Jul 31, 2020

Ruach Optics: our second dream

Just imagine: 3 or 4 years from now the Ruach Foundation will have a well-functioning and popular spectacles shop in Juigalpa! Imagine also that we realized this dream because many people believed in our ability to make the dream come through and supported us! Wow, wouldn´t that be great!

At the moment the dream is just that: a dream. We’ve only just started. We are fine-tuning our project proposal although an early version was already sent out into different parts of the world. No dreams are fulfilled by just dreaming. Hard work is needed, and that’s what we are doing.

The first dream fulfilled: social programmes up and running…!

The core of the work since the Ruach Foundation started its social work, improving the lives of adults who live with intellectual disabilities, in earnest from mid-2016. We now provide a safe and caring home for 7 intellectually disabled adults (the ‘core members’). We also set up an Activities Centre for intellectually disabled adults living in Juigalpa. Although we have faced challenges, our individualized stimulation programs for those who were able to regularly attend have been successful.   We also started an outreach programme to change the perception of how the society at large perceives and treats people born with intellectual limitations. We have built a whole network of individual and corporate contacts and Ruach is well-recognized and appreciated.

So, our first dream is no longer a dream. It is now a reality. The community home is the core of our organization. The home is now well-established, and for more than a year there have been no personnel changes. It has become a stable and, by and large, happy community.

…. but our Foundation is not yet fully financially independent

The Ruach Foundation would want to address the most urgent and dire needs which ‘come our way’, irrespective of whether potential beneficiaries can ‘pay their way’. The Ruach Foundation therefore does not expect the families of Ruach’s seven community members or the participants of the Activities Centre to fully cover the expenses for the services they receive. Families pay in kind or cash whatever they can. The Activities Centre produces some marketable products, but the income of its sales is only a fraction of the running costs of the Centre. Ruach’s outreach work does not generate income either, although through this work Ruach has established a network of supportive friends among whom there are many who provide help in kind or for reduced fees, including e.g. medical help (doctor, dentist), hairdressing, transport, etc.

However, Ruach is far from being fully self-supporting!

Our strategy to become financially independent: providing optical services through a spectacles shop

The Board of the Ruach Foundation have thought for several years about the most realistic way of generating independent income and becoming far less reliant on (inter)national donations which at present are still needed to pay for the cost of social activities of the Ruach Foundation. As time went by, it became increasingly clear that starting an optical business would be the best option given the existing optical expertise in the Ruach Board and its network of well-wishers. There is clearly a market for a popular and cheaper spectacles shop in this part of Nicaragua as according to the Ministry of Health about 68% of the Nicaraguan population has vision problems. Our aim for Ruach Optics is to fill this gap in the market for the benefit of people with lower incomes. By offering appropriate eye care, frames and lenses while generating enough profit to feed back into our social programmes. Our own study revealed that a vast majority of people questioned in the regions around Juigalpa said that they would use Ruach Optics if it were to provide services at an affordable price.

Support us fulfilling our second dream!

Would you like to support our second dream? Then please mark in your agenda: Sept. 14-18! Through GlobalGiving’s ´Little by Little campaign’ you can support ‘Ruach Optics’, and also invite also your friends to give a little. We hope that during that week ‘many littles´ will add up to ‘big change’!

We will let you know by letter, how exactly you can help us. Only together, dreaming and working, we improve the rights of people with intellectual disabilities who are 15 years or older in Juigalpa, Nicaragua!


Jul 28, 2020

Health (and ill-health) at Ruach

I’m delighted to share with you a chapter of my six-monthly report (January-June 2020) to Ruach’s mother foundation Vivir Juntos (Leiden, Netherlands) about health issues among core members and the staff of our community. The past 6 months have been a time full of surprises and challenges

Resident core members
During these last 6 months we have occasionally visited a holistic doctor with some of our core members. Our view is that illness or ailments indicate that the body is out of balance and it needs support to strengthen its immunity. Whenever possible we prefer avoiding the use of medicines. Jonathan and I visit this doctor once a month for treatment of his epilepsy and irritability. For him these visits are an outing! Generally speaking the core members are in good health. Loyda’s health has improved and she rarely  gets diarrhoea anymore, which is a fantastic achievement to which our care, her body and the visits to this doctor have contributed. Loyda now rarely needs a special diet!

In February Loyda, Daniel and Jonathan had their teeth cleaned under local anaesthetic by a dentist-friend of ours and his friend who is an anaesthetist. Because of the corona virus we opted not to contact a medical friend who works in a health centre, but consulted a private doctor who offered favourable terms for his services. He also visited Ruach to check up on Rommel when he joined us recently as a new core member.

Mary, one of our home assistants, had an operation in March after which she was given two months of medical leave, a period which was extended till 1st July. Fortunately we met Sayra, who replaces Mary during her absence. Sayra is  God-sent as she  very obviously has experience in working with disabled people and fits in well with our team.

