by Deacon Steve Herrera
During the week of July 31-August 8, 2008 I was part of a team of priests, deacons and seminarians who were sent by Catholic Relief Services to learn about its work in Nicaragua. The week exceeded my expectations. The depth and range of what Catholic Relief Services is doing in Nicaragua is remarkable.
We learned about the economic and social situation in Nicaragua and the many challenges the majority of Nicaraguans face, especially with a 70 percent poverty rate. The average wage is approximately $2 a day, and seven out of 10 people live on $2 a day or less.
There are a range of obstacles and problems in Nicaragua as there are in most Third World countries, however the work of CRS and its partners provide reasons for hope. And during these economic times especially as Advent is approaching, the need for hope is essential.
CRS is not just about numbers, reports and fundraising. It is a means for Catholics to reach out to their brothers and sisters who are in impoverished situations. For example, with the help of CRS I witnessed many lives that were changed and saw how the quality of life was improved for many people in Nicaragua.
The work of CRS is about families and individuals being empowered to improve their standard of living through drip irrigation, access to loans in small amounts and by increasing the ability to leverage the best price for their products by forming coffee cooperatives.
This is what I witnessed in Nicaragua: farmers, women and families being assisted with tools they need to help themselves. One farmer I met, Juan Jimenez, was provided with a small loan to help him to design and implement a drip irrigation system for his crops.
Juan explained that his own father could not educate him when he was growing up, and now he wants to provide educational opportunities for his children and give them the opportunity to have a profession. Juan sees this as more of a possibility now with his crops increasing. Through the help of CRS he now enjoys increased produce yields and at the same time reduced water usage. The benefit of drip irrigation is more effective water use with less water. Juan also now employs five people to help him with his farm. This is truly a story of hope and exemplifies how CRS is empowering people to become self-reliant.
Deacon Steve is a permanent deacon in the diocese of San Jose and has been with the Global Fellows Program for two years. To read more stories and see more pictures from Deacon Steve’s trip to Nicaragua visit his trip website.