Friday, March 6, 2009

Life after the Storm

Video Journal Focuses on the Rural Community of Goyena and Education

In the aftermath of Hurrican Mitch many Nicaraguans found themselves without posessions, villages, or a place to go called home. Landslides and torrential downpours pummeled the country for ten days. One displaced community was transplanted and created the South district of Goyena. The village is nearly surrounded by cash crops and has rock and powdered dirt roads that cause traveling into the city to be a slow, arduous commute. Here in this video journal I touch upon some of the realities of Nicaraguan life and try to relate it to the three focal points of development - education, healthcare, and jobs.

This time of year is known for dust storms (as you can hear the wind gusting in the audio). Talking to the mother of the baby in the video coughing spells, asthma, and respiratory infections are recurring problems in the community. There is a health clinic in Goyena that serves both north and south districts and it is generally considered accessible (I was unable to visit). Access to education has been an enduring struggle for north Goyena, one that has been slowly addressed by the combined efforts of several players including the addition of south goyena, the women of the community and the Leon-New Haven Sister City Project

When I asked why I saw so few men the answer struck at one of the hearts of development - jobs. The only jobs are the back breaking and grueling work of the sugar cane fields. Four buses come every morning at 3am and then drop the men back at 3pm. The second largest group of men are in Costa Rica working odd jobs or construction and come home once every 2-3 months to leave money and see their families. (previous blogs have touched on migrant labor being a transporter of HIV back into the home community)

Transportation has long been a barrier to secondary education and university. Before the high school was started in February 2009, the only option was to take a bus to the city - a $3 cost not including lunch money. (This is still the case for university) The difficulty of getting into the city is more realized when we look at the numbers. The community leader, Maria Eugenia, said each houshold brings in an average of US$75 a month. However, each household has 12 people on average so per capita income per houshould is roughly 20 cents a day per person - a mind boggling figure.

The key to Nicaraguan education is that public school education is free, but students have to pass a test to get to the next level and also pay small fees along the way (blog to come on education fees soon). Besides the schools themselves the women of the community are most proud of the success rates of their students. I was repeatedly told they are passing at a much higher rate than the country - especially for rural communities. Much of this success stems from the "education reinforcement" program run by the sister city project.

After the Fairfield University students finished doing their research, I was again reminded of the welcoming and giving nature Nicaraguans posess. This time it was embodied in a thank you production the south Goyena community put on for the group visiting with the sister city project. It consisted of three folklores dances and then a play on women's rights and domestic violence. I will end with the traditional folklore dancing by four young girls of the community.


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