June 27, 2017

Summer 2014 Newsletter

During this “slow” time, will you please make a special gift to Casa Baltimore/Limay? Your donation will be matched, one-for-one, by another generous supporter. In this newsletter, you will discover the reasons why your gift makes a valuable difference:  ** Our Activities ** Feature Article on New Progress in Limay ** Greetings and Reports from Limay Committee.

From the menu at the top of this web page, click “Donate to CB/L” to donate to our projects.

As you know, Casa Baltimore/Limay does a lot with a budget of under $35,000 a year, with the help of numerous volunteers in Baltimore, Limay, and elsewhere. In our friendship city of Limay, we fund post-secondary scholarships, medicines and medical transport, pre-school education and nutrition, food for the elderly and handicapped, poultry and other livestock, and the Phil Mitchell revolving loan fund.

In this newsletter, you will see a feature article, with photos, by Kathy Albrecht, who visited San Juan de Limay in February. She reports on the positive difference our projects are making for people in Limay, and we are grateful to her for the lush detail she has brought us. Inside you will also find greetings and recent reports from our Limay committee. We are blessed to work with such fine compañer@s.

While many people are enjoying their summer vacations, our Baltimore and Limay committees are hard at work and play, raising money and carrying out the vital projects in Baltimore’s friendship city in Nicaragua. Maybe you have seen us in our LatinoFest booth, or you’ve recently helped us move into the new office which we share with Nicaraguan Cultural Alliance.

Our work and play continue as we prepare for our annual fundraising party on Saturday, September 6, 5:00– 10:30 p.m., in the relaxing, life-renewing countryside near Baltimore. Please join us – bring a potluck dish, a musical instrument if you play one, your best singing voice – and your checkbook! No gift is too large, and no one is turned away. It’s always fun.

We’re also planning for a small delegation from Limay, whom we hope to host in Baltimore in November. We expect to hear more from our Limay committee very shortly, and we will keep you posted.

We expect to take a delegation to Limay in January 2015. Maybe this is the time for you to go with us! If you are interested in this delegation, or possibly one in the future, please contact us at info@CasaBaltimoreLimay.org or 410-662-6292.

In the meantime, we still have Nica items for sale – beautiful beautiful paintings, pottery, carved soapstone, clothing. Near-future buying opportunities are by appointment; call 410-662-6292.

Thank you for your generous support – past, present, and future.

 

FIRSTHAND REPORT: NEW PROGRESS IN LIMAY

By Kathryn Albrecht

[Don’t miss the photos that accompany this article!  From the menu at the top of this web page, click on “Summer 2014 newsletter photos” for the photo gallery.]

This February, I had the privilege of returning to San Juan de Limay, municipal seat of numerous small villages dotting a mountainous cordillera in northern Nicaragua. For the second time in three years, I was fortunate to help document some of the projects of Casa Baltimore/Limay, and to gather feedback from our compañeros there who benefit from those programs. This is my report back to the North American half of this long-standing solidarity organization.

The coordinating committee of the southern half, Doña Angélica, Doña Olidia, Don Leonidas and Don Tranquilino, welcomed me back to the spacious old Nicaraguan casa tradicional housing our sister-organization in Limay. All of you who’ve visited there will agree: it’s a cool, restful, nurturing place, with its pila (agua y baño) and huge mango tree in the courtyard. I’ve been so grateful staying there!

I told the comité I’d been asked to visit some rural villages and photograph the CB/L-financed poultry production, and to interview ancianos and the handicapped who receive modest monthly food packets (supplementing the canasta básica the government provides them).

We also discussed the comité’s medical assistance fund (generated from donors like you!).  These veteran committee members are wisely frugal with this account, but I conveyed my understanding that norteños in Baltimore are hoping to see the medical assistance line-item increase somewhat in the comite’s annual budget. There were years when the number of Nicaraguans being helped increased about 8% annually.  I mentioned that now, Americans might be able to dig a bit deeper once again. [Editor note: Thanks to Kathy’s effort, we recently agreed to double this budget item.]

Bright Ideas Abound: The next morning, Don Tranquilino accompanied me (in an ancient, dusty, jerry-rigged school bus) to revisit the village of El Palmar, with an agricultural cooperative formed after the triumph of the Revolution. During “los diez y seis años” (a devastating 16 years of neo-liberal administrations which followed the devastating Contra War), the cooperative felt forced to sell its rich, arable fields, piece by piece, in order to keep their children in clothing, food, medicine, and school.

