Our editor, former Cardinal Newman College student & International Citizen Service volunteer, Andy shares a key challenge faced with international development work in Central America.
We enter Gabriela’s home and, without asking a single question from our survey, know that she would benefit from an eco-friendly stove & chimney. There is only the one large room, with a sheet hanging down the centre to section off sleeping quarters. In the far side sits an open clay fire for cooking. Above the dark billowing smoke is years of built up mounds of black soot clinging to the exposed corrugated iron. The house hosts no chimney, nor windows, only a door at the front and another at the rear. An open blue plastic water tank stands tall next to the back door & a rusty bicycle waits by the front. Other than this, their home is bare. The mud floor resembles that of a shed more than a family home. The fact it comes without electricity reinforces this sentiment too.
As she answers our questions, Gabriela takes a solid metal iron off the stove & tells us that this is how she irons everyone’s clothes. As if on cue, her 13 year old son returns from school wearing an immaculate uniform; shirt glowing white & crease-free, trousers equally as tidy. Whilst it comforts me to know that he won’t stick out among his classmates at the school an hour’s walk away, it does upset me to see what he comes home to… He should at least have electric, I think to myself.
The boy clearly has something though; a mother who cherishes him.
After the second house, we get a sense of how impossible our task is going to be. This month we are to build three water tanks & eight eco-stoves to those we consider most vulnerable. That’s 11 beneficiaries in a village comprising more than 80 households (I use the term household loosely; many don’t come with solid walls…)
To meet more of the Nicaraguan families and read more on Andy’s ICS experience in general, visit Global Amigo.
To volunteer abroad, without paying any fees, with genuine charities who work at a grassroots level, visit ICS.
Have you volunteered locally or internationally before? What challenges did you face and how did you overcome them? Start a conversation in the comments below.