UMW News

Hope in This Life

The Women and Community Association works to empower women and youth to change their lives and community in San Francisco Libre, Nicaragua.

Hope in This Life
Scholarship students participate in small-group discussion during a class held by the Women and Community Association in San Francisco Libre

Miguel Mairena and I are United Methodist Missionaries serving in Nicaragua. We are assigned by the General Board of Global Ministries to Asociación Mujer y Comunidad, or Women and Community Association, supported by United Methodist Women members’ Mission Giving. Our work in Nicaragua is to bring hope in this life to women, youth and children. Most of our work is with this ecumenical group of women in San Francisco Libre, an impoverished, dry rural county of 13,000 people who live in 35 villages across a big lake from the capital city of Managua.

Most inhabitants of the town are Christians in the Evangelical or Catholic traditions. They’ve historically been told to endure their poverty and suffering now for a better life after death. But, of course, people want and deserve a better life now.

The Women and Community Association helps women break the chains of violent relationships, giving them more autonomy over their health and reproduction. It also supports women’s economic initiatives and provides educational opportunities. At least half the association’s work is with young women and men through a scholarship program and through the Red de Jóvenes Contra la Violencia, or Youth Network Against Violence.

Youth Network Against Violence

The Youth Network Against Violence is part of the Youth Leadership Development Program of Women and Community, supported for many years by United Methodist Women. The network is made up of teenagers and young adults who work to educate their peers by promoting gender equality between men and women, human rights, reproductive health and rights and the active participation of youth in society.

Over the past few years the network has trained members in community video-making. Elder Garcia is one of the young people who is now an expert. He grew up in extreme poverty, raised by his sisters, as his mother had to work as a maid in Managua to support her six children. Mr. Garcia says that often they had only one meal a day. Today he is a journalism student with a scholarship from Women and Community. He lives with a sister and her son. His sister also received a scholarship and was able to find a good job.

The Scholarship Program

Humberto Ruiz is 17 and lives with his parents and four brothers and sisters in a small, mud-floored hut. He lives in a remote village and walks 10 miles to high school. During the rainy season the creeks rise and getting to school becomes difficult. Mr. Ruiz says he wouldn’t be studying without the scholarship provided by Women and Community—his family just has too many economic limitations.

Gloria Mayorga, director of Women and Community, says the scholarship students from the most remote villages get up at 3 a.m. in order to come to the monthly educational workshops on time. They are often the first to arrive. The students discuss such topics as human rights, gender equity and reproductive health, and they develop their communication, speaking and acting skills. To give back to the community the students tutor children in their villages. Jesus the teacher is in many ways the model for the scholarship program, as he taught in open classrooms across the Galilean countryside.

Prevention of Violence Against Women

Dinora Flores is trying to free herself from a violent relationship. She is 25 years old and has three children. Her mother separated from her father after many years of suffering violence at his hand. At the age of 15, Ms. Flores, one of 13 children, was looking for a way out of her family’s cycle of poverty and violence and fell in love with Lucas. Ms. Flores says they had about six good months together—a honeymoon period before her torment began. The shouting, insults and physical violence were especially bad when Lucas drank. When the children were very young she went to Managua but couldn’t find a way to both work and take care of the kids, so she went back.

One day in one of his drunken rages Lucas threatened to kill Ms. Flores with a knife. She escaped and went to her mother’s in another village. Her mother, along with a human rights promoter with Women and Community, convinced her to go to Women and Community’s center in town and meet with a lawyer and psychologist. It took a number of therapy sessions for Ms. Flores to have the strength to place a formal complaint with the police.

Ms. Flores visited the forensic institute in Managua to be seen by a doctor and a psychologist, whose evaluations will be part of her legal case against Lucas. One of Women and Community’s trained legal advocates accompanied Ms. Flores to Managua and also helped convince neighbors to be witnesses at the pending trial. Ms. Flores says that before therapy she never thought about herself, her own life. Finally she realized that if she didn’t get out, Lucas might really kill her and leave her children without a mother. She has come to know that God loves and supports her and wants her to do what is best for her and her children.

Integral Health Education for Pregnant Teenagers

A third of the babies born in San Francisco Libre are to teenagers. The girls are from impoverished families and until now have had little education to understand their bodies and how to care for them. Maura Delgadillo, a nurse-educator who directs the women’s clinic at Women and Community, has been working with pregnant teenagers for three years. Ms. Delgadillo has worked with more than a hundred teenagers from villages all over the rural municipality. The girls love the chance to be with other girls in their same situation and reflect together. Along with health and rights and prenatal education, the girls’ self-esteem is strengthened so they will care more for themselves and their own development. To date, only 5 percent of the girls have gotten pregnant again.

Marlin Berrios and her brother were raised alone by their mother. Ms. Berrios was studying her first year of college on Saturdays in Managua when she got pregnant. She was 17. Her family made her stop studying and sent her to another county so people wouldn’t know she was pregnant. She was unhappy and came back. She says some people were cruel and discriminated against her for getting pregnant out of wedlock. Christians seem to forget sometimes that Jesus’s mother Mary was an unmarried, pregnant teen.

Ms. Berrios attended a Youth Network Festival and was amazed to see teenagers teaching their peers about gender equity. She asked to join. Now she counsels other youth about birth control and preventing sexually transmitted illnesses. She shared her story with more than 300 youth at the 2011 Youth Network Festival. Ms. Berrios is now an active member of the Youth Network Against Violence. She works hard teaching her peers in workshops about violence, gender equity and reproductive health and rights. Ms. Berrios’ daughter is 2, and Ms. Berrios is studying biology with a Women and Community scholarship. She is already a great peer teacher and soon will be a fabulous high school teacher. She is a sign of hope in this life.

How You Can Help

Luke 8:1-4 describes the faithful women who followed Christ. They used their own resources to support Jesus’ ministries to bring abundant life to the poor and oppressed. In the same way you bring hope in this life to people in Nicaragua through your sharing and your work in solidarity with them. You can continue to support Women and Community and projects like by giving to United Methodist Women International Ministries at You change lives with your Mission Giving.

Nan McCurdy is a United Methodist missionary serving in San Francisco Libre, Nicaragua, through the General Board of Global Ministries.

Posted or updated: 3/16/2014 11:00:00 PM
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