Ometepe Project Nicaragua – Annual Report It’s not just about donations

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Ometepe Project Nicaragua – Annual Report 2004 Another year has ended and you and all of you will be asking, what’s new from Ometepe? Spontaneously and generally we can say: It was successful, the work for the people on Ometepe has developed positively, and here with us we have made the small Central American country Nicaragua known through a broad public relations work. Beyond the Oberbergisches Ometepe is many schools, kindergartens and parishes in the Ev. Kirchenkreis An der Agger a term. For all of this, the big and the small donations, the regular or one-offs, we thank from the bottom of our hearts. Because they have made continuous work on Ometepe possible in the twelve years since the project started. But this answer would be too short for everything that developed on the island of Ometepe as well as here with us in 2004. Therefore we would like to describe the main focus of our work in Germany as well as that of our partners on Ometepe from last year. First, a few thoughts in advance.

It is not just about donation money Our work is not just about winning new donors and “collecting” as much money as possible, even though we have managed to do so well with our various activities to date. The head of our project, Alcides Flores, who was also the mayor of the Altagracia region until the end of 2004, once again thanked the German sisters and brothers for their “help” from over 1 in the presence of the campesinos present in the summer of 2004 Million US $ since 1993. Such facts describe a part of the donation work, and those who have visited Ometepe with us over the years have been able to get an idea of ​​which projects in the health and education sector have now emerged. We are convinced that this is one of the “secrets” of our project work, which is still working well today: The money arrives where it is urgently needed. The people we deal with are no longer anonymous. Interested parties had the opportunity to travel with us, so that all previous travelers could get to know our partners personally in their living environment. But our partners also regularly had the opportunity to get to know our European / German situation and to visit the institutions that have been supporting the project work for many years. This differentiates our work from that in many other projects. In this way, a trusting, partnership (development) cooperation has developed over the years. One-world work – using Nicaragua as an example To see these in the context of global global processes and to recognize political relationships and their effects for the poorest has always been one of our primary concerns. In our regular lectures in schools, kindergartens and church congregations, at readings, music events and other benefit campaigns, we strive to convey the one-world idea of ​​peace, justice and preservation of creation as transparently as possible based on the current situation on Ometepe. In this way, concrete and practical learning processes take place during our travels, prejudices are broken down and new thinking patterns are developed. 1

Questions that challenge us Nonetheless, we are always asked questions that we deal with and to which we would like to give an answer to our donors. Wouldn’t there be countries that needed our help much more than Nicaragua? And just in the past few weeks we have been asked in this connection what is more important: giving donations for development aid or for immediate help for the victims of the disaster in the Indian Ocean. We responded spontaneously to the need for disaster and emergency aid and long-term development aid. As in Nicaragua, South Asia will also be concerned with promoting reconstruction projects and long-term sustainable development. (We have published a press release on our position.) Experience has shown that more and more donations are made for disaster and emergency aid than for long-term development aid. This enables us to understand the questions that are being asked of us in connection with the terrible catastrophe in Asia. And we know that the trend is not new, that more is donated for disaster and emergency aid than for development projects. We have had such experiences ourselves in our twelve years of work after Hurrican Mitch 1998 and 1999. But mostly after the natural disasters there was no staying power, no matter where they happened. In the coming time, it will also be a matter of getting transparent information about the further developments in those affected by the tsunami disaster, of being able to understand and follow them. Because nothing is more important for donors than knowing that the help really reaches those affected at the bottom. The flood of the century poses new challenges for donation organizations: the tsunami in South Asia triggered an overwhelming wave of willingness to donate. And once again the importance of the media has been shown: only what is illustrated with abundant pictures has an effect on broad sections of the population. With complex structures such as the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund or the World Bank, communicating the effects on people is far more difficult than with natural disasters. Their effects on the development of the south are similarly catastrophic. The problem with natural disasters: if the pictures are gone, the impact and willingness to donate also diminish. It is only a matter of time. Who still remembers Hurricane Mitch in Central America today, which claimed tens of thousands of lives in Nicaragua and neighboring countries in 1998 and made entire villages disappear from the map? And who is thinking of the people in the many parts of the world who are “only” exposed to the everyday struggle for existence? Some aid organizations fear that the donation cake for social purposes will be distributed differently this year than usual – to the disadvantage of long-term aid projects and that other crisis regions could be forgotten under the impression of the tsunami. That would be a shame, but perhaps despite all the individual savings constraints, an additional volume will ensure that development projects are not supplanted by emergency aid, but are supplemented. Despite the cancellation of foreign debt, poverty is growing in Nicaragua. The HIPC debt relief initiative, launched in 1999, was designed to give highly indebted poor countries such as Nicaragua a way out of the debt trap. In the early 1990s, Nicaragua was the country with the highest per capita debt in the world. The debt relief initiative should bring lasting relief to the Central American country. However, this hope has been disappointed. Although the country received the highest-ever debt relief initiative in January 2004, at $ 4.5 billion, the funds released are insufficient to alleviate poverty 2

