Periodically, Agros staff accompany donors on trips to view the work they help to fund. Our colleague, Emily, has worked at Agros for more than a decade, and for the first time was able to visit the village of San Jose, Nicaragua. What follows is a journal entry from her first day there.
Oh I have heard about San Jose for so long! The village that didn’t have a JWAV partner at first – the trial run for what would it mean to have a village funded without a partner visiting them regularly? Since then of course San Jose has two awesome village partners – Greenwood Christian Church and ELM! So I eagerly anticipated my visit to this community and my expectations were exceeded. What a gift to see this community today. We got off Oscar’s bus, to an awesome sign saying:
"Agroaldea San Jose
29 familias beneficiadas
Acceso a tierra y asistencia tecnia especializada
'Creando oportunidades, rompiendo el ciclo de la probreza'”
Enough Said! I love this – in writing right before the entrance to San Jose publicly stating the facts of this village – 29 benefiting families with access to land and specialized technical assistance. Creating Opportunities and breaking the cycle of poverty – what a mission! Wow – makes me what to have a sign outside of my house stating my family’s goals and mission – what would you write on yours?
Past the sign we looked up the hill to see the members of San Jose greeting us with smiles and warm welcoming faces. They were everywhere - standing next to the school (recently put in by Build On), up on the balcony of the community center peering down, and peaking out from behind their flowers in their homes. The word had gotten out that we had arrived and everyone was ready to greet us.
Moments later we found ourselves in the by now very familiar white plastic chairs in their community center. Armando, the president was the first to speak and gave a short and eloquent welcome. I stared at his face – it was so familiar to me – his eyes and the way he talked and I just didn’t know why. I had never been to San Jose. Perhaps I am on Latin time as it took me until the end of the meeting to realize – oh the video! Armando is in a video taken a few years back! I have, like Isabel, been watching his face over and over for years. It was great to meet him finally.
After dancing and singing and introductions, we proceeded with the full and wonderful remainder of our day. We “worked” in the fields and spend time visiting individual families in their homes to chat and help with chores. I also went with Noe to see some jalapeno pepper plants that were amazing! Just as you described Anne – just perfect.
The highlight for our team was the home visits. We broke up into 4 groups and each went to spend time with families. Each had a chore to work including making tortillas, cooking, and sorting beans.
In Rosa’s home, we talked and sat on their patio around a big table. We sorted beans for a long time helping them to discard those damaged or cut. I think the 4 women in my group could have sorted beans for hours and hours if it meant being able to sit on that patio with Rosa and her family. We heard of their lives before Agros working in Costa Rica as gardeners and in construction and when asked his favorite thing about living in San Jose was, Mario answered with a heartfelt expression of providing for his family. Having a proper structure for his family meant everything to him and having food to provide and a farm that he can pass to his children was such a high value.
This is a very typical response that I have heard countless times in my visits and yet the way he answered blew me away. With tears in my eyes (and many other women on my team) I thanked him for sharing that with us.
The time ended too quickly and we were off to El Tuma again. What a sweet and bold and loving community San Jose is – I hope to return.
We are off to bed so we have energy to debrief tomorrow. What a rich experience.
(May 21, 2014)
Each year, every Agros community undergoes a participatory planning process that involves the community members and Agros staff. Please click on the attached document to view the full community plan for Tierra Nueva. There are many exciting activities and developments that we can't wait to share with you, including plans to build new preschool classrooms, a middle school, and housing for teachers. And thanks to a growing partnership with local government, plans are under way to develop a health center. Without you, this would not be possible. Thank you for your continued support!
As always, you can learn more about Agros International and the amazing people we work with by visiting our website: www.agros.org, or by finding us on Facebook.
In order for donors to Agros villages to get a better sense of the impact they are having on the lives of people there, we periodically lead groups on vision or service trips. On these trips, the groups spend time with community members, hearing their stories and often participating in the daily life of families.
One recent trip was a Women’s Vision Trip, made up of a group of women who support communities in Nicaragua, or who are exploring ways to support them. Our colleague, Emily, led the trip, and it was her first time to see the newest village, Tierra Nueva, which is home to 150 families (about 750 people). Here are a few of her comments:
Now I know what all of the fuss has been about with this Tierra Nueva place! Wow. It is amazing! I didn’t want to leave. As we drove in this morning, Oscar (our bus driver) pointed out where the property line started and soon to our right we saw San Benito on the hill across the valley and moments later pulled into Las Cuarenta. It felt like the combination of all of the good things I have seen throughout other Agros villages blended into one community. The gardens stood out to me right away – what care families have taken to decorate their property – it showed to me dignity and pride in where they live.
