It remains a challenging time for the Trust to be working in Nicaragua. Politically it remains tense, and the system continues to be hostile to charities and NGOs working in the country.

Having said that, we are very lucky to have some dedicated Nicaraguan colleagues who have continued the Trust’s work. Also, as the world learns to live with the pandemic, we hope that volunteer UK teams will soon be visiting the country once more. 
 
We are still unable to get Nicaraguan approval for sending out containers. It is very frustrating for the ‘Container Team’. They have collected, sorted and packed two warehouses full of useful items which are now waiting to be transported and distributed, and have done astonishingly well throughout a very difficult period. As you know from previous letters, we have been looking for other partners to take this equipment.

A short report by the Team’s lead, Tim Sharpe:

In February we loaded a 45′ lorry in collaboration with a charity called Belief in Action, which works both in Romania and more recently with Ukrainian refugees.  We loaded about 20 hospital beds and mattresses, plus numerous boxes and sacks of clothes, shoes, toys, bedding etc, along with chairs, tables, mobility aids etc
 
We loaded a 40/45′ curtain side artic. last Friday in partnership with Mission without Borders International. This has travelled to Romania, and the contents will then make their way into Ukraine.  We loaded about 40 hospital beds and mattresses, plus numerous boxes and sacks of clothes, shoes, toys, bedding etc, as well as chairs, tables, mobility aids and anything else we felt could be useful.
 
We have also delivered 40 hospital beds and mattresses to Hereford for onward travel into Europe and then Ukraine. This is also a collaboration, with a charity called GAiN (Global Aid Network).
 
As you are aware, we are having problems sending aid to Nicaragua and more recently to the Philippines, so we have been following many leads for sending aid overseas. The most recent two leads came thanks to Michael Harrison, and involves a logistics company called Mission and Relief Logistics.
 
We have maybe two or three more loads in our van to clear the Wolf warehouse, which we have to vacate ASAP! – ***TS***

Alvaro is in Bluefields at present. He is re-equipping the Mother and Toddler group at Santa Rosa, set up by Emily John about four years ago. He is also refurbishing the Marie Anne Vocational Centre as it starts to develop closer links with Paz y Esperanza school.

It is great to see that the new school being built at Santa Cruz on Ometepe is progressing well. This is a project championed by Carolyn Gibbs and is very much a community project. The Trust has paid for the roof, which looks a strong and stable structure.

Casa Rahab is full and supporting twelve girls. All are trying to escape a life of exploitation and abuse.

Once again the Trust supported an ‘up river’ medical trip, run by our colleague Dr Kelly. Her team visits some of the very remote villages along the Rio Grande, treating and educating people who have little opportunity of receiving medical or dental care elsewhere.
 We are still awaiting further details about Torsuani, the village south of Bluefields where we hope to build a new clinic. We need to gather more details about the disease profile and size of the local population before we can design an appropriate building. This information is being formulated and should be arriving soon.

Once it is appropriate for teams to return to Nicaragua, our first building project is likely to be a primary school for San Sebastian. The existing school is in poor condition and desperately needs replacing. San Sebastian is a community that Richard Geary knows well and they are very keen to help in the school’s construction.

Once again, thank you to all the volunteers who work in the shop. The money you make is vital to all our ongoing projects.

If you want to see photos of some of the projects mentioned about please look on Facebook, Twitter, or our website: https.//www.peaceandhope.org.uk

Thank you once again for all your support –
Best wishes, Will

Dear Supporter,

Covid and the ongoing political situation continue to make it difficult for us to operate normally in Nicaragua. I was, however, delighted to hear that an old friend of the Trust, living in La Barra, has been fully vaccinated with three doses of the Astra Zeneca vaccine. Teams have been coming upriver to La Barra and Karawalla offering vaccinations. Covid has taken a terrible toll on these remote areas. So hopefully, with this vaccination programme being implemented, the hold this ghastly disease has had over the country will start to wane.

The new school year has now started in Nicaragua. Once again the Trust, under the supervision of Roxanna, has provided nearly 300 school uniforms for some of Bluefield’s poorest children, allowing them the chance of an education. Valeria is arranging the delivery of more stationery supplies to the schools which the Trust has built and supports. This time we are expanding our help to include a Secondary School at San Sebastian.

The Mother and Toddler group in Santa Rosa continues to work well. The Vocational Centre provides classes teaching adults how to make Piñatas. We hope the Centre will develop a closer link with Paz y Esperanza school, allowing them to provide a range of extracurricular activities.

We are helping to build a new school in Ometepe. At present the classes are being taught in the teachers’ houses! The community is building the new school, with the Trust providing the funding and materials for the roof. We are also lending Alvaro’s services and our truck to help with the construction. I hope some photos will be available on the website shortly.

