In April 2006, Giving For Living conducted its first mission to Rivas , Nicaragua after weeks and months of preparation. Nicaragua , the second most impoverished country in all of Central America , remains an area of great needs and great deficits. Rivas is a small town, close to the border with Costa Rica , Central America . Giving For Living selected this area in Nicaragua due to its well known and overwhelming level of poverty. The Goal of our mission was to provide and deliver donated clothing, house hold items, books and toys to two orphanages in the area, while attempting to also help surrounding impoverished neighborhoods.
Upon arrival into Managua , Nicaragua , the team assembled a few hours later in Rivas. Plans were then put together to conduct the donations and distributions over the next few days. Distribution areas and locations that were previously outlined, were now confirmed. Much of the arrangements and detailed work had already been performed by our on-site coordinator in Nicaragua , Ms. Maria Mercedes Peralta. With that part of the mission well taken care of, the team assembled the next morning and began the process of clothing and item separation .
The first orphanage to be visited on the first full day was Casa Asis, Nuestros Pequenos Hermanos, in Rivas. This orphanage is home for many children ages 5 months to 7 years. Children come from the surrounding community whose families are under duress and unable to care for them. With this age group in mind, the arduous task of clothing separation began early in the morning
We arrived at Casa Asis at 9:30 AM and we were greeted by Sister Alana Lechner who so graciously welcomed us. Sr. Alana was not the only person waiting for us to arrive. Children of all ages surrounded the truck and were all around us, laughing, smiling, and very excited about our arrival and the toys to be distributed. This was a scene that all members of the team agree upon, as one we would never forget. The site of deprived children receiving toys and “gifts” and bicycles and seeing the looks of joy, happiness, and overall disbelief on their faces, were nothing short of amazing. Look for yourselves.
After the trucks were unloaded at Casa Asis and the frenzy of playing and sharing toys, books and clothing, the Children of Casa Asis thanked us, and all of you, our generous donors, with a group performance of various Spanish songs.
After the festivities ended we were taken on a small tour of Casa Asis by Sr. Alanna Lechner. Sr. Alanna was very generous with her time and talked about the daily workings of the orphanage. Children come mostly from the surrounding area and are housed in the orphanage. The orphanage is made up of various rooms to house the children and serve as sleeping quarters. There is also a school house and a library, in addition to a kitchen where all meals are prepared. Up until recently, milk was provided via the raising of cows and daily milking process. Due to recent decline in the number of cows owned by the orphanage from 4 to 2, the orphanage is now forced to buy milk, a process that taxes the very limited resources. And lastly, there is also a supervised playground. Children are cared for fully. In addition to being provided with the basic necessities of food, clothing and shelter, they are also provided with basic medical care and vaccinations from local pediatricians. Education takes place inside the orphanage in a class room and a library. This is possible through the generous volunteering of teachers and individuals who maintain and work in these facilities with the children. Casa Asis is a truly inspiring operation of tremendous value to the impoverished children of Rivas who have absolutely no other alternative. It is an operation whose demands are monumentous and is only possible due to presence of individuals like Sr. Alanna who has dedicated all her life to this amazing cause and to the help and care of those who are less fortunate. Giving For Living asked Sr. Alanna for her input regarding our visit. She was gracious enough to write to us. Below is her letter.
