May 27, 2020

surprises on our way

Leaving Bluefields
Leaving Bluefields

Note: I made this trip in February, just before the pandemic of the Coronavirus started. It gives an impresion who we met new coremembers and our way of working.

Bluefields

Here I am back to my desk after three days in Bluefields, a small town on the Atlantic Ocean called after a Dutch pirate Abraham Blauvelt who used the bay as his hiding place in the 17th century.

Until recently Bluefields could only be reached by coach to Rama followed by almost a day’s journey on the river. But now there is a tarmac highway and  Bluefields is only 5 hours from Juigalpa. 

Scenery on the way

Getting to know Romel
The purpose of my journey to Bluefields was to get to know Romel, a young man with an intellectual disability, and to assess his situation. We got to know Romel’s family through an old people’s home in Juigalpa to which Romel’s uncle was recently admitted as there is no care home in Bluefields. They asked us whether Romel could come and live at Ruach. In principle our home is full at present, but we do not like to give a definite ‘No’ for an answer. We were told that Romel was relatively independent, so we argued that if this proved to be true and Romel were to fit in with other members of the community home, we would be open to admit him as our 7th core member.

Assessing the family situation
So I planned to have days  away, but left the rest open:  I could only travel  if there was a seat available;  I would sort out my accommodation in Bluefields upon arrival;  and I would also play the return journey by ear: the Nicaragua way.
But the journey turned out to be a sequence of pleasant events. There was a free seat on the bus, and on the journey I was able to call one of Romel’s relatives, Don Hernan, who was waiting for me at the bus station in Bluefields and  took me to Romel’s aunt with whom Romel had lived since 2017 after his mother died. (Romel’s father never played a role in his life). But Romel’s aunt aged 84 could no longer care for Romel, and therefore Romel moved back to his parental home, looked after by a cousin, only  as a temporary solution as the cousin himself has not got a stable past.

Romel’s aunt’s house

I was warmly welcomed and invited to a delicious lunch straight away. Did I want to spend the night with the aunt? I gladly accepted as it seemed a good way to get to know the aunt better and indirectly learn more about Romel. I spent the night on a spare bed in her room, a big sign of hospitality!


Romel

I tried to learn more about Romel and to get to know him: through open conversations with the aunt and Don Hernan; by visits with Romel to his home where I could observe what he did and did not do; and by making contact with him through a visit to the church, etc.

Romel is indeed fairly independent. However, he is very passive (lack of stimulation), and walks poorly (lack of exercise).  What was more worrying was his behavior, which I was told about, partly reinforced by an inadequate way of handling him.  Would we at Ruach be able to cope with that?

Arrangements made
Romel was keen to visit me in Juigalpa, so we fixed a first short visit for mid-March. We also planned a second and third visit of increasing duration, which we feel is the best way for our core members to gradually get to know Romel, and vice versa, without the pressure of  thinking “Romel is here to stay.” That way Romel himself would be able to indicate whether living in the Ruach Community Home would be a good alternative for him. Ruach will assess the situation after the third visit and if possible will then take a decision about Romel’s future with us.

Of course it will cost Romel’s family money and time, but the signs are that it is a good plan. Even Romel’s only brother whom I talked to over the telephone as he lives in the States, is fully behind the plan, contrary to  his aunt’s expectations. So we’re all facing the same direction. Time will tell what is wisdom. We’ll keep you posted.

Rommel at home
Rommel at home

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Apr 30, 2020

Why a popular optic of the Ruach Fundacion?

our  dream
our dream

Juigalpa, Chontales

Since 4 years we started the Ruach fundacion to give a worthwhile life to persons with a intellectual disability. We are operated in Juigalpa, Nicaragua.

Not so many years ago, to be a person with disabilities in Nicaragua meant a lifetime of suffering in silence. Often people with disabilities were hidden away from society as they were almost regarded as “less than human beings” that brought shame to the family. Consequently, very few support programs existed to help families to cope with disability.

We need to generate income for the Ruach Foundation (workshops, office, home) to finance its social programs, being an economic alternative for self-sustainability for the RUACH foundation. Becasasuse of that we made a market study and made a proyect to start a popular optics in Juigalpa.

Why Juigalpa?

To open the optic in Juigalpa is because it has 79,581 inhabitants in the city, this is a positive stimulus that reveals a favourable investment. In addition, currently the city of Juigalpa, located northwest of the department of Chontales, in the central region of Nicaragua, has rapid demographic and possibilities of economic growth.

Another reason for this selection is that the department of Chontales includes most of the municipalities with the highest concentration of inhabitants, being these 10 municipalities (Juigalpa, Santo Tomas, Acoyapa, Comalapa, Cuapa, Villa Sandino, La Libertad, Santo Domingo, San Pedro de Lóvago and El Coral). 

 Juigalpa is a city that functions as an intersection of departmental and municipal road communication, connecting the municipalities of New Guinea, El Rama, Muelle de los Bueyes and El Ayote through land. It also connects the department of Rio San Juan and the entire department of Chontales with the department of Boaco and Managua. Besides, this city is an important transit point that interconnects the Autonomous Region of the South Caribbean Coast, and is therefore immersed in a large commercial movement, both internal and external, that provides easy mobilization.

