by Wayne Ezekiel

I recently had the privilege to travel to Nicaragua as part of Bridges To Community Canada to build houses for two needy families in the village of Sasle. This trip was made possible because of our partnership with Pembridge. Bob Tisdale, the President, has been going down for three years and invited a number of brokers to accompany him in November of 2017.

We arrived on a Saturday and were briefed on what our mission was for the week, as well as what to expect when we arrived in the community. On Sunday we drove to the village and visited the two families. Nothing could have fully prepared me for their living conditions. The families’ existing “houses” had dirt floors; the walls were made of old boards and had gaps to the outside; and the roofs were a mixture of metal and boards covered by plastic to stop the rain. They cooked using an open fire pit that created filled their houses with smoke and turned all the walls black.

Nicaragua is one of the poorest countries in the world. They have days when food is scarce. One of the families told us that one day they had no food so the mother picked some aloe vera plants and made a soup. Transportation is also not what we’re used to in Canada. People travel on foot a lot in the villages. There are some lucky enough to have horses. Those with a little more money have bicycles. Fewer still have motorcycles. I saw only two pickups and no cars in my time there.

But I found the people were hardworking, compassionate, loving, caring and thankful. They appreciated even a small kindness and were grateful for everything they did have. Although they had no running water, washing machines or detergent, the children were always clean and well dressed; as were the adults. The children were inquisitive, funny, and respectful. I will always remember the joy on their faces when we gave them secondhand soccer jerseys and balls.

Bridges To Community built a school in the area five years ago and now most children attend. When they reach high school age they go to school on the weekends so that they can work in the fields to help support the family. Bridges To Community also gives scholarships to help some who graduate to go on and attend post secondary school. Education is the hope for the future.

On our trip in 2017, we built two 350sq. ft. houses made of concrete block with metal roofs and tile floors. We would consider such a space a small garage, but to them it was a mansion. We also built an outdoor toilet. The toilet, a bio waste composter, produces methane gas that’s piped back into the house to fuel a one burner stove.

As I reflect on the trip I come away with an appreciation of the abundance that we have in Canada, but also an awareness of how little we need to lead a fulfilled life. A lot of the quality of our existence is found in love, caring, sharing and being compassionate.