Sister Alanna Lechner: “On April 22, 2006, Casa Asis, Nuestros Pequenos Hermanos, Nicaragua, celebrated a mini Christmas of sorts. At 9:00 in the morning, the children were surprised by the arrival of two trucks laden with boxes of clothing and toys. These little ones stared in surprised as the drivers backed their vehicles into the driveway and started unloading. It didn't take long for the children to realize that the gifts were meant for them, and they were most eager and willing to relieve the bearers of their burden. As each bike, trike, or push cart was unloaded there was a scream of delight and, I must admit, a bit of pushing to receive a gift. In a short time each of the 32 children was riding, pulling, or pushing a different vehicle up and down the walkway. The laughter was loud and the smiles big. After unloading the trucks, the visitors stayed for a bit longer to enjoy the children and then moved on to their next mission. It was then that I took one look at the mound of boxes that were left behind, and wondered if I would ever get to the bottom of it. For four days, from sun up to sun down, (and often times later) I unpacked, sorted, and folded. Each box presented different treasures and as I went about deciding where they would best be used, I kept wondering who all these generous people were that made a difference in so many lives. Our home ended up with stacks of clothing, shoes, and other useful articles. Because we were blessed with more than we needed, several neighboring families also shared in our good fortune. The heavier clothing was separated out and given to another Nicaraguan orphanage in a cooler part of the country. As is customary, the children of Casa Asis keep all donors in their daily prayers. Casa Asis is the baby home for our orphanage in Nicaragua. At present we have 32 children ranging from 5 months to 7 years of age who are cared for by Nicaraguan women known are "tias". Preschool and Kindergarten classes are provided by a Nicaraguan woman of exceptional ability, and the children receive an excellent education. (Neighborhood children are also welcome to attend these classes.) After kindergarten, the children move to the island of Ometepe where they remain until their secondary education is finished. As is the custom in all of Nuestros Pequenos Hermanos homes, students have the opportunity to learn a trade or go on for higher education if they have the scholastic ability. Nuestros Pequenos Hermanos was founded more than 50 year ago by Father William Wasson for the purpose of caring for the spiritual and physical wellbeing of children who are orphaned, abandoned, or living in situations that put their lives as risk. At present there are homes for these children in 9 countries in the Caribbean, and South and Central America. God bless you and may you find many more concerned people to help you so that you may continue to make a difference in the lives of others”. Sr. Alanna Lechner
With our visit to the first orphanage completed, plans to visit the second orphanage were now in the forefront. This is due to technical difficulties in terms of delivering the second shipment to this site. This second of two orphanages is located on a volcanic island called Ometepe Island. The largest sweet water lake in the world surrounds this island. At the center of the Island are two volcanoes: Concepcion, the largest of the two and is active nearly daily, and Maderas. Access to the island and orphanage is via ferry only.
We arrived at Ometepe Island and immediately proceeded to drive to our second destination, the orphanage Nuestros Pequenos Hermanos. This orphanage houses older children, from the age of 7 years to 18 years. Some children have spent their earlier years at Casa Asis and once beyond the age of seven years were transferred here. This Orphanage houses approximately 300 children. Upon arrival we were greeted by Mr. Ross Egge. Mr. Egge is the coordinator of volunteers at the orphanage. With his help we were guided to the housing quarters where all trucks were unloaded. The shipment to this site included less toys, but more clothing, books and other educational materials. After a brief discussion about the history of the orphanage, Mr. Egge graciously spent 2 hours with us, and gave us a tour of the premises while discussing the principles and philosophy of the orphanage in addition to its principle goals. There were many highlights to this visit and to this discussion. Children here are provided with the basic necessities of shelter, food, and clothing. In addition, they are provided with a complete education through secondary school, and go on to high school, and for those who are scholastically able, to college and beyond. Every child is given the opportunity to acquire a wide range of skills and trades through the various work shops available at the home. This takes place with the basic and most important understanding that once the child reaches 18 years of age and leaves the orphanage, the child is much more likely to succeed and be able to self sustain. Nuestros Pequenos Hermanos is an awe inspiring operation of immense magnitude whose impact on the lives of these children can not possibly be measured. For more information on this great organization please visit: www.nph.org.
Our First trip to Nicaragua was a great success. We plan on going back to this area of Nicaragua again soon, as the need at the orphanages and beyond, especially in the surrounding villages, remains great and the deficits very deep. GFL’s first trip was successful due to your generous donations and the unwavering support of many. Without you, our donors, the help provided and this entire trip would not have been possible and would have remained nothing but an inspiring idea on a piece of paper. You, our donors, have helped many in need, and through you, many smiles we brought to the faces of those in greatest need. On behalf of the children at the orphanages, the families in Nicaragua that received your gifts, the USA/Nicaragua based GFL teams, we would like to thank you from the bottom of hearts
With our first trip a success, we began planning for our next trip to the same area. This is likely to occur early to mid 2007. Giving For Living collects donations of clothing, books, toys, computers year around. Donations can be dropped off at our principal site of business or can be picked up by us at a mutually convenient time