Volunteers build Nicaraguan classrooms

Posted

Bob Moore, a former Littleton businessman, headed the Casa Unida Foundation group of about 30 volunteers who recently traveled to a rural mountain village in Nicaragua to begin construction of two classrooms and to help needy families weather a season of bad crops.

The foundation is an all-volunteer, nonprofit organization based in the Denver area. Casa Unida was created in 2004 to strengthen the foundation of families and communities in Nicaragua. The organization works primarily in the rural mountain areas where poverty is the normal condition of the residents. The group tries to provide humanitarian, medical and education assistance to help the people.

Moore, who is president of Casa Unida Foundation, said the July 14-27 trip was a success.

“Our foundation planned and organized the trip that worked on the classrooms,” he said. “We got a lot done on the construction project and we also helped a lot of needy families.”

The group arrived in Nicaragua July 14 and the flight was followed by a long 200-mile ride on a school bus to Somoto, a city in the Nicaraguan mountains that was their base.

The next day the group of volunteers from Ohio, Colorado and Florida traveled by truck about eight miles to the work site in the rural village of La Rioja to begin work on the classrooms.

“My first task each day was to shop for bread, meat and cheese as well as some fruit for lunch for the group,” Moore said. “They also put me to work at times on the construction site as I helped sift sand for mortar and do other tasks. Everyone pitched in to get things done.”

At the site, local workmen put in the foundation and the team began work constructing the brick classroom walls. No power tools were used, so it meant the mortar was mixed on the ground, truckloads of bricks were unloaded by hand, sand for the mortar was screened to remove rocks and twigs, and water was hauled by hand about 100 yards from the well to the work site.

“This is my first trip like this and I really had no expectations,” said Enid Claxon, an Ohio schoolteacher. “The work was hard, but it was great the way everyone was right there to help with tasks or to take over so someone could take a break.”

The foundation worked in conjunction with the Church of the Nazarene, so members of the group did one-day vacation Bible school programs in five small villages. They also undertook another aspect of the project that involved helping needy families. Most of the families in the area are subsistence farmers, raising corn and beans with the hope there will be extra to sell or trade for rice, a staple of their diet.

This was a bad crop year for many families, so Casa Unida volunteers Monty and Renee Schmidt of Longmont headed a fundraising project and used the money to buy staples in Nicaragua that were given to families.

The group prepared food bags containing items such as rice, beans, salt, sugar, matches, spaghetti and soup. The group worked with local representatives to make sure the 270 food bags were given to families with the greatest needs.

Lucia Martinez had tears in her eyes when she was given a food bag.

“I have two children and it has been hard to provide for them,” she said through an interpreter. “This is a wonderful gift to our family. We really appreciate it and God bless those who provided this gift for us.”

The construction project got most of the walls erected. William Ramon Sandoval, foreman of the local team of workers, said plans are to install the doors and windows, pour the concrete, install the tile for the floor, erect the roof and have the classrooms ready for use by the end of August.

The people of the community held a celebration to say farewell and thank the group for their work.   

“The farewell celebration was very emotional,” Moore said. “About 200 people from the area were there and each of them shook our hands and thanked us. We worked hard but the people thanking us, their smiles and their hugs made the trip worth it.”