Relieving Rural Nicaragua’s Big Hunger Problem in 499 Ways

Cross Catholic Outreach is working through its in-country partner to feed thousands in the Western Hemisphere’s second-poorest country.

In Nicaragua, the statistics on hunger are heartbreaking. For example, nearly one in five children under age 5 are chronically malnourished, and about 300,000 people need food assistance because more than one in four households struggle with food insecurity. While the numbers are disheartening, the problem they represent is not unsolvable, despite the fact that even deeply compassionate people may be tempted to say, “This problem is just too big for me to overcome.”

Rather than turn away from the challenge, we believe it is better to take St. Teresa of Calcutta’s advice. She said, “If you can’t feed 100, then feed just one.”

In his famous observation “The journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step,” Chinese philosopher Lao-tzu tapped into a similar line of thinking. Just because an undertaking seems overwhelming, it does not mean it is unachievable. Before you allow yourself to be paralyzed by fear or think your efforts will be insufficient … just begin with a first step of service in faith.

If faith is your companion, you’ll likely be surprised at what you can accomplish, especially when you are joined by other like-minded people who are taking a similar approach to serving.

At Cross Catholic Outreach, we start each day in prayer no matter how big or small the challenges we are facing may be, and we continue to pray for God’s guidance through each step of the journey. As we listen with patience for his answers, we gain strength, and as his answers come, our trust grows.

Start small — with just one, if that is all you can manage — and keep the faith. As you persevere in the journey, God will join you on that walk of service, and the blessings will follow!

Related: The Nicaraguan Food Crisis

This year, we are making it a priority to tackle the serious hunger problems the poor face in Nicaragua, the second-poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. While once-malnourished children are already benefiting from our work there, we take the attitude of Christ in searching out those who are still “lost sheep,” struggling to find solutions to their hunger. Because hunger is a deeply personal need, let’s set aside the countrywide statistics for a moment and focus on the story of a single child. It provides a powerful example of how interventions like ours can dramatically change a life.

One Child’s Story

Norvin Martinez, 9, is from a small village in Nicaragua. As you can see, he’s holding a plate of fresh food. He’s alert and happy now, so you might never have guessed he was born underweight and suffered with serious malnourishment. Not long ago, Norvin was gravely ill and easily might have died.

Norvin’s mother loves her son dearly, and it devastated her to see him so sick, but like seven in 10 families in Nicaragua, the Martinez family was too poor to properly address his needs. His parents work the land for their daily bread, and when their crops fail due to drought, storms, pest infestation or any other hardship, there’s no safety net to save them. During those times, they go hungry.

Thankfully, Norvin and his family were invited some time ago to take part in a food distribution initiative supported by Cross Catholic Outreach. It might have saved his life. He received medical attention to address his malnutrition, and today he’s healthy and growing strong thanks to the healthy meals he’s receiving.

Because of compassionate Cross Catholic Outreach supporters, children around the world, including Norvin, are free to hope, dream, study and one day find work in a field they’re good at and love. Maybe Norvin will be a doctor or an engineer or a teacher. Maybe he’ll be a father and raise a family. With the basic worry of daily nutrition solved, the sky’s the limit.

A Like-Minded Partner

Norvin is just one of thousands of Nicaraguan children we’re now helping through feeding programs we support in collaboration with our longtime, in-country partner, Rainbow Network. Rainbow Network shares our goal of lifting families out of the cycle of poverty and into self-sufficiency, aiming to transform communities through material and spiritual relief.

Related: 3 Ministries Doing Outreach Work in Nicaragua

Part of Rainbow Network’s mission states, “Everything we do is to Christ, for Christ and with Christ.” There could be no better fit, no better complement to our mission here at Cross Catholic Outreach.

Rainbow Network operates in municipalities throughout Nicaragua, focusing most of its attention on the rural poor. Cross Catholic Outreach has partnered with the ministry to serve families like Norvin’s in the rural La Paz Centro and Nagarote areas.

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The Birth of New Hope

The poorest families here often find it difficult to provide their children with even one small meal a day. A child might eat nothing more than a small tortilla or piece of bread before heading off to school. But with no other source of nutrition, that child typically struggles to concentrate on lessons. The ache of chronic hunger absorbs all of their attention.

For a long time, impoverished parents in Nagarote and La Paz Centro had to watch in agony, feeling powerless to provide the vital nutrition their sons and daughters urgently needed — but now there is hope. Little by little, these families are receiving an awesome gift: the sight of their children eating hearty lunches. Children once too weak to laugh, play or study are now animated, energetic and engaged in their classes.

Rainbow Network’s nutrition centers that we’re supporting — usually associated with a local school — offer a daily meal to students like Norvin but also to preschool-aged children, pregnant women, nursing mothers and the elderly. These meals have the added benefit of incentivizing regular school attendance, and our partner takes the weights and measurements of all the children in the program to gauge their level of malnutrition and monitor their progress.

499 Community Feeding Centers Strong

It’s inspiring to see these efforts grow. Currently, we’re delivering nutritious meals to thousands through 499 community feeding centers. That’s no small feat and in fact depends on the ongoing support of Cross Catholic Outreach supporters like you. Without outside support, the program’s resources would quickly dry up, so we work to make known the benefits of this growing program. As I write this, in fact, we’re raising shipping funds to provide an incredible 1.6 million supply of nutritious prepackaged Vitafood meals and are also raising funds to purchase local foods so this life-sustaining service can continue.

Related: Fighting Malnutrition by Feeding the Hungry With Vitafood

There’s great wisdom in St. Teresa’s advice to “feed just one,” especially if that’s all you can do. One child like Norvin benefits immensely from that act of compassion. If you have the chance to do more — much more — all the better. The need is great, and thanks to our collaboration with Rainbow Network, we can have a big impact on the lives of poor Nicaraguan families if we can rely on that kind of generous support. Please — join us in providing food and sharing Christ’s hope with our poor sisters and brothers today!

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Proceeds from this campaign will be used to cover any expenditures incurred through June 30, 2022, the close of our ministry’s fiscal year. In the event that more funds are raised than needed to fully fund the project, the excess funds, if any, will be used to meet the most urgent needs of the ministry.