This woman’s original home was the wooden structure seen to the left. It was small, mud floors, and water would seep in from all angles during the rainy season. Houses like this are common here and are breeding grounds for diseases.
This is Maria, a BTC house beneficiary in Sasle, Jinotega. In July, she was 8 months pregnant and said the new cinderblock house couldn’t come soon enough. For her, a new home was an unreachable dream that, thanks to God, came true. At the House Dedication ceremony, she said something that hit hard.
She said she’s most happy because her new baby wouldn’t have to know the old home, that really wasn’t suitable for living…because it barely qualified as a house. That her new baby won’t have to learn to walk on mud floors, rather a smooth tile floor. On August 25, she gave birth to this healthy little girl who will never have to know what it’s like to live in an unstable, insecure, unhealthy house.
Congratulations Maria and I wish health and happiness for your new little girl.
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At the end of each week-long brigade, we participate in a “House Dedication Ceremony.” For the volunteers, the main purpose is to take pictures of/with the completed house. For me, it’s a more intimate way to share words, thoughts, feelings and to wish the family well.
Some people say beautiful words. Some people cry. Some people pray. Some people hug. Each week is a little different.
As staff, I always lead the ceremony and say a few words. It’s more or less the same speech every week, inserting characteristics, events, inside jokes, and shout outs specific to the group. I thought I’d share:
"First, I’d like to thank all you, the US/Canadian volunteers, for all of your hard work this week. It’s so great to work with such an entusastic, passionate, and hard working group of people.
To the masons, thank you for you kindness and patience. For teaching us, well, just about everything.
To the community helpers for all of your support. Without you, I’m sure we’d still be laying blocks today. Your knowledge and strength sped up the process signicifantly so this deserving family could move into their new home sooner.
Thanks to this collective group: Nicaraguans and United Statesians/Canadians, we did it. The house is done.
All the blocks as we carried, the seemingly endless amounts of cement we mixed, and all dirt we shoveled and compacted was hard work. Don’t you all agree? Back-breaking work to put up these four walls.
But the task that <beneficary’s name> has in front of her is even harder than all the work that we did these past few days.
It’s a little detail— but it’s missing in these four walls.
Turning these four walls—this house— into a loving home.
It won’t be an easy task, but I know that she do it.
So, Dona <Beneficary>, best of luck. On behalf of this volunteer brigade and Bridges to Community, we wish your family health, happiness, and many wonderful years of living in your new home. Congratulations.”
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Nicaragua’s a place where watches and clocks aren’t used. So take my advice, if you ever visit Nicaragua, just don’t pack a watch. We use “Nica time” here. Everything is an approximation, but usually no one really knows. For example:
And my favorite:
So, if anything, living in Nicaragua has taught me to be patient. Things will work out. A bus will eventually show up. It might not be YOUR bus, but you might be able to take it to a middle point where you can get off, catch another bus, and eventually arrive to your final destination.
Since practicing my new found skill of patience, I’ve become very good at sitting.
The other lesson I’ve learned is: flexibility. Not in the yoga-sense, because unfortunately, I’ve hardly used my yoga mat here. (But I plan on using it more in my new house!). Flexibility in the sense that things don’t always work out, so it’s good to have a Plan B and an open mind and the ability to create up to Plan Z. Because things hardly ever work out the way you want them to or plan them to.
This might sound horrible, but it’s really not bad at all. Just NEVER assume Plan A will function flawlessly. If you have that mentality, you’re asking to be stressed out. If you’re flexible and willing to wing it, it’s more adventurous, fun, and (generally) works out.
So those are the two biggest lessons I’ve learned (and am continually re-learning) by living in Nicaragua. A little patience and flexibility will go a long way.
You can’t change Nicaragua, but if you accept it for what it is, you’re bound to fall in love.
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