We continue to provide funds for a feeding programme and Casa Rahab. The girls who attend Casa Rahab are trying to escape a life of the most horrible exploitation and abuse. It is lovely to be able to report that one of the girls has recently graduated from school, got a job and hopes to enrol at University shortly.

On the health side, we are supporting another ‘up river’ medical and dental trip run by our colleague Dr Kelly. The new clinic we hope to build at Torsuani is still in the design stage. As you may recall this is a very remote area which is going to make the construction challenging. There should be more details next month.

Here in the UK the Ross Shop is up and running, secured by a 3-year lease. It is open five days a week. Thank you for all the volunteers who run it. If anyone is interested in helping out please contact us through admin@peaceandhope.org.uk.

We are still looking for appropriate organisations to which we can donate some of our stored medical equipment. We have an abundance of hospital beds, mattresses, wheelchairs and walking aids at our warehouse in Ross which we will shortly have to vacate. Unfortunately, despite Valeria’s best efforts, we cannot get permission at present to transport this valuable equipment to Nicaragua. As I write, we have a promising link with a Romanian charity, but we could do with further contacts. One recurring theme is that it’s very hard to ship goods to non-coastal parts of Africa – customs and logistics issues – but we keep looking.

I am hopeful that, with the vaccination programme being rolled out across the country and the political situation calming down, we can soon start to return to normal. Thank you so much to our volunteers, donors and supporters who make all this work possible.

Best wishes, Will

This month we have:

Sponsored a very successful medical trip providing care for the “Coastal and River
Communities” outside Bluefields. The doctors carried out a total of 536 consultations with
almost half of these being on children. The most frequent ailments were respiratory
problems, UTIs, intestinal parasites and fungal skin infection. We will be sponsoring further
medical trips in the future and we will make sure that the team has the appropriate
equipment and medicines available to treat these problems.

We also sponsored a dentist to travel with the team. He managed to treat 52 patients and
carried out 84 extractions alongside providing preventative advice.

During the trip 16 maternity and baby packs were also distributed. These kits include items
such as essential mother and baby clothing, cot sheets, nappies, sanitary items, towels and
soap, many of which are made in Bluefields. These packs are only given to the poorest
mothers. The doctors and nurses are delighted to be able to distribute them and feel they
make a massive difference.

The Trust bought and distributed Christmas presents for the 300 pupils being educated in
the schools which were either built by, or have a close affiliation with, us. The presents were
individually wrapped and named. It was very emotional handing out the gifts for both
children and colleagues, many of whom were in tears. Apart from the joy of giving these,
we also consider the presents to be a reward for remaining at school, and we hope it
encourages them to stay there. The cost was roughly $3400. This year we have also helped
by providing such essentials as stationary and school uniforms.

We continue to sponsor ongoing projects in Nicaragua: mother and toddler groups,
vocational education, feeding programmes and the Casa Rehab women’s refuge.

One container full of medical equipment is still on the high seas, in transit to the Philippines.
We hope to send another shortly but the international container world is very congested at
the moment. Nicaragua are still not accepting containers from us, although we hope this
situation will change in the New Year. Once again, if anyone has a contact of a charity who
might be interested, please get in touch. Last month a number of people very kindly passed
on details of various organisations, but sadly none needed quite what we had to offer.
The new shop in Ross-on-Wye is now up and running. Thank you once again to all our
volunteers. The money raised in the shop is vital for the charity. We are always looking for
more helpers to work in the shop, so if you are able to offer some time please do get in
touch.

We are currently considering building a Clinic in a very remote area south of Bluefields. The
Clinic would become a centre of health care for a number of villages in the area that find it
very difficult accessing help elsewhere. The project was requested by the local health
authority and we will keep you up to date as this scheme takes shape.

Lastly, I would like to thank all our volunteers and donors. You are the life blood of this
organisation and without you none of the above projects would be possible. We are all
looking forward to the pandemic loosening its hold on the world and getting back to normal,
but meanwhile, with your help, we can still make a difference.

Happy Christmas to you all.

Best wishes,
Will Hanks
will@peaceandhope.org.uk

Thanks to everyone who entered or volunteered to help with the Sportive on the 5th September. The riders chose to do one of three routes, 25 mile, 50 mile or the very challenging 70 mile course. All the rides left and returned to the Hereford Cathedral School playing fields. There was breakfast at the start, refreshment stops on the way round, where the riders could enjoy a drink and homemade cake, before returning for a barbecue and bar at the pavilion. Thank you to the Hereford Cathedral School who kindly let us use their fantastic facilities for free.

We raised well over £4000-00 which will go towards ongoing projects. Despite being unable to travel to Nicaragua at the moment, the Trust remains active with its support. We are buying and distributing medical equipment within the country, employing locals to produce articles of clothing for maternity and baby packs, providing stationary and textbooks for a number of schools and we have recently been asked by the local community to build another new school and a clinic. We also continue to support a women’s refuge and vocational training, along with supporting many other small projects. In the meantime the UK warehouse team collects, sorts and stores medical, vocational and educational equipment for transport to Nicaragua as soon as the conditions change and containers are allowed back into the country. Donated goods are also sold on ebay and in our shop, providing valuable revenue.