fight effectively. Government debt was so high in 1999 that an average per capita income of $ 400 a year was offset by a per capita debt of $ 1,366. Fundamental rights – education and health Ometepe will continue to need the projects we have co-financed: decent houses and latrines (toilets), opportunities to go to school, basic medical care for the poorest, access to clean drinking water that is not privatized. (Privatization of the water in Nicaragua, as is under discussion, would mean that there would be gaps in the supply of people who do not have the necessary money. It seems that the President of the Parliamentary Commission for Infrastructure and Energy is committed to to amend Article 60 of the Constitution to make water privatization impossible. Access to the common good “water” cannot be sacrificed to the profit-oriented interests of the “free market” of supply and demand We continue to support all people and the opportunity to obtain small loans, which is particularly necessary in the countryside so that seeds can be bought, as there is no electricity or “reasonable” roads on which the seriously ill can be transported from the island still in some villages Examples of everyday poverty in Nicaragua Some examples We would like to present e from 2004, which, however, only reflect a small part of everyday poverty in Nicaragua. It is almost normal for people to die as a result of the high temperatures in the hottest months of March to June, who work as street vendors at traffic lights in cities and are exposed to toxic car fumes. This includes children as well as old people who often spend hours in the heat without food or liquids. The high temperatures were felt in the agricultural sector, where there were huge losses in 2004 due to the drought. Above all, the poor felt this as a result of the resulting price increases for rice, corn and beans, their basic foodstuffs. That meant hunger and misery for the poorest families in both urban and rural areas. Unusually heavy rains also caused landslides in some parts of the country, killing people and leaving families homeless. These increasing landslides appear to be a relatively new phenomenon in Nicaragua and are the result of increasing deforestation. After felling trees whose roots held the earth together below the surface, the earth loosens so that it clears the way for powerful mudslides that bury the huts of the poor below. Such landslides took place in June 2004 in the northern region of Matagalpa, where 30 people died and 5,000 families lost their homes.


The situation on Ometepe There had already been mudslides on Ometepe in 1999, which destroyed the huts in Corozal, near the Maderas volcano, and buried some children among themselves. Such forces of nature can be repeated at any time during the rainy season. New muddy roads are also created every year on the Concepción volcano, which hinder the passage routes or make them partially impossible. There is no alternative to living for people because they do not have their own country in non-endangered areas. Other problems on Ometepe The issue of displacement is still a problem on Ometepe – as in many parts of Nicaragua. There are always clashes between large landowners and small farm workers. In most cases, the residents have no means of acquiring a “titulo” that guarantees them a right to live. (We reported on this in our last annual report.) Fortunately, there were no major hurricanes over Nicaragua in 2004 that claimed human lives. But earthquakes are also part of everyday life in Nicaraguans. For example, in October there was an earthquake on the Pacific coast of 6.3 on the Richter scale, which fortunately also did not result in any deaths. Photos and reports from Ometepe reached us that in October countless dead fish were found on the beaches of Ometepe. The locals spoke of a strong warming of the lake, which could have caused the death of the fish. Fish farms, in which the tasty and popular tilapia fish are grown in large quantities by foreign investors, pose new major problems for the local fishing families that they are resisting. The ecological system is affected in a way that is not yet foreseeable, which endangers the livelihood of the population. Coffee farmers struggle to survive Hunger and misery due to the coffee crisis in Nicaragua Nicaragua’s coffee production had to recover from the aftermath of the contra war in the early 1990s. Production rose to the previous level. The majority of Nicaraguan producers have been over-indebted since the coffee crisis began two years ago. Because of the low harvest revenues, over 90% of the agricultural workers employed in the coffee fincas were laid off. They not only lost their livelihood, but also their accommodation, and now live in miserable conditions on the outskirts of towns and villages. The few workers remaining on the fincas often do not even receive the food sufficient for their supplies as wages. Again and again children and the elderly die of hunger. More and more small farmers are giving up their land because they lack an economically viable perspective. Most migrate to cities or abroad. Then there are the attachments due to over-indebtedness. Many small and medium-sized farmers are facing the seizure of their land. On Ometepe, too, we saw that the coffee could no longer be sold. Alcides reported that only Finca Magdalena on Ometepe can sell around 200 quintales to the twin town of Bainbridge at a fair price. The coffee crisis is a typical example of the predatory competition between those against the poorest in a globalized world. And it is significant that this development was co-initiated by the World Bank. The elaborately produced Central American 4th

