We had a good start with the residents with an intellectual disability in our community home. We had fresh ideas for our activities centre which runs afternoon programmes for intellectually disabled adults in Juigalpa. We felt we became better known because we regularly received first-time visitors who learned about our work in December, the month of mercy.
In March the coronavirus caused a set-back. We opted for a voluntary lockdown and a certain degree of self-isolation, because the Government did not provide information or take measures to combat the virus. In fact, the Government was in denial about the seriousness of the virus. The official statistics on the number of corona deaths of the Ministry of Health were only a fraction of the number of deaths reported by independent medical organisations. From March till mid-December the Government reported 162 deaths and 5,887 infected people, versus 2,822 deaths and 11,557 infected people reported by independent sources. Many Nicaraguans heard stories about the impact of corona from relatives who had emigrated to Spain, Italy and the United States, and opted to take their own precautions. And so did we.
So from March onwards we were no longer able to involve the Juigalpa population in our work the way we would have wanted to. Our out-reach aimed at creating goodwill certainly suffered. For example:
- we had to discontinue our weekly slots on a local television channel in which we talked about our work;
- we could no longer invite visitors to introduce them to our community work and the work we do; and consequently we received fewer donations in cash or kind (commodities);
- we were not able to visit our small group of godparents to receive their financial support;
- our core members no longer received visits from their ageing mothers/aunts;
- we had to cancel our weekly therapy sessions in the swimming pool, Manuel’s fortnightly visits to the church and visits of core members to the dentist;
- we had to be creative in dealing with the situation. We successfully introduced dancing at home to replace the weekly outings to the swimming pool. Dancing proved to be very popular and has now become a fixture in our weekly programme.
In June and July the situation worsened and hospitals were overrun with corona patients. Funerals were purposely held during the night. The Government had to admit that wearing a face cover was essential.
We had to take additional measures:
- We closed our activities centre in June
- We may have had some light cases of corona infection among our personnel, but we could not get them tested as testing was against government policy. As a pre-cautionary measure we asked staff to stay home for a fortnight, so we were understaffed for a while which good team work compensated for. Two members of the Board and our accountant got very ill.
Since October, corona seems to have eased off in Nicaragua, with few newly reported infections. Therefore:
- We were able to re-start our weekly therapy swimming sessions in a pool of a nearby restaurant for the core members of our community home. We go early in the morning when there are almost no other users of the pool.
- The activities centre reopened for all core members of the community home and one participant who lives nearby. For the time being we have the workshop sessions in the garden of the community home. It is a first step, while waiting for the time that we can open up the activities centre for all participants.
- So far we have kept the virus at bay, but we remain very alert for a possible second wave.
- From June one of our employees was off work a lot because of a complicated pregnancy. She finally quit in October, almost at the same time as one other employee. New employees started their trial periods. These personnel changes cause disturbance in the home, but luckily the two old employees stepped upand grew in their roles and responsibilities.
- Lisseth, our night-time assistant, had to quit due to health problems. It was hard finding a replacement, but fortunately Jeannette joined us two weeks ago for two nights per week.
In November we started with a new employee in the Activities Centre. She’s very enthusiastic!
- Also a change among our resident core members. In May we welcomed Rommel as the 7th resident. At the end of November he went back to his family. Because of his particular problems, he did not fit well into our community life.
Nicaragua, our context
The country is not doing so well. Poverty increases because of rising unemployment, more taxation and rising prices. There is more political oppression of differing viewpoints, and increased censorship. Two hurricanes (ETA and IOTA) took the same route over the north of Nicaragua, which only marginally affected us in Juigalpa.
Finally But we’ve also had many occasions for celebration: birthdays, send-offs for employees leaving us; and saying farewell to Rommel; signs of support from the community around us: receiving a meal or something tasty, money raised for a day trip to the beach in December, etc.
We feel grateful and blessed for what has come our way and which has made us stronger. We thank you for your involvement through prayer or gifts in money or kind. Together we work towards a better world!