Got off the plane last night at 9 pm to a balmy 95 degree Nicaragua sundown. After a two hour cab drive, I had arrived in Chinandega, two hours east of the Managua, the capital city.
For the next two months I'll be working in Villa Catalina, a small village in Chinandega that Amigos por Christo has partnered with since 1998. Before getting into the meat of the work this summer, I want to give a quick background into Amigos, their history, some thoughts and initial goals.
Amigos por Christo & Villa Catalina
Amigos por Christo began their work with the people in Nicaragua after Hurricane Mitch
ravaged the city of Chinandega in 1998. More than 350,000 Nicaraguans were victim to the hurricane, with 2,863
left dead and 506 health centers ruined. With over 40,000 dwellings ruined by
Mitch, many people in Chinandega were left homeless and living in poor,
unsanitary and unsafe conditions.
Working alongside Nicaraguans who had found a home in a garbage dump near their ruined
homes, Amigos built a community called Villa Catalina from the ground up. Today, more than 200 families live in Villa,
with a fully functioning school and health center, all funded by the Nicaraguan
government and staffed by Nicaraguans who live in Villa Catalina. Clean water
is pumped into each home from a solar-powered well. Amigos’ micro-loan program
has allowed many families to open businesses of their own in Villa, from owning
a corner store to making piñatas to professional baking in a stone oven.
In all, Amigos’ relationship to this community is one of trust and sustainable
development, providing steps toward independent growth and fundamental change
that do not rely on foreign aid from American staff members.
Understanding the “Christ” in Amigos por Christo
I’m writing this blog from the fascinating intersection of a critical, skeptical and secular university and a
deeply spiritual and religious philanthropic organization. Juxtaposed between
my Brown education and my catholic upbringing, I am very excited to begin my
summer with Amigos por Christo.Regardless of your religious or nonreligious upbringing, I would encourage an open mind when reading this blog. I too have my set of assumptions
about religious based work, assuming it to be evangelizing or proselytizing.
Perhaps we can challenge these assumptions and instead look at the work that is
being done. The wells that are drilled, the homes built and furnished, the
health clinic staffed, the relationships established.
Amigos’ work is not in the handing out of Bibles. Their work is their belief lived out, the embodiment of
their beliefs rather than the preaching of them. For the Bible reading folks
out there, in the words of Mother Theresa, “You may be the only Bible someone
I enter this summer with utter respect for the work of these amazing individuals and with immense curiosity to
learn of their inspiration and plans. I hope you will share in my curiosity and
- to understand how religion fits into the work
performed by this organization
- to understand how the Nicaraguan people think
about their health & the food that they eat
- to begin a series of charlas, or small chats, about the importance of nutritional health
- to build some gardens & see things grow
- to improve my Spanish, & hopefully my ability
to guide meditation in Spanish (more to come!)