Because of its high quality, coffee has so far been used as a “flavor carrier” in coffee blends. In the meantime, this secure market has also broken down. Small farmers and cooperatives in particular are no longer able to cope with the cost pressure. But you also have little chance of switching to other products. The steep mountain slopes are unsuitable for other products and even with basic foodstuffs, Central American farmers are not competitive against the highly subsidized offers from the USA and Europe. A press release dated January 20, 2005 describes that Nicaraguan coffee is one of the 12 best in the world. This was the result of an investigation by the US company Coffee Review. The coffees tested from Nicaragua ranked second and fourth on a comparison list of coffees from Africa and South America. Coffee Review is a magazine that employs professional coffee experts who test coffee all over the world and choose the best in this way. Different aspects, aroma, acidity, body, composition and taste are evaluated according to a point system. We can only hope that the situation will have a positive impact on small farmers, especially in the north of the country. Information on tourism development on Ometepe Tourism is becoming increasingly important in the island’s economic development. Against this background, topics such as pollution and the participation of the island population in the development of tourist offers and accommodation are discussed at Ometepe. 11.- 15.03. 2005 International Tourism Exchange Berlin (ITB) For the first time this year the CANIMET OMETEPE Tourism Chamber, founded in 2004, an association of many small and medium-sized hotels and transport companies on the island of Ometepe, will be represented at the world’s leading trade fair for the international tourism industry. Jana Höhn, owner of the travel agency Unterwegs, received the order from the chairmen of CANIMET OMETEPE Sonia Kofler and Milton Arcia during their visit in July 2004 to design the trade fair appearance of the participating companies on the island of Ometepe. At a joint stand with INTUR, the Nicaraguan Government’s Institute for Tourism, Jana Höhn will actively promote CANIMET and thus trips to Ometepe at the ITB. Changes on Ometepe In the summer of 2004, we saw that the road from Moyogalpa to Altagracia was rebuilt with paving stones with the help of different countries – an enormous relief for the people who go to work in the fields in the dark in the morning. But the newly developed road is also a great help for cyclists who are becoming more and more on the island. It remains to be seen whether the now possible increased speed of the vehicles will endanger the safety of other users (cyclists, herds of cattle, pedestrians …). Health care The neurologist Diether Steves, who has worked with his Nicaraguan colleague for many years, was again on the island in 2004 and accompanied the ambulance vehicle project to the villages. His Nicaraguan colleague, Dr. Barrios, which was also financed by the Herne-Ometepe town twinning in 2004, unfortunately left the project in mid-2005 for personal reasons. This year Diether Steves will train a new colleague in the treatment of epileptics. 5