So the folks of El Palmar now live on a steep, dry and rocky slope above those fertile fields. And Casa Baltimore/Limay has played a key role in their survival as a sustainable community. Many of the families have gotten chickens for egg production, plus the funding to protect their flocks in well-fenced gallineros (henhouses). Modern latrines have also been constructed at many homesteads.

CB/L helped build the first cisterns to store fresh rain water on the mountainside and encouraged intensive, raised-bed gardening, often under the dappled shade of hand-watered banana trees. This year I sensed I was observing El Palmar’s regeneration — an increase in construction as folks add on to tiny homes or build more ample ones within a family compound. There even seems the energy to add a few colorful touches of artistic design. And the Sandinista government has installed a community well, plus! has just brought electricity to El Palmar!

Because of CB/L’s poultry program, after several years of raising and selling their own meat and eggs, los Palmeros are creating a revolving loan fund from their profits, and can now offer others a hand up and out of destitution. Hey, this loan fund just might benefit a widow who we found needs a cooler and sturdier roof over her rickety outdoor kitchen!

Of Water and Wealth: The following morning, my able and dedicated guide, Don Tranquilino — a gentleman who lost three non-combatant sons to Contra attacks in the ‘80s — led us on a brisk walk to an outlying village, El Morcillo. Following the rim of a deep, wide arroyo gouged into the landscape by super-storm Mitch in 1998, we rounded a bend and came upon the most handsome herd of cows I’ve seen in this land of beautiful cattle. Well fed, they rested in the shade of broad tropical trees.

Soon, we passed El Morcillo’s communal milking station, replete with 3-legged stools and a chubby toddler or two awaiting his mother’s patient emptying of the cows’ full udders. The creek, by this point, seemed restored to melodious health in a lushly wooded valley, with families farming gentle terraces up and down its length.  Variety fruit orchards, herb gardens, and numerous vegetable plantings were thriving, despite its being the dry season.

Chief factors in the success of El Morcillo are the vital watercourse and villagers’ use of a vertical-lift, double-pulley system to raise well water up 25 feet into elevated, gravity-fed pipes for irrigation.

El Morcillo has also enjoyed Casa Baltimore’s support, evidenced by their gallineros full of chickens, plus tidy latrines for every home. Families receive grants from the comité for their children’s school supplies each year because, although the village is relatively land-rich, it’s clear that hardworking campesinos in this part of the world are cash-poor.

Back to the Barrio: My last day in Limay was spent with Angélica, who’s been a leader with Casa Báltimor since its beginning — a most gracious compañera. We focused on Barrio Guadalupe Carney, visiting recipients of CB/L aid for the elderly and handicapped. These meetings were warm with appreciation for the monthly food and medical assistance available, plus with the knowledge that grandchildren can attend the CB/L-supported CENIC pre-school and are fed a good lunch, to boot.

Then, a dramatic and surprising interview occurred. Angélica took me to Julia’s house! We knocked at her door, quite patiently, for a very long time. At long last, it was opened by a lovely young woman with a broad smile. We entered and sat down inside. Julia moved haltingly. My friend asked Julia if she’d like to tell her story to this visitor from “Casa Báltimor.” Julia’s eyes welled up with tears.

“When I was just 14, I was walking with my brother to the store. He was in the army and home for the weekend. I was so happy just to be walking with him. We went along the edge of a field and, dios mío, I stepped on a landmine! I woke up in the hospital in Managua. I had lost one foot and lower leg, but they were trying to save the other one. It was badly burned. I was there for months, and they saved it. There is always so much pain. Why did this have to happen? I was only 14! Can you imagine? My life has been so difficult ever since!!”

Her grieving subsided. This survivor of ordnance from one of the dirty little US wars eventually married and raised two children. Julia shared that a Canadian group recently fitted her with a much-improved prosthesis.  Now she hopes to start making piñatas at home to sell, providing merriment to children and their families celebrating life’s milestones, all over town.

Casa Baltimore/Limay stood with Julia, and the many others you’ve read about here, through years and years of struggle and recovery. And many of us feel blessed to have been part of this long, resilient friendship. Won’t you spread the word that the people of San Juan de Limay need our generosity still?