Our first stop was Carmen’s home, a short and gorgeous walk up the path from the school past multiple homes with gardens that were drawing me in, asking me to sit and be and have a cup of coffee – I wished that I had time to do just that in every home with every person I saw but no, not today and so I carried on to the home of someone I will now admire forever. Carmen is a health promoter in Tierra Nueva and lights up a room! Her eyes are wide and bright, and with dimples deep she smiled with pride telling us about her children and her work as a health promoter and her role as the VP of the community board, and the list goes on. Her care for the people of her community is outstanding and extends beyond what she signed up for because she can’t stop caring and serving and advocating for those that don’t yet know how to do so for themselves. What a rock.
The people who live in Agros communities are incredibly inspiring. Thank you for being a part of their lives through your generous support.
Learn more about the impact Agros is making in Honduras by visiting agros.org.
Follow Agros International on Twitter @AgrosIntl or "like" our Facebook page to get day-to-day updates from the field.
Maria worked as a farm cook in Nicaragua for many years where she struggled to provide enough resources to care for her family. She knew that her job wasn’t going to be enough for her family long term, so they decided to move to an economically rich community to settle down.
Risking all that she had hoping for a better life, Maria moved her family to Costa Rica. She felt like they were making progress, that is, until her house caught fire. The fire not only consumed their clothes and the roof over their head, but also destroyed their hope for new opportunity.
With nothing to her name, Maria and her children returned to Nicaragua.
Upon arrival to Nicaragua, Maria met a new friend and support, Tierra Nueva community member Pablo Martinez. Their friendship blossomed, and to Maria’s joy, her family was able to join Agros’ Tierra Nueva community in 2012. This meant that her family would have the opportunity to start over with a clean slate!
She was excited about the opportunity, not only improve the quality of life for her children, but also to begin a firm foundation of economic independence for her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
“When I take my product to market, I do not worry about my children. I know that they are in a safe community with clean water.”
Since joining the Tierra Nueva community, Maria has taken full advantage of any opportunities that come her way. She is now growing vegetables, corn, coffee, and raising chickens.
If you asked Maria her favorite thing about being engaged in Agros’ Tierra Nueva community, she would tell you, “When I take my product to market, I do not worry about my children. I know that they are in a safe community with clean water.”
Becoming a member of Tierra Nueva has significantly improved the quality of life for Maria and her family. The ability to own land and have a safe home means that her kids have a life that she had only previously dreamed of.
Recently, Maria was elected to become the Community Health Promoter. Life for the Martinez family looks remarkably better than it did a few years ago.
Thanks to you, Agros is able to restore hope and opportunity to the world’s poor. It is exciting when we get to see rural poor families own agricultural land, attain economic self-sufficiency, realize their God-given potential, and pass on to future generations the values and resources that enable them to flourish.
José didn’t know what else he could do.
He spent long days on rented land growing basic grains and scavenging for valuable metals, but at the end of the day he was not able to make ends meet for his three beautiful children and wife of twenty-one years.
Both he and his wife Sara were losing hope for a sustainable future full of opportunity to pass on to their sons and daughters.
Agros’ mission is to restore hope and opportunity to the world’s poor. We strive to see rural poor families own agricultural land, attain economic self-sufficiency, realize their God-given potential, and pass on to future generations the values and resources that enable them to flourish.
In Nicaragua, as well as most other communities in Central and South America, productive land is extremely scarce. It is almost impossible to farm on your own land because it comes at such a premium, and land ownership laws can be prohibitive.
When talking with a close friend, José heard about an opportunity to attain land that he could actually own. His friend mentioned that there was a team in Luz de Mañana called Agros International, who worked with farmers to actually help them gain land.
What do you think José did? He did what any of us would have done. Right away he traveled to Luz de Mañana, Nicaragua, to meet our field staff and learn how he might be able to become part of a future land project.
Agros was happy to partner with José and provide an abundant plot of land that he could use to feed his family and eventually call his own.
José scraped together $150 to get a head start on his land payments. He was provided with 8 acres of rich land by Agros, which he is using to grow plantains, basic grains, beans, and watermelon. For José, this means that for the first time in his life, he has the ability to grow enough food for his family.
Full of hope for the future, José is currently working to setup a more efficient irrigation system for his crops so that he can produce year-round. If all goes as planned, José’s land will produce enough that his family will have plenty of food, and with the extras he can sell his nutrient rich cash crops for income.
“With God’s help, I look forward to the day when I can rejoice because I have paid off my land and my children have a place to live and work.” Sara remarked, “I look forward to owning our land and home. The trust that Agros has placed in us by providing us this opportunity is wonderful."
Because of your partnership with Agros, José is able to do what he needs to do—take care of his family. Soon, José is on his way to becoming a landowner, something he never dreamed would be possible.
With your continued support, others like Jose and Sarah can build a life of hope and success. Please join with us to support these remarkable people.
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Grants Manager, Resource Development