Wow! It has almost been 2 months since flood from Tropical Storm Nate devastated communities around Project Limón in Nicaragua. Our team on site has worked tirelessly, providing relief to families that lost nearly everything. Many of you have helped fund relief efforts and we are so grateful! Here's an update on what those efforts on the ground involved, and how your contributions have been responsibly utilized.
Immediate relief efforts were led by staff at Rancho Santana, in collaboration with local community members and foreigners in the area. This group split up throughout 20+ surrounding communities with a representative of each community that performed a basic needs assessment and distributed basic need items such as food, water, laundry items, etc. This lasted for about 1 week and involved daily distribution. FIMRC's Field Operations Manager at Project Limón, Jessica Southern, was the representative for remote communities. Community members in her region traveled 2-3 hours by foot or by horseback to receive their donations each day.
This approach was very effective at getting immediate relief to nearly every community, and at identifying the needs such as houses lost, contaminated wells, need for more food due to destroyed stores or lack of access to stores, etc. These were all funded through various “gofundme” efforts of major hotel owners, personal fundraisers by FIMRC staff, and by our partner organization FunLimon. Every 2-3 days, we held meetings with community representatives to talk through what the needs were, how the relief efforts were going, and how to best use funds.
We were able to allocate some of the funds to help replenish seeds for agricultural communities who lost one years’ worth of crops. We also supported a labor program, employing people to clean out houses that were most affected by the floods. Jessica headed up the labor program and had 13-36 workers daily for 1 week. These workers came from the communities that were 2 hours away; it was humbling to see how excited they were to receive an opportunity to work.
There were a lot of people on the community relief team who had not seen some of these
communities before the flood (ie: people from resort areas who live in the resort) that are now very concerned about the conditions of homes. It was good to see a growing awareness of the realities of conditions in these communities. Working with people that didn't have any knowledge of "Do No Harm" practices provided its own challenges with distribution. It was a healthy reminder of how important sustainability and strategic planning are in all of our efforts.
Less Immediate Relief
After initial challenges calmed down, Jessica pulled out of the community relief efforts and focused more on FIMRC efforts. These efforts were all funded through the FIMRC fundraiser. FIMRC's homestay families had home inspections to note what the damage was in each house. To those experiencing greater losses, we provided replacement mattresses and clothing. Damage to these houses varied greatly; some didn't experience any interior flooding and had no damage, while a few families lost everything. Families involved in FIMRC's Malnutrition Program received a donation of fresh fruits, veggies, rice, and clothing. Families in our Micro-Health Insurance Program also had home inspection to assess damage. We were happy to find that damage was minimal, but were able to provide mattresses, clothing, and dishes to those who lost them.
Jessica has received Disaster Response and Relief training and made a more in-depth emergency management plan. These plans are being implemented at each FIMRC Project Site to better prepare all of our locations for emergencies. The disaster response experience in Nicaragua has given our team extended practice - with expertise that is applicable to our sites around the globe. Our interns Abigail Tidwell and Lauren Welty got a crash course on disaster relief efforts and worked extremely hard to help deliver basic necessities to affected communities. They had first-hand experience with disaster relief efforts and were a vital part of the team!