It was touch and go. A week before the arranged date Azucena, who is responsible for Ark communities in Mexico, Honduras and the Dominican Republic, was still in two minds about her visit to us in Juigalpa because of the unstable social-political situation in Nicaragua.
Earlier she had already decided that she would be travelling using private transport instead of the international bus which connects the countries of Central America. This would enable her to make a quick turn-around if the situation in Nicaragua would make travel too risky.
But sure enough, on Thursday afternoon the delegation from The Ark drove up: Azucena (who is from Ecuador but currently lives in Canada), Esly who is responsible for an Ark community in Choluteca, Honduras, and Sergio, the driver who also works for the Ark Choluteca. They had had a peaceful but long journey of around 10 hours due to delays at the border as there was a lot of paperwork to contend with before a foreign car could enter Nicaragua.
Right from the start of planning a community home for intellectually disabled people in Juigalpa, we, the group of initiative takers, were sure we wanted to set up the community in the spirit of Ark communities worldwide. We were inspired by the vision and mission of the worldwide Ark movement and knew we wanted to belong to the larger international family. We also knew that becoming a recognized Ark community would be a time-taking process as we would have to meet certain criteria.
In recent years we have attended several Ark reflection days to learn more about the Ark, and for three years running now Ruach board members or Ruach personnel have spent a week in an Ark community in Honduras to have some hands-on experience of what the Ark stands for.
The aim of the visit of Azucena and her travel companions was to get an impression of how we operate, and to define the areas we need to work on before we could be admitted to the international Ark community as a fully-fledged member.
Besides participating in our community home and visiting the activities centre, our visitors were at several meetings with the Ruach board, some with and some without me as the coordinator of Home and Activities Centre. We had ‘down-time’ going for a walk through the centre of Juigalpa and enjoying meals together. Esly and Sergio also gave a presentation about their community home in Honduras and the activities they do there. This was very inspiring and useful in particular for members of our staff who only knew the Ark from stories they had heard and from what they had read.
Outcome of the visit
On Friday afternoon we evaluated the visit as our visitors were due to leave early on Saturday. Azucena (3rd from left in the picture) was impressed that we are already fully established as a legal entity, i.e. the Ruach foundation with clear documentation that describes how we ought to function. They also recognized the ‘Ark like’ love with which our personnel in community home and activities centre do their work. Azucena also felt positive about another potential barrier to becoming an Ark community. The Ark worldwide promotes that Ark communities do not operate in isolation. Ruach is the only group in Nicaragua working along Ark lines, but Azucena considered that the distance between Choluteca in Honduras (the nearest Ark community to us) and Juigalpa was manageable which means that Ruach for the time being could be considered as part of the Ark communities in Honduras.
The areas where Ruach would need to focus on in forthcoming years are: strengthening of our financial independence; stronger familiarization with the Ark’s policies, especially on the role of the board of an Ark community; and the introduction of an ‘Ark component’ in the training and coaching of our (new) personnel.
We were pleased to hear that we will continue to be invited to meetings that the Ark organizes in the Central America region as this is a useful way for us to more and more internalize the philosophy of the Ark. As before, we would have to raise the travel and related costs needed for attendance ourselves.
Azucena was happy with her visit. We presented her and Esly with a pottery souvenir of our ‘Ruach home’ that has got a new home in Canada as well as in Honduras.
All of us in Juigalpa thought the visit had been positive and inspiring. We are one step closer again to our goal of one day becoming an official Ark community. And in the meantime and while waiting for the official response of the Ark after Azucena has reported to her supervisor, we can continue with our ‘home work’, united and with increased motivation. Nothing is impossible!