Nicaragua consistently ranks as one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere, and nearly one-third of its population falls below the poverty line. The poorest families are particularly concentrated in rural villages, where about 41% of the people reside.
But what does daily life look like for these families? What are their greatest challenges, and what prevents them from escaping the crushing cycle of poverty?
This blog series will explore those questions. Together, we will delve deep into the problem of poverty, while also identifying what we can do to provide a solution. In order to bring authentic, sustainable healing, we must begin by understanding the plight of poor families and assessing the most formidable obstacles to their progress.
Several factors contribute to keeping Nicaraguan families in poverty. A wealth gap is part of the reason. The upper class constitutes only 2% of the population, and social inequality keeps lower-class families from elevating their socioeconomic position.
In the nation’s remote rural villages, poor families often work as day laborers on local farms and large plantations. They perform backbreaking labor for no more than $1 to $3 a day — but they are grateful to have any work at all. Once the harvest season passes, they will search desperately for odd jobs, washing their neighbors’ laundry or traveling long distances to sell household items in the city.
Even if they are fortunate enough to find steady labor, parents may earn barely enough money to provide their children with two meals a day. Nicaragua’s minimum wage is among the lowest in the world, and with little to live on, families can only focus on securing food, water and other basic essentials for survival. They often live in cramped, leaking shacks with mud floors, sharing a single mattress and scrambling to keep their plastic-tarp walls from crashing down in a storm. Faith formation activities such as prayer and church attendance often fall to the wayside as the poor exhaust their energy on merely making it through each day.
Other factors that perpetuate the cycle of poverty include a high rate of teen pregnancy, lack of access to quality schools and the separation of families. Many fathers migrate into neighboring towns or countries to search for work, and their households become increasingly divided by the distance. Poverty places an unbearable strain on these families, and many begin to fracture beneath its weight.
In recent times, the situation has only become more difficult. Just a small portion of the population holds permanent jobs, and unemployment is on the rise. Many households have no access to electricity, sanitation or decent roads, and without intervention, poor rural families are unlikely to see improvement any time soon. Pressing physical needs include:
To create major change, we must begin with the basics. Food and water are two of life’s most fundamental necessities, and without them, more advanced developments in education and income-generation can make little progress. By supporting hunger-relief projects and the installation of clean water systems, we can lay a firm foundation that future generations will be able to build on for years to come.
The challenges faced by Nicaragua’s poorest families are real and painful — but we have an incredible opportunity to bring relief! Cross Catholic Outreach currently works with three different ministry partners that are striving to address the country’s food and water concerns. Amigos for Christ, Father Fabretto’s Children’s Foundation and Rainbow Network are devoted to relieving the burden on struggling families, and with support from our donors, they can make a profound impact on the lives of those in need.
Cross Catholic Outreach helps unite the global Church by linking these trusted ministries with compassionate donors around the world. Your generosity has the power to fuel missions of mercy, equipping them with the resources to address Nicaraguan poverty and increase food and water security. By supporting life-saving nutrition programs, you can provide meals for malnourished children. By funding the installation of clean water systems, you can quench the thirst of poor families and deliver them from waterborne disease. Working together, these efforts will shine the light of the gospel into seemingly forgotten communities and pave the way for sustainable community transformation!