Filmmaking with Northern Voyage: Our Story in Nicaragua
March 1, 2015
Gravitas "more than baseball" or how we got into farming projects
May 24, 2014
First Annual Women's Health Fair
June 28, 2017
Maguire Iron Supports Rodeito Community With New Well
December 13, 2017
I tried not to laugh when I heard what we’d been volunteered for.
You want to work in the fields?
On their first trip to Nicaragua to visit the well and irrigation system they had financed in the Somotillo Region of Nicaragua, the delegation from Maguire Iron had chosen to jump in with both feet, offering to join the Nicaraguan farmers they were helping to support in the fields.
Craig and I exchanged a sideways glance and small smirk the night before we were scheduled to take to the fields. Maguire Iron had no idea what they had signed up for. We had warned them it would be hot in northern Nicaragua where they had volunteered to serve as honorary farmers for the day, but until you experience the unrelenting, 102-in-the-shade heat of the desert-like region, you can’t fully comprehend what hot is.
We had visited the farms numerous times, seeing the grueling, traditional agricultural practices used daily to grow crops in Somoto and Somotillo on the Honduran border. Farmers work long days under the sun, farming completely by hand, at the communities Helping Kids Round First supports. For their efforts, they receive no paychecks, instead taking home a bag of corn and a bag of beans to feed their families. Every seed planted, every weed pulled, every bean picked is done completely by hand.
We set the over/under on how long our new friends from Maguire would survive in the fields at one hour. I took the under.
The next morning, we marched out into the bean fields in Somoto, the local farmers just as skeptical of our ability to contribute to their work as we were. With the language barrier between us, the farmers acted out how to harvest the beans to us. First, we would pull the plants out of the ground by their roots, flip them upside down, and leave them in the dirt to dry in the sun. When all the plants were pulled, we would then gather them all into one large pile in the center of the field. They’d be left there to dry for a week before being pulled out of the field and ‘spanked’, hit repeatedly with long sticks, to knock the beans from their pods.
It was hot and that’s an understatement. The bean stalks left welts and scratches on our arms. Cacti dotted the field, growing among the crops, adding an extra hazard if you weren’t careful with your steps or when you reached down to pull beans from the ground.
To my surprise, the Maguire Iron delegation did not tap out. Without complaint, they bent over and over again to pull plants from the ground. They stomped across the field, sweat dripping, with armloads of beans hoisted above their heads.
“That was fast,” one farmer remarked incredulously, looking across the empty field and at the sizeable pile of bean plants in the center, signaling to us that the work was done.
It takes courage to jump right in when traveling to a new country for the first time. Adjusting to a new language, to new food, to new culture, to cold showers and mosquito nets, can take time. But, the Maguire Iron delegation approached their trip to Nicaragua the same way they had their initial donation to Helping Kids Round First to dig a new well and fund an irrigation system in northern Nicaragua, with open arms and eagerness.
They jumped right in. Quite literally on some occasions, with Dave, a field safety representative for Maguire, disregarding safety for a few moments as he leapt some thirty-five feet off a cliff into the river during our visit to the Somoto Canyons. Some nights we slept in hotel beds, but others were spent in plastic hammocks in the homes of farmers without complaint. We took cold showers and ate new and unfamiliar food. We saw some of the most beautiful scenery Nicaragua has to offer, but also experienced some of its most drastic poverty.
Our trip took us across the country. We toured the farms in Northern Nicaragua, bouncing down makeshift roads deep in the country, driving oxen on foot across fields pushing plows. We visited a daycare and brought equipment to a baseball academy in the southernmost reaches of the country. We met in the middle in Managua, stopping to check in on the incredible athletes at the Mimadas Softball Academy preparing for the Central American Games (they took home the silver medal!).
The trip had numerous highlights, from feeding monkeys by hand to participating in traditional Nicaraguan dances, but without rival in my mind was attending the dedication of the well funded by Maguire in the Rodeito community outside of Somoto.
Rodeito is one of the poorest communities supported by Helping Kids Round First. The farmers that make up the collective that harvests the fields surrounding Rodeito live in mud-brick houses with dirt floors and no electricity. Usually, the entire family lives in a single room, often sharing beds.
Despite the poverty in the community, it is one of the friendliest and most welcoming locales we’ve ever visited. Over two hundred people gathered at the home of the local pastor to welcome us, and when we arrived late, many stayed to share an evening of food, guitars, singing, and dancing with us before offering their homes and beds (and hammocks) for us to sleep in.
In the morning, a large crowd awaited us at the site of the well. The farmers, both men and women, spoke openly about how the well and soon-to-be-built irrigation system would help their community. With the water, they would be able to triple the size of their fields, and the yields on the land they farmed would increase exponentially.
In a country where three-quarters of the population lives on less than $2 per day and many of the farmers present survive on far less, such a dramatic increase in crop production would be life changing. Not only will the crops help feed the families in the community, but for the first time the farmers will have surplus crops, which they will be able to sell to supplement often meager incomes.
It was a special moment. The gratefulness of the farmers was vibrant and obvious through their smiles as they shook hands with the Maguire Iron delegation that had brought a well to their community. Often, the donors that make the work done by Helping Kids Round First in Nicaragua remain faceless to the people they help, but by visiting Nicaragua and working side-by-side with the farmers in their field, Maguire Iron made a lasting connection to the Rodeito community. Just as bright were the smiles of the Maguire delegation, knowing they had made memories in Nicaragua they would never forget.
Updates from Nicaragua: -The annual baseball and softball container has arrived in Nicaragua! Over 19,000 pounds of baseball and softball equipment will soon clear customs and be distributed to boys and girls across the country. The container also brought an X-Ray machine to Nicaragua, which will be donated to a hospital in need.
-The chicken cage project is a go! The first chicken cages are en route to Nicaragua and will allow farming communities in Somoto and Somotillo to add a valuable source of protein to their diets as well as generate revenue for the communities through the sale of the eggs they produce.
-Six girls from Academia Mimadas Rubilena Rojas, Nicaragua’s only softball academy, were selected to play on the Nicaraguan National Softball Team during the Central American Games! Helping Kids Round First provides the academy with equipment, monthly shipments of food, and financial support.