At the End of the Day: As Angélica and I made our way back to the plaza, we passed yet another Casa Baltimore/Limay beneficiary. Waiting at a bus stop was a young fellow with his duffel bag, heading back to college for the new semester. Angélica hugged him and introduced us, explaining that Lorenzo attends university thanks to a beca (scholarship) from Casa Baltimore/Limay!

Soon, with shouts, whistles, chatter and cheers, an old gold school bus rattled up, took on the student, and pulled away in a roil of dust, bearing yet another of San Juan de Limay’s offspring up and over the mountains to reach for higher education. Our grinning Lorenzo declared his intention to return and recharge the cycle once again.

 

GREETINGS AND REPORTS FROM OUR LIMAY COMMITTEE

April 8, 2014:

Greetings, brothers and sisters of the committee.  From this tropical location we send you a fraternal hug….

With respect to the activities which the committee is carrying out, it can be said that the Phil Mitchell Fund gave out 19 loans requested for housing repair and business.  In the current quarter, 5 persons have come to make payments and cancel their old accounts.

Medical Fund:  Thirty (30) persons were supported.  Of these, 11 received help for transport to medical appointments at different hospitals.  Help [was given] with [various named] medicines, and help to carry out a pelvic ultrasound.  We consider that there is considerable demand for transport to get to medical appointments.

Meetings with community boards:  We held a meeting on February 11, 2014, with representatives of the boards in the rural zone, which all attended.  They presented about the progress of the projects, with a lot of optimism and appreciation.  In these meetings there is an exchange of experiences.  The next meeting is scheduled for April 8, 2014.

With respect to the cow project:  In El Palmar there are two cows who have given birth, for 2 beneficiaries.  San Lorenzo has 9 cows and 6 beneficiaries.  El Morcillo has one person benefiting from one cow giving birth.  Quebrada de Agua has 4 cows and 3 offspring.  In Las Cañas, …two (2) more families have been benefited, for a total of 4.  Here there are 2 cows who have given birth and 2 [cubiertas] heifers.  In La Naranja, there are 4 beneficiaries of cows.

The bees are always maintained, and likewise the poultry, etc.

Food [for the elderly]:  We maintain the same number of beneficiaries [200].  Always, when one person is [subtracted], we substitute another and so we maintain the number.

Scholarships:  …We budgeted for 34 students; but one did not show up, and we have remained at 33.

July 9, 2014:

Fraternal greetings, brothers and sisters of the Baltimore committee. It gives us much pleasure to turn to you now that we have finished another quarter of the year and we should let you know the results of the activities carried out.

With regard to scholarships: Currently there are 39 young people who are receiving financial help to continue their studies. This semester two students will graduate, one in agriculture and one in clinical psychology. We will substitute two others for them, to whom we could not respond [earlier] and who are studying.

Food [for elderly and disabled]: The monthly distribution of food is continuing. For the moment we have substituted coffee for beans because they [beans] are very expensive and scarce. There are no fresh beans.  [Editor note: After a more recent phone discussion, the Limay committee has decided to substitute the less popular, and less expensive, black beans for the red beans to which Nicaraguans are accustomed.]

Bimonthly meeting with [community] boards: We held meetings on April 8 and June 10. They represent their communities where they have sister-city projects. They present their progress and difficulties. From the first cows they received, they have now given [offspring] to other families; they do it consulting among themselves, these same board representatives, and they make it known to the Limay (“urban”) committee. They are focused on the bill of sale and are proceeding to the transfer. We have noted the names of the new beneficiaries.

There are beneficiaries of cows in:

  • – San Lorenzo with 6
  • – El Morcillo with 2
  • – La Naranja with 4
  • – El Palmar with 2
  • – Quebrada de Agua with 4

Some families are maintaining the projects of poultry. They have gone from the communities: El Palmar and Quebrada de Agua benefited other families of nearby communities (Chapetones and Palmira) respectively.

Those with beehives received training in order to improve their attention, care and thus production. This was in May in the community of El Guaylo; they were advised to make a savings in order to respond to later needs related to the beehives.

Revolving loan fund: Eleven loans were made for small businesses and home repair. The work is going well with users, who have kept their credit up-to-date….

Medical fund: Thirty-one persons were attended to. They were supported with travel to keep medical appointments in the department [of Esteli], Managua, and La Trinidad. Others received help to have exams carried out. They were helped with purchase of [various named] medicines.

Having nothing more to mention, we repeat our greetings.

Sincerely,

Tranquilino Garmendia, Coordinator, Limay Committee