We are always looking for new volunteers to help in this country or to join a team in Nicaragua. You don’t need any particular skill set, just enthusiasm and a ‘can do’ attitude. If you want any further information please email admin@peaceandhope.org.uk.

Normally at this time of year there is a Peace and Hope Dental team hard at work treating the people in the remote villages along the Rio Grande de Matagalpa. Many of the villagers have their lives blighted by toothache. It is simply too far and expensive for them to travel to Bluefields for treatment.  Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, we are unable to send a UK team this year. However, the Peace and Hope Trust has been able to sponsor Jose Manuel, a good, local dentist who has worked with us previously, to join an ‘upriver’ medical team led by Dr. Kelly, an old friend to the Trust. We have also provided vital medicines for Dr Kelly’s trip.

The 2020 team had a successful trip despite hitting many bureaucratic obstacles. Much of our equipment and medicines were detained in customs and the authorities didn’t give us permission to work for nearly a week, in spite of providing all the necessary paperwork well in advance. This obviously cut down our clinical working time so we had to rationalise our schedule. The villages earmarked to have clinics over two days were reduced to one. Luckily over the years there has been a steady improvement in the oral health of these villages. Many of the chronically decayed teeth have been extracted on previous trips and we believe our preventative messages are also getting through. We only extracted an average of 1.5 teeth per patient, which is a great improvement, and didn’t have to turn anyone away who needed treatment.  We also gave all the patients a toothbrush, oral hygiene instruction and advice for a healthy diet. As in dentistry there are no optician services available and so we also supplied reading glasses which proved very popular.

We visited the maternity unit at Kerawalla, which is supported by the Trust. It was great to see the maternity and baby smocks, made by our volunteers, in use. The sleeping area looked far more comfortable with the donated beds, mattresses and bedding in place. It is such an important facility. Some of the women turn up many weeks before their due date as travel up and down the river is very difficult and they take advantage of a lift when it becomes available. They often arrive with only the clothes they are wearing and so the donated smocks are vital. We were also very happy to provide the Kerawalla clinic with some of the medical equipment they had requested. I think this is a partnership we should continue to build on.

We visited La Barra school and gave Ivania Nikins (the Headmistress) the stationary and teaching supplies donated by the Trust. It was lovely to see the textbooks which we had recently provided in use and being well looked after.

The logistics and agenda for the trip were managed by Anna Cruz Roque who remained out of the country but was supportive throughout.

UK team members in alphabetical order were: David Evans, dentist; Ruth Gibbins, dental nurse; Fiona Hanks, assistant and trip treasurer, Will Hanks, dentist, Maria Hardwick, dental nurse, Mac MacArthur, steriliser and team first aider. Nicaraguan members: Mr. Humberto, panga helm; Miss Leila Bendliss, clinic nurse; Kengi Martin, translator; Valeria Lopez, co-ordinator; Alvero, driver.

We also hugely benefited from support by Stephen and Katherine Ind, who were mainly stationed in Bluefields.

In July we heard with great sadness about the untimely death of Humberto, our panga helmsman. He has worked with the trust for many years, delivering teams safely all along the Rio Grande. He was a reassuring presence at the helm of the boat and extremely competent. Popular with everyone; wherever you went he had friends waiting to welcome him. Completely dependable and kind, he was in every sense a true gentleman and we will miss his friendship enormously. Richard Geary is planning to build a clinic soon in the San Sebastian area and we hope to dedicate it to Humberto.

Huge thanks to all the following: supporters who knitted teddies, donated toothbrushes, glasses etc for the 2020 trip; the warehouse team who transported equipment to support our work;  Mike Gibbins and Stuart Goulding for driving the team to the airport; the UK P&H office.

Additional thanks to Hereford Rotary for their kind donation of a new portable dental chair and the continued financial support given by Latchett Church. There are others that we may have missed and apologies if so. It is always humbling to realise how many people are actively involved in such an expedition and it’s impossible to mention them all.

So how can the Trust help this year during the pandemic?

As mentioned earlier, we are sponsoring dental visits by a local Bluefield’s dentist. We are also opening up lines of communication with health professionals in the local ‘upriver’ clinics to see if we can provide medicines which are either absent or in short supply. Nicaragua and the UK spend similar proportions of their GDP on health. Unfortunately, being a poor country, even this excellent effort means that many vital drugs are in short supply. We understand that there are not enough diabetic medicines, painkillers and worming tablets so we will be looking to ease these shortages. We will also be providing medical equipment for the clinics via our container operations.

If anyone has any other ideas as to ways we can help or would like to volunteer please contact Will Hanks on will@peaceandhope.or.uk

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