 All of the above has contributed to the increase in demand for diverse products, mainly health related like the need to wear glasses to improve visual conditions. This constitutes an investment opportunity in the services market.

 Market research

According to studies conducted by the administrative team of the Foundation RUACH for people with disabilities, in five municipalities (Boaco, Santo Tomas, San Carlos, Rama and New Guinea) in four departments of the country (Boaco, Chontales, Rio San Juan and RACCS), it was verified that 96% are interested, willing and available to purchase lenses in an optician that offers affordable prices, wide variety of frames and lenses according to the needs of customers, vision screenings, among other services that mainly benefit the most disadvantaged.

What havve we done untill now?

We made the proyect in Spanish and English. We looked for people where to send it to, we gave a copy to people near by. We ar sowing and waiting that our effort will be rewarded. Every tip where to send it to, and what to do more, please let us know.

Together we can make a difference. We show it with our social work!

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Apr 7, 2020

Nicaragua in times of COVID-19

one of our coremembers, Daniel
one of our coremembers, Daniel

Since last week Nicaragua also has been living under the spell of the corona virus after the independent press rang the alarm bell. The Government responded by issuing regular updates on the virus. The Vice-President gives her daily talk about the situation.

The Government wants to control all news about the virus. Health workers cannot ‘just like that’ talk to patients about the virus for fear that this will fuel mass hysteria. We have got a Government that through their  actions has made it abundantly clear that they knows best what is good for the people, and they do not take the people seriously. Yes, the vice-president does announce rules and regulations, but it seems these are often a phase behind the reality. For example, when last week the first cases of the virus were recorded, the Government started a door-to-door information campaign about how to avoid catching the virus.

Private schools are now closed, but continue working online. The public schools continue as usual, except that some parents keep their children at home, much to the dismay of the school management, who warned that pupils would suffer negative consequences if they did not sit for their test-papers.

How many corona cases do we have in Nicaragua? We know the official figures: 2 deaths; 3 cases, and possibly another 12. But few people believe these figures. Health personnel are duty-bound to keep silent. According to informal sources there are corona cases in Juigalpa. Everything is possible, we just don’t know.

Many Nicaraguans have relatives living abroad, especially in Spain, the USA and in Italy, and of course news from these countries filters through and is, according to me, the main reason why the streets in most towns in Nicaragua are very quiet and many shops are closed. But people who work for the State are supposed to keep going with their usual activities.

An embarrassing invitation
The Government likes to pretend that all is normal and they do not take measures to make people stay at home, in fact they encourage quite the opposite! Today we were visited by two employees of the Ministry of Small Enterprises to promote the Government’s initiative to have a street market on 4 April in the very centre of Juigalpa for products made by people with disabilities.  The event would also be a competition with a prize for the person who could make the most beautiful product. In the past. members of Ruach’s Activities Centre joined similar events,  selling piñatas.

Ruach’s response

I checked with the gentlemen of the Ministry of Small Enterprises whether, given the corona crisis, they would consider postponing the street market, but as the plan came from Managua the local Government has to implement the plan. I thanked them for the kind invitation and said I would discuss it with the president of the Ruach Foundation, although it was obvious to me what our answer was going to be. But in a non-democratic country like Nicaragua people (government employees and citizens alike) cannot openly oppose government policies.

Recession
Today I called Anelka to cancel our regular Wednesday outing for our residents to the swimming pool as we will keep our residents at home for the time being. Anielka has got a long-distance coach business, but also helps us with transport to the pool on Wednesdays. I asked her how her business was faring. She answered that she had not experienced a recession of this depth for many years; almost no one travels these days’.

Fundación Ruach
Last week we also decided to close our Activities Centre till further notice. The Board also issued official guidelines on how to deal with the corona crisis which also affects how we live in the community home.
One of our rules is that we no longer allow visitors to enter our Community Home, but have set up a terrace in front of our Home instead. We keep more distance from each other, especially at the dining room table. Tooth brushes are stored separately. Staff change shirts when they come in from outside. I  no longer shake hands anymore, but wave my elbow which is a clear sign that we take prevention seriously. And I have reduced my activities outside the Home to a minimum.

A time of opportunity and creativity
But we do not want this crisis period to be a period of restrictions only. It is a chance to think creatively about how else we can celebrate our community life. We have turned our swimming pool morning into a dance morning at home. We still had some spare bottles of coca cola from our last visits to the pool, which now come in handy to be enjoyed after our dancing.

I have got more time now to put the dots on the ‘i’s  of activities to stimulate our residents and it’s great to see that based on our experience small changes can have big results for both the development of our residents and the training of our staff.

But the fact remains that these are challenging times. Nelson Mandela once said in reply to a question how he had been able to survive 27 years on Robben island: “I did not survive, I learned”  Let us use this COVID-19 period to learn new things and to push our boundaries. Together we can make the world a more beautiful place!

an other coremember
an other coremember
Loyda, in  shirt, with  logo and key message
Loyda, in shirt, with logo and key message

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