Living with Hope by Al Cipoletti

Does the world seem upside down? The United States and the rest of our planet are facing challenges that most alive today have never experienced. Businesses closed, people being furloughed, sickness and death; all with great uncertainty about what tomorrow will bring. Hospitals are at or beyond their breaking points with medical supplies becoming as scarce as Unicorns.

While the U.S. and numerous countries are fighting to overcome a microscopic enemy, countries in Central America also have to contend with the collateral damage. This damage comes on top of already challenging circumstances. In Nicaragua, sheltering in place is not a possibility. If you don’t work, you don’t eat.

However, there are opportunities to improve living conditions in these developing countries. There are groups in the Monadnock region that engage in projects for the benefit of these hard-working people.

FNE International is a non-profit organization with the mission to Facilitate, Network and Empower communities. FNE has partnered with many in the Monadnock regions, including Conant and Conval High school, the Jaffrey-Rindge Rotary and Franklin Pierce University. The most recent trip to build a much-needed house for a family was led by Patricia McCarthy, the Interact Club faculty leader at Conant High School in Rindge, NH. Ms. McCarthy has led students on life-changing experiences to Nicaragua under the auspices on FNE since 2015. Trips like this have been taking place for more than 12 years and each one provides eye-opening cultural immersions for the participating students. The range of participants have included students from high schools and universities, medical professionals, and humanitarian groups eager to help those less fortunate; specifically, in the areas of housing, health, and education.

As one student from Conant High School said, “You read textbooks, you think you understand about poverty. But when you see it yourself, it gives you a new perspective. Going for the first time, I really had to step outside of my comfort zone, and realize it’s not always going to be a comfortable experience. But those are the moments of your biggest growth.”

Imagine a circumstance of living day to day, where gaining decent, though modest housing is something to strive for and likely cannot be attained without the assistance of a group like FNEI.

Student volunteers raise money to build a home and building materials in an impoverished nation like Nicaragua run around $2,800. A typical house consists of four rooms, made of brick and cement, with a wood stove and a dug latrine; plus a family that has prayed for this moment for two or more years, and the labor provided by volunteer students.

The students perform the heavy work, lifting cinder blocks, moving wheelbarrows of dirt, and injecting joy knowing they are helping a worthy family to fulfill a dream. These families share human qualities like our families. They are industrious, hardworking, love their children, and want to improve their lives and especially the lives of their children. Love and hard work are not sufficient, as significant differences exist in their daily lives from what we know are norms.

They do not have a government structure able to provide the support we in the United States have. Educational and medical infrastructure are insufficient; teaching and learning materials are lacking. While FNEI works to fill the void, keeping up with need is a constant struggle. Add to this COVID-19, and all the makings of a potential meltdown exist. With the justified restrictions imposed by the pandemic, no trips in or out of Nicaragua can take place. Donations are drying up as attention is drawn to the many needs within our communities. Envision life as usual in Nicaragua and then mix in these new challenges. The thought is almost too frightening to contemplate.

Now more than ever, FNE International needs continued and generous support of caring, everyday Americans, so health, education, and literacy initiatives can continue.

Please consider donating.