before Hurricane Eta, this winter had been rated "very good" in agricultural terms. That is, enough rain, but conveniently spaced. However, if it rains too much in the next few days, the bean and corn harvests – the communities’ main source of food and income - will suffer, if not be ruined. We are already receiving reports from families about severe damage to corn caused by strong winds.
When families lose their harvest, the men usually migrate to Costa Rica in search of work, to earn enough to support their families and to be able to pay off the loans they took out in order to produce the harvest. However, this sad alternative has become much more difficult because of the pandemic, when borders are closed and measures to prevent illegal immigration in Costa Rica have been tightened to try to stop the spread of Covid-19.
Furthermore, the damage that the heavy rains which have been forecast would cause to the access roads to these communities would be significant. Before the arrival of Hurricane Eta, the "very good winter" had already damaged one of the roads to the community of Agua Fría, leaving us unable to access the highest part of the community by vehicle, preventing the delivery of fertilizer and materials for the beekeepers. After several days of work with the community, access was restored, at least temporarily. However, it is highly likely that more work will be needed on this and other community access roads after the effects of the hurricane pass. Although the extent of damage is not yet known, we are preparing to meet the needs to the best of our ability.
And even amid these mixed feelings, when our 15th anniversary came along with a disastrous hurricane, between joy and sadness, between celebration and concern, we must move on. After all, we are celebrating that although it is little by little, these families are becoming less vulnerable to these disasters, diversifying their income through alternatives such as beekeeping and the introduction of more resistant crops. We celebrate that little by little, we are improving access roads, reducing isolation and facilitating the transport of the sick, emergency evacuation and delivery of crops to market. We celebrate that there are more and more rainwater harvesting tanks, improving the quality of life of these families. In short, we celebrate that thanks to the generosity of our supporters in these 15 years, the communities are better prepared for these situations, even if there is still a long way to go before this vulnerability is behind them.
There are several activities continuing to raise funds and celebrate our 15 years, and although it is inevitable to feel the sadness of the current situation, we must move on and turn our sadness into hope. We must continue working harder than ever for these communities who are in such great need, communities which that God has put in our way so that we can give them a hand.