Giving, serving and connecting bring happiness! There is no “I” and “the other”, only “we”…
– Astrid Delleman
Who are you?
I am Astrid Delleman, one of the pioneers of the project that we are currently setting up in Nicaragua. After my study in special needs education and psychology in the Netherlands I did a social gap year in Chili, motivated by my involvement with the ‘Third World’. That year turned out to be so impressive that I ended up living and working in Latin America for more than 20 years in social and education programmes, including programmes for support for parents with children who have intellectual learning disability. For most of these years I was supported by the forerunner of People with a Mission (Mensen met een Missie), although I have also been working on local contracts.
We lived in Nicaragua between 1990 and 2003 and I mainly worked with children who were behind in their development and their families. This was virgin territory at that time. When we left Nicaragua in 2003 we had no plan to return to live and work here, but … my son and I returned in October 2015! Life is full of wonder.
What is my outlook on life? In brief, I’m open to what comes my way, I believe things happen for a purpose. I know that there is a God who works for the good if I live in faith and acceptance. Life confronts me with challenging situations that help me to keep growing, even if these situations are painful and cause grief.
Why did you start participating in the reflection group in Juigalpa?
Three years ago Ana Alicia and I started to “dream”, also because both of us have an learning challenged son and both of us knew what kind of support is (not) available in Juigalpa and Nicaragua. We started a group for people who shared our dream and who also saw the need for starting a project to enhance opportunities for a more fulfilled life for disabled people of 15 years and above. At first the group faced the problem of people coming and going, but after about three months the group stabilized; since then we have been putting our shoulders to the plough with the same group of people, and together we have taken several steps.
Because of my professional experience and volunteer work with The Ark group in Gouda, the Netherlands, the group decided that I would be a suitable coordinator for the task of setting up a community home. For two years I worked from the Netherlands to prepare our plans. But then at some point I sensed I could contribute better by giving up my life in the Netherlands and moving to Juigalpa with my son.
What is your role within the group and the Ruach Foundation?
Recently I have become vice president of the Board of the Ruach Foundation. At first I saw no role for myself as a board member, because I think that the work in Nicaragua should front-lined by local people. However, I changed my mind when I was called upon to take up my current role.
Why do you participate in the project?
There are so many reasons, including being called upon to participate; my own inner drive; the link between an external goal and my personal inner goal based on my belief that if I want to change the world, I have to start with myself; I know I can give something to my surroundings, but I am only a small cog in a much bigger machine; my awareness that there is enough connection with the people here in Juigalpa to achieve something together, that we can make a difference for disabled people and their families, and for the society at large.
Which challenges do you see now and in the future?
At the eve of the actual implementation of the project there are simply too many challenges to list . But I’m sure we can overcome the challenges if together we want to make a difference.