Visiting any of Rainbow Network’s feeding centers in rural Nicaragua is always an eye opening experience. When I go to see them, I find groups of smiling children, eating hearty portions of rice with stewed chicken and vegetables — but after a few brief conversations with the children and their parents, it is easy to see that their lives have not always been so happy.
Ask any of them what they would be eating if the feeding center did not exist, and they will give you roughly the same response:
“Next to nothing.”
If it wasn’t for this program, these same children would be desperately hungry and have nothing to eat. Prior to its inception, the local boys and girls had typically survived on a meager breakfast of bread and coffee. For the rest of the day, with their stomachs growling, they would struggle to pay attention in class. Later that night, most would receive no relief as they made their way wearily home, helped with household chores and went to bed hungry. The next morning, the cycle would start all over again — an unsatisfying breakfast followed by more hunger, more distraction, and in some cases, severe malnutrition.
Thankfully, through our partners at Rainbow Network, the children of La Paz Centro receive nutritious meals Monday through Friday and have finally found relief from their hunger — but tragically, the same is not true for thousands of other boys and girls in rural Nicaragua who still live on “next to nothing.”
The poorest families in Nicaragua have always struggled to find enough food for each day, and evidence of malnutrition is readily available in the health and growth of the children. According to UN figures, 23% of Nicaraguan children under 5 years old show signs of stunting, and nearly 30% are anemic. Similarly, more than 25% of pregnant women suffer from anemia and other deficiencies, which exact a harsh toll on their bodies and result in low birth weights for their babies. Entire families are suffering from malnourishment, and the consequences are passed down from generation to generation, putting children at a medical disadvantage from the day they are born.
Sadly, these issues are only exacerbated by rural Nicaragua’s disparaging lack of improved water sources. Bodies that are already weak with malnourishment frequently contract waterborne illnesses, which result in chronic diarrhea and vomiting. Children miss many days of school, and the lack of nutrients limits their ability to focus or learn.
Our partners on the ground in Nicaragua are working tirelessly to resolve the devastating hunger problems experienced by poor families, and faithful Catholics around the world support this mission by working with Cross Catholic Outreach to send both critical funding and tangible aid. Our donors provide monetary support for life-changing food programs, as well as shipments of Vitafood, a fortified rice product specifically formulated to help malnourished bodies recover. Working together, these grants-in-aid and gifts-in-kind have the power to strengthen impoverished households, giving them the boost they need to face the future with dignity.
In the United States, we are accustomed to hearing our sons, daughters, nieces and nephews ask the age-old question, “What’s for dinner?” In the developing world, however, too many children are wondering whether they will eat at all. For them, almost anything is seen as a feast — even a piece of bread and a cup of coffee.
We believe God wants something better for them. In fact, we believe Christ has specifically and intentionally commissioned his Church to be their source of relief. Today, with your help, we can guarantee life-saving meals for the poor. Your support will help our mission partners set faith in action by filling empty stomachs, restoring hope and bringing joy to those who are fearful of what the future might bring.
Please help bless these hungry children and their families, renewing their strength and giving them a much-needed reminder of God’s loving provision in their lives!