The psychiatrist Dr. Sönke Behnsen, a new member of our initiative group since autumn 2004, visited the center in summer 2004. We quote from his report: In Altagracia, financing from Japan was used to build a new health center (Centro de Salud), which is staffed by the same staff who worked in the previous center. The current costs are financed by the state ministry of health MINSA. Additional tasks are co-financed by the Luxembourg organization “Lux Development” for a period of two years. Of the three doctors employed (including the director of the health center), only one general practitioner was working at the time of our visit, the other was sick and the head was outside administrative work. Two doctors in the social year are also active in the seven health posts around the Maderas volcano. Most of the patients are transported with “our ambulance vehicle” and the general practitioner financed by the project goes to the villages for three more days. All of this sounds very good from the development point of view, but there is a lack of every nook and corner and no one knows exactly whether the overall financing will be secured for the next few years. The continuous supply of basic medication is not guaranteed by MINSA. Once a month, a gynecologist and a doctor trained in ultrasound diagnostics come to the center from the mainland. The patients are specially invited to these appointments. Both doctors are funded by Luxembourg. A permanent laboratory assistant is missing. This comes at the weekend and is paid from the contributions of the investigations. There is a private laboratory in Altagracia, but the tests have to be paid for privately, and very few are able to raise the money. Daily laboratory diagnostics, which would basically be possible with the aid of the laboratory, which is very well equipped with equipment, fails because no personnel can be paid. The material for the sample examinations was available at the time. However, bottlenecks are also to be expected here, as the funding from Luxembourg is budgeted. For the statistical evaluation of reportable diseases – such as AIDS, TBC, dengue or malaria – a computer is available. The radios to ensure communication between the center and health posts in four different villages were funded by Italy. Apparently, however, these work only unreliably, or are already defective in two health posts. The health center did not have a phone line at the time of our visit due to a lack of US $ 150 connection costs. This center is used by 20 to 50 patients a day. The focus of the work at the center is on general medical care, obstetrics, dental care and vaccination. However, the main points of contact for the people around the Maderas volcano remain the health posts in the individual villages, since the patients often do not reach the center because they do not have to pay for the bus or the purchase of medicines. Inpatient treatments cannot be carried out in the health center for financial reasons. Also due to the structural equipment, it is only possible for patients to be observed for a maximum of eight hours and, if necessary, to be transferred to the nearest larger town on the island, to Moyogalpa, or to the closest hospital to Rivas on the mainland. A midwifery center with better equipment (cardiotocogram for follow-up, options for emergency cesarean delivery, etc.) would be useful and necessary in the municipality of Altagracia. However, there is no budget for this. The factual requirements for managing risk births are insufficient … Newborns and toddlers are vaccinated according to a uniform vaccination plan. The vaccination programs are funded jointly by the Ministry of Health and Luxembourg. 6

According to local doctors, the most pressing problem for the work at the center is the maintenance of the equipment. The local assessment is that the aid provided by Japan was not necessarily based on local needs, but rather on Japanese interests. In spite of everything, according to the nursing manager, the health situation of the population seemed to have improved as a result of the new center. In our discussions, however, the constructive cooperation with the Ometepe project was particularly emphasized. Many questions remained unanswered, which we discussed together after our visit in the context of meaningful development aid.

Ometepe Activities In total, we transferred 85. 174.73 € (~ 111.000 US $) for the months January to December 2004 via the church circle and the bank for church and diakonia to Nicaragua with donations. Salaries are used for a total of 14 employees (US $ 2,485 per month). That amounts to an annual sum of US $ 29,810. Throughout 2004 we again supported 22 students of US $ 50 each with US $ 1,100 per month. A fixed sum of US $ 560 per month is available to our partners for the purchase of medicines. Even patients who e.g. need a transfer to the mainland or otherwise have no money to buy medicine, receive money from the donation fund. These amounts vary monthly. Some families from very poor villages receive permanent help, among other things. Books, school clothes, buying car tires for the ambulance, which is very stressed on the gravel roads, transferring the car to the mainland by ferry to the workshop in Managua, cleaning and maintenance costs for school, clinic and school kitchen are among others. a. financed from the fund of donations. The monthly purchase of grain and soy is very important for the eating of the mostly 600 to 700 malnourished children. The amount for this is between $ 600 to $ 800 per month. With the contributions of patients who are able to pay for their “ordination”, additional medicines can be bought. Students who have finished their studies also pay back their study grants in installments. Basically, the agreement with our Nicaraguan partners applies that, within the scope of the regularly transferred funds, they themselves determine what they use it for in the project work – for example, for the additional construction of houses and latrines. The stones of the houses are made from cement and plastic bottles. We receive a detailed monthly report from Ometepe, which can be viewed by any interested donor at any time. Alcides Flores, our project manager, has ended his mayor role. His office was handed over to his successor on January 27, 2005. Bad telecommunications is certainly one of the bigger problems in our collaboration. We hope for a better internet connection in 2005. Trip 2004 Again we were accompanied by a total of eight people who were interested in project work and wanted to get to know the country. There were three preparatory meetings for all fellow travelers to Ometepe. All trips are financed by the travelers themselves, including the project staff, as every year. 7

