Posted by: meaghaninwaslala | March 10, 2010

The Waslalan Economy

By Meaghan Gruber, Water for Waslala Field Manager in Waslala, Nicaragua

I have spent the past year here in Waslala and have missed most of the economic downturn in the US…..the challenges of finding a job, and keeping a job, the government’s intent to help stimulate the economy, etc. Here in Waslala the economy has always been a discussion.  The people of Waslala live in poverty and many in the communities in extreme poverty without access to health care, education, clean water, clothing, or sometimes even food.

Recently I was traveling back on the bus from a rural farm three hours away and stopped for a few hours in Naranjo, a small town that is a community within Waslala but has a larger population and is more developed. The interruption of our journey was caused by construction on the local roads. Workers were diligently trying to install drainage to avoid road closure due to heavy rains.

While we were stuck on the bus, I overheard all kinds of conversations. Stories about family, travels (one family had been traveling for 10 hours … by boat, then horse, then foot, then bus)… and, almost always, the economy.  The effects of the downturn in the economy have reached all parts of the world, including Waslala and the nearby communities.   Prices have been going up and even fewer jobs can be found. There has never been a job market here – but people are finding it harder to sell basic goods or don’t have the minimal investment needed to start up a small business. The people are really just surviving: putting food on the table, some not even that, buying necessities, or some heading to rural farms that their family owns.

The most memorable of these conversations was one of a man who talked about one of his kids who had a strong high school education as well as some college experience, but today is cutting coffee and planting corn.  The majority of youth here today are not educated to that level.  In the city many attend high school but it is rare to study further, but in the rural areas it is common to end your studies by the 5th grade, as it would require travel to another town that has a secondary school.  Even the students that are determined to learn and become educated find themselves back working on the farm. The youth are disillusioned. Families are pulling their children out of school as there is little understanding (and little proof) that education beyond a certain point is helpful and will bring more prosperity to the family and more opportunity.  It is very discouraging and I question how we are able to move forward and make progress in such an economy.

Recently we hosted a dinner at the parish with a group to talk about the work that we do in Waslala. The group included representatives of the ministry, priests in the parish as well as a German group of women who were interested in learning about our challenges and the work that is done by the parish. Throughout dinner we began discussing problems of violence and the economy, history of the ministries and challenges faced in the past to the present – stories that are absolutely inspirational – and how we are all moving forward in our work.  We discussed how passionate the people here are about their work, and understand that there is much to be done despite our challenges.

At the water ministry we carry this same passion.  Sometimes it means lots of hiking and lots of work with little seen progress.  Sometimes it feels that it will take a long time to reach our goals because of the realities of the economy. But we understand that change is slow, and with passion and human connections we are teaching and learning together to create a better world.

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Responses

  1. Meag- excellent, excellent post. Thank you for such an insightful and holistic view of the Waslalan economy and the impact that the larger world economy has had on communities like Naranjo. I learned so much reading this, thanks so much for sharing! -Justin

  2. This made me think of my conversations with Nicaraguans in Leon, Esteli, and Managua last summer. Every time we asked how the economic crisis was affecting Nicaragua, someone would inevitably ask, ‘which crisis? 1979? the fall of the Sandinistas? Structural adjustment? Hurricane Mitch?…

  3. Meaghan, I was recently in Waslala with Feed the Children, and we chatted regarding the children of the community and their needs. I was wondering if you had an address available that I would be able to send items. I would perfer to send them to you as I was touched by your genuine connection to the community.
    Looking forward to hearing from you.
    Linda


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