Ana, our home care assistant who lives at Ruach, (the community needs at least two carers at the home every night) was given medical leave in June because of the risk of a spontaneous abortion. Her condition is not yet stabilized and her absence is sorely felt.
In June COVID-19 infections in Nicaragua were on the rise. Several employees (one assistant and the cleaner/cook) started feeling poorly and showed symptoms consistent with COVID-19. As it is not easy here to be tested for COVID-19, we decided to ‘be safe rather than sorry’ and recommended that the affected staff recover from their illness at home. Fortunately the other members of the team (two assistants) were very positive and understanding and helped each other to cope with the increased work load. However, the staff situation was truly minimal and I also was not able to take my usual holidays. At this time we also engaged the one reserve assistant who can be called upon in emergencies like this. We’ve now started trying to recruit a second emergency worker to help out if the situation were to get worse. It is not easy to find such a person, because few have the required experience to work with intellectually disabled adults; being of good will is not enough.

Physiotherapy and massage
The physiotherapist who gave monthly treatments to Loyda, Daniel en Maria Elenea left Juigalpa. We have found a replacement who, because of COVID-19 restrictions, has not yet been able to start work with our core members. In the meantime we try to keep the latest physio- exercises going (with slight modifications) by using our own common sense and ‘wisdom’. Likewise, the massages which Daniel and Maria Elena received weekly from a volunteer had to stop because of the quarantine regulations.

The past six months have been full of surprises: not only at home, but also in Nicaragua and in the world. I think we can be proud of the way we have addressed the challenges we had to face. We’ve become a stronger community and have met our development targets for each of our core members reasonably well. Our team has grown in its ability to learn from facing difficult situations, and it is thanks to them that we have taken  concrete steps forwards in realizing our dreams for a better life for adult people with intellectual disabilities.

I’m very grateful for all support, financial and otherwise, received from so many people in Juigalpa, England, Netherlands and other countries.

I experience  God’s hand  in our work which gives us courage and confidence to continue. I’m very grateful for the support of the Vivir Juntos Board, our pillar of strength, and for their financial support.

There is power in unity! We all play our part for a better society in which people with intellectual disabilities are treated more positively. It feels very good to be part of this process.


Jun 29, 2020

To be or not to be?

Maria Elena and her dad
Maria Elena and her dad

Maria Elena’s father looked happy when the civil servant explained to him the requirements for his daughter to get an identity card, the only way to prove who one is, and which is needed by all Nicaraguans aged 16 or above. Maria Elena is already 26 years old.

Because of her disability the family never made the effort to apply for an ID, although she is relatively fortunate that she was registered after her birth and her father still has her birth certificate. So she legally exists which apparently makes it easier to collect the paper work needed to obtain an ID. I write ‘apparently’, because in Nicaragua one never knows what sort of unexpected administrative demands or surprises can happen before the finishing line.

Father’s visit
Napoleon, the father of Maria Elena and Manuel, lives in a deeply rural and isolated area of Nicaragua, more than a day’s journey from Juigalpa. So it is understandable that he does not visit his children at Ruach frequently. But when he does visit them, when he leaves he usually promises to visit soon again, a  promise he does not always keep. He rarely phones us or his children either, which could partly be due to distance and poor connectivity. Once he is back home he lives in a different world, which makes him forget that a phone call to his children would do a lot of good for his children’s well-being.

In februar the father sent a message that he wanted to visit Ruach, so I suggested a Wednesday, our special day for a trip to the swimming pool, for him to be able to watch his children’s newly acquired skills! I decided not to mention the planned visit to Manuel and Maria Elena to prevent disappointment if something were to crop up to stop the father from coming.
But Napoleon made it! He arrived loaded with home grown cooking bananas, fruit and vegetables. Moreover, he was in time to join us to the pool,  together with a half-brother and half-sister of Manuel and Maria Elena. Maria Elena was immediately happy when she saw her father, but Manuel needed time for the ice to break. But after a while he started to enjoy his father’s visit.

Swimming pool and visit to the Electoral Council
The father was very vocal about his pleasure to see his children’s progress in the water, and his children were beaming with pride. Back from the pool I proposed to him that he should visit the Electoral Council to start the procedure for getting Maria Elena an ID, while at the same time enquiring what would be needed for Manuel to get an ID, as unlike his sister, he does not have a birth certificate, a situation quite common in Nicaragua.

Last August  I made enquiries at the Population Register’s Office about what would be needed to get an identity card for Manuel. We were given a long check list of documents to be handed in, as well as the information that  these documents had to be handed in in person in the capital Managua. Our courage sank into his boots when we heard this. 

This time we tried a different channel, the Election Council. We were helped by a very non-bureaucratic clerk with a practical approach to Napoleon’s predicament: “ ‘Not officially married’, and ‘mother died’ equals to  ‘one-parent family’, hence far less paperwork”, and so on.

Napoleon was happy as the simplified process seemed ‘do-able’, and, although not easy, it was as easy as was possible. He promised to return next week with the required paperwork to start the procedures to obtain an identity card for both his children. It would also be a burden off his conscience.


We walked home. Before we got there, Napoleon invited Maria Elena and myself for a  drink in the park. After our lunch at the Community House, Napoleon visited the Activities Club to see his son Manuel at work, before starting his journey home. Everyone was well-pleased with his visit.

A month later Napoleon came again. Just before the coronavirus started in Nicaragua. He went with Maria Elena and two familymembers, as witnesses of the situation, to the Counsil and started the process to get Maria Elena he ID. And really one month later I could go to get the ID for her. Woh,we all felt great!

Now we are still working in the procedure of Manuel. It is more dificul. More still in this time of coronavirus.... We need more creativity, but we are half way! In a next report I will give you an update.


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