In addition to the desire to travel, it was very gratifying that a whole series of people from Germany were again won over to Ometepe, who also support the project in a very practical way. A teacher who was there has also made Ometepe known in her kindergarten and held some events. The project is now fully integrated in two kindergartens that want to take part in the Ometepe Festival 2005 with their children this year. A teacher in the legal clerkship, who was also with us on Ometepe, presented us with an amount of € 1000 one day before Christmas Eve that the students of her high school had earmarked for us on the occasion of a sponsorship run. In addition, various fellow travelers donated money to build a house. Our youngest fellow traveler, who Ometepe loved to explore from the back of a horse, received this trip as a gift from her parents when she graduated from high school. She wrote a press article for the local newspaper, which she wanted to use to promote other donors. Glasses for Ometepe Frauke Szilagyi, optician from Wiehl, belonged to this year’s travel group. She cleaned and checked a total of 1500 glasses according to their strengths. In summer 2003 we received part of the measured glasses and a lensmeter from the town twinning Herne-Ometepe. In previous years, pupils in the optics classes of a commercial vocational college in Düsseldorf had collected measured glasses with lists for Ometepe. Various opticians from the Oberberg district and individuals from the Ev. Kirchenkreises An der Agger took part in the campaign. Frauke Szilagyi found that glasses for close-up, i.e. between sph +0.75 dpt to sph. + 2.75 dpt, but less glasses over sph. +3.00 dpt are required. This assessment was also shared by the responsible ophthalmologist and optician, whom Frauke Szilagyi had made on the mainland in Rivas. For this reason, we are currently reluctant to collect glasses and want to procure the required reading glasses more specifically this year. Ms. Szilagyi considers the establishment of an independent optician workshop, which had been discussed due to the creation of new jobs, to be inappropriate because there is simply no need for this, given the maximum number of 600 patients per year. The transport costs and the time required for the patients, some of whom come from very remote villages, are too high to justify a visit to a workshop. In addition, possible “machines” cannot withstand the local tropical conditions or the power outages. They would also have to be serviced. A detailed report by Ms. Szilagyi dated 08/10/2004 is available for those interested.


Reports from our project work in Germany Cash donation volume Our donations did not decrease in 2004. The income was € 143,536.57. The expenditure was € 93,823.18. Zahngold In 2004 the sum of € 13,081.61 was raised again. We would like to thank all donors very much for this. We are still interested in sending dental gold. Part of the money went to the purchase of dental filling material for Nicaraguan colleague Dr. Melida Luna can be used. We received € 2,500 from the papal children’s missionary “Die Sternsinger” from Aachen, of which musical instruments could be purchased for the school “La Esperanza” in Santo Domingo. These instruments (accordion, guitar, flutes, drums) were given to the students in the presence of their parents in the summer. We were invited to it. A music teacher from Altagracia is supposed to teach the students. Music is a very important part of their culture for the Nicaraguan population, as is the folkloric dances that are taught in every school. Personnel changes in the administrative office of the church district An der Agger and in the Ometepe project There was also a change of staff in the administrative office. Ms. Hütt replaced Ms. BesselKrieger. Unfortunately, Ms. Hütt will only be available for the Ometepe project until April, as she is going on maternity leave. From her we received the monthly statements with which we could track the account movements. The dentist, Dr. Michael Zirwes and his wife, teacher Rita Zirwes, left after almost ten years of work. Michael Zirwes wants to continue to take care of the “ZahngoldAktion”. We could see the psychiatrist, Dr. Sönke Behnsen, who has already been to Ometepe twice, to win the initiative. Events In 2004 we were able to look back on numerous events.

