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.

Afterwards

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.

Links:

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

Links:

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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