Please sponsor me as I go BAREFOOT for ONE WEEK to support the children of La Chureca, the city dump in Managua, Nicaragua.
Dear Friends and Family,
This March I was blessed to make my eighth trip to Nicaragua over the past three years. As many of you know, I've spent the past two summers working for the non-profit ORPHANetwork in Nicaragua, living in an orphanage outside Managua and leading service teams across the country. The more time I spend in Nicaragua, the more I'm reminded why I can't stay away: Nicaragua for me is the collision of the most distressing needs I've ever witnessed with the some of the most meaningful relationships I've ever built -- making my work with ORPHANetwork deeply meaningful for me.
Many of you supported me two years ago as I walked barefoot for a week with other UVA students to raise money for the "Esperanza" school in "La Chureca," a community of 1,000+ that work and live literally in the Managua city dump. With your help, at UVA we were able to raise over $20,000 to keep the school operational, overcoming substantial budget deficits and enabling the school to continue its work serving over 200 children. As the only school built within the limits of the city dump, the school's mission is to break the cycle of poverty by providing children with an escape from their marginalized community, through an education that would otherwise be virtually inaccessible. I wish I could bring you there to see the joy and life you've contributed to in an very dark place.
Since working in the dump, the Esperanza school has encountered a substantial roadblock: many of the children are too hungry to effectively focus on their studies. In response, the Esperanza school has begun serving a lunchtime meal to each of its students. Although each meal of fortified rice and beans costs only 50 cents per student, this new "feeding program" requires substantial financial support.
This year, 20 UVA students and I are going barefoot once again, from April 16th-20th, around campus and to classes, meals, and everywhere else. On the 21st we're hosting a "Barefoot 5K," which last year gathered over 200 runners. We're aiming to raise $25,000 -- enough to feed 100 children for 16 months through the Esperanza school. We invite you to take part in the transformative work that is happening in this community.
For those of you I haven't spoken with about "La Chureca," here is a brief description of the community and a little of my history working there...
La Chureca is the name of the city dump in Managua, the capitol of Nicaragua; it's a 160-acre wasteland of mountains of trash, a wasteland that over 1,000 Nicaraguans call "Home" -- living in houses literally made out of trash, they make their living looking through trash for anything of value or anything they could clean and recycle for a small profit. La Chureca is also home to hundreds of impoverished children, many of whom run through the fields of trash that make up their front yard without shoes, and suffer from numerous preventible illnesses. To make things worse, La Chureca is also a hotspot for child prostitution in Nicaragua.
I distinctly remember my first exposure to this dump community three years ago. Approaching La Chureca, our Nicaraguan bus driver ominously announced we needed to close the windows of the bus, because the stench would soon begin. Up ahead was a ghastly wall of smoke, which soon enveloped the bus completely. Through the misty billows, we saw flickering orange fires, illuminating mountains of trash all around. Dark figures of frightening men, with bandanas over their faces and mouths, because of the stench and fumes, pick through the garbage.
This image is the closest I can imagine to hell. And 1,000 people live in it – in this wasteland, where temperatures run so high as to cause trash to burst into flames. In this harrowing community, unlike most the rest of Nicaragua I had seen, there was little joy and hope. And yet, there is a source of light in La Chureca, a newly-built school in the very middle of the dump, called La Esperanza (“hope” in Spanish). This name, let me tell you, fits the school. Here, I saw children smile – Esperanza is a safe place to play and learn and to have a free, healthy meal. But for the older students, the school means more: hope, in the sense of a chance to escape, through education, their devastating lifestyle – the only one they know.
This is a community that I, personally, along with UVA, will be involved with and investing in for years to come – and we’re excited to see how this support, from you and from us, will flourish. Rest assured I’ll keep in touch on how this new hope progresses and materializes for the children of this community.