From the junk sale in the backyard, the church service in Derschlag in October, the participation on the day of the foreign citizen in Gummersbach, sponsor runs, December evenings in junior high school and Christmas bazaar in the secondary school, lectures at private parties and the country women, exhibitions and readings up to our traditional benefit hairstyles – and fashion show on October 10th in the Wiehltalhalle. It was again a complete success, so that a new event was planned for autumn 2006. TUS donated soccer jerseys to Elsenroth, whose clubhouse now also has an Ometepe photo wall. Nicaragua has now moved a little closer to young athletes. September 11, 2004 was a very special day among our previous events. The dahlia breeder, Wilfried Bergerhoff from Wiehl, had already offered us in 2003 to name a new dahlia breed “Ometepe”. On this memorable date, we were able to send a signal against violence and terror with a red blooming flower that originally comes from Central America. This flower is said to be symbolic 9

connect our world here with the people on the island of Ometepe in Nicaragua. Half of the sales proceeds will be available to our friends on Ometepe. We created posters, flyers and press reports for all of this. We have taken the printing costs from the municipalities and cities, which is earmarked for “development-related educational work”. Monthly team meetings and training The initiative group met once a month to discuss accounts and events from Ometepe and to prepare joint actions. Networking with other non-governmental organizations is important to us in order to discuss our assessments of Nicaragua together. In 2004 we again took part in the Nicaragua seminar in the Protestant Academy in Iserlohn. We also took part in a free trade seminar organized by the Nicaragua Information Office, a network event organized by the NRW Ministry for the Environment and Nature Conservation, and an event organized by medico international in Bonn on the “Health Charter for People”. Press work and public relations 2004 Without the benevolent press coverage, we would certainly not be well known – even beyond the Oberberg district. We can send press kits for a fee of € 7 (for copies and shipping). Donation receipts are sent out by the administration of the church district from mid to end of February each year. Dutch Ometepe “branch” We are particularly pleased that the Uitgeester have become so active for Ometepe. We are in regular contact with Wilma van Beeck. The Dutch donations are transferred to Ometepe together with our quarterly donations. Foresight In 2005 there are the following events and dates: 12.-13.02. 05

Training seminar in the Ev. Academy in Iserlohn: “Nicaragua – the concept of culture and development under the pressure of globalization” with Dietmar Schönherr, Hermann Schulz and the association “pan y arte”.

16.02. 05

“Life between the volcanoes” Photo exhibition opening at Sparkasse Gummersbach, 6 p.m.

March 11 05

“A nose for Nicaragua” – Charity event with the clown Sophia Altklug (aka Dr. Kristin Kunze) in the Ev. Wiehl Community Center, Schulstr. 2, 8 p.m.


Invitation to the exhibition opening “Recycling Art” by Edith Fischer 50% of the sale is intended as a donation for the Ometepe project.


Campaign day Ometepe in the vocational college Gummersbach 10


Ometepe service in Derschlag

Journey 2005 On July 6th a group of seven people will travel to Ometepe again. The tour group includes the church music director of the Rheinische Landeskirche, Hans Wülfing. We are pleased that for the first time a musician from Oberberg will give a piano concert in the “casa de los tres mundos” (“House of the Three Worlds”). It is the birthplace of Ernesto Cardenal in Granada. A pediatrician will also be there with his wife this year and will be available to answer specific questions. 10.09.05

Ometepe festival in Faulmert with guests from Nicaragua


Ecumenical service with Monsignor Pilz from the papal children’s mission “Die Sternsinger” together with Michael Höhn in the Catholic Church in Wiehl, 5 p.m.


Benefit concert of the gospel choir Annette Giebeler in Gummersbacher Ev. Community center

We would like to thank everyone who has donated, advised and translated us to help us carry out this important voluntary work.

For the correctness: Monika Höhn Börnhausener Str. 2 51674 Wiehl Tel. 02262/701466 – [email protected]


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