In the fall of 2021, when we were still in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and many people were still leery of leaving the safety of their homes, Cross Catholic Outreach maintained its focus on serving desperately poor communities around the world. In some of those places, families actually had no place to truly call “home.”
San Isidro, Nicaragua, was one of those places. Many people there were living in primitive shelters — really little more than mud and stick structures — that were literally crumbling to pieces around them. Some of these homes also overcrowded with extended family members. These homes would flood when it rained, were open to vermin and intruders and perpetuated disease. Most families were desperate to improve their unsafe, unsanitary living conditions, but it was impossible for them to make repairs while also working long hours in the fields.
When we learned about this housing crisis, we turned to our Catholic supporters for help and they generously responded!
In an outpouring of Christ’s love, they gave generously, and we were able to fully fund an effort to help our local ministry partner, Rainbow Network, work on solutions. Their efforts were an incredible blessing to Nicaraguan families — not only because they addressed housing needs, but also because they could provide food to satisfy local nutritional needs.
The outreach’s goals included:
In the fall of 2022, the seeds that were planted through our donors’ generosity produced a beautiful harvest. All 75 homes were completed and handed over to their new owners in an inspiring inaugural ceremony that included ribbon-cutting, dancing, balloons, blessings by a Catholic priest, and the distribution of housewarming gifts: a Spanish-language Bible and a decorative wooden cross.
One unique aspect of Rainbow Network’s approach to building homes for the poor is that participating families do not know which house will be theirs until the day of the ceremony. This encourages them to work together as a community on various tasks, including clearing plots of land for construction. On inauguration day, there is a wonderful sense of pride and excitement in the air as each family takes a turn discovering which of the new homes will be theirs.
The program also encourages these families to see beyond the new houses and embrace the joy of starting a new community full of hope and opportunity. The families have been brought out of bad areas and into a place where they can start their lives anew. To that end, our partner also installed a new water system (as well as sanitary latrines) so that each home can eventually have clean water on tap.
Alexis Jose Salazar Rodrigues has always wanted to improve his family’s living conditions. But as a low-wage laborer for a gold mining company, he had little chance of progressing.
“We never had a home of our own,” Alexis explained. “We didn’t have savings to build a house because everything has gotten expensive. We had to shelter with my mother-in-law or at my grandparents’ house. The minimum wage here is too low, so we can’t buy construction materials; we can barely eat.”
Now, thanks to you and the other friends who supported our ministry work in his community, Alexis and his family finally have the house he has dreamed about — a house where his children have room to play and where his family can do the things they want to do, because it is their own.
“We are so happy and excited,” he said. “I know that my wife is, as well as my children. I’m the happiest because I know I’ll have my home, my own home. I’m grateful to the Lord. We’ll have a roof for my children, especially for my girl.”
Alexis’ daughter, Angeli, is disabled; and after we learned about her condition, we were all the more pleased that this family was awarded a home. At the young age of 11, Angeli is bound to a wheelchair and suffers from seizures. She is also mute. The stress and expense of her care is surely an immense challenge for her parents, but at least now they are able to give her a good home.
This blessing has also given Alexis the confidence to believe a better future is possible. He and his family now hope to start a home business, which will make it easier for his wife to work while taking care of Angeli.
For this wonderful blessing, the family expressed their deepest thanks.
“We thank you for having the heart and will to help the poor; that you want to help those poor people because they can’t build their own home,” Alexis said. “We are forever grateful.”
Samuel Reyes, our ministry partner’s national director in Nicaragua, explained some of the ways Rainbow Network showers God’s love on poor Nicaraguan communities.
“With the housing project, we help families who usually live in overcrowded houses. On average, we have four families sharing a single house. The housing project helps these families get proper, accessible and long-lasting housing. They are concrete houses with materials certified in our country.
“With the economic development program, we teach people how to make products from their homes, and we maximize the things they already know. A lot of our families have animals, they raise them, they know how to make some handicrafts from home, but they don’t know they can take advantage of these. Rainbow Network takes that and turns it into a business for each one of them. If they lack an ability, we work with them at the technical school so they can learn. In about six months, Rainbow Network provides them with the knowledge to work from their homes and sell the products they make in the communities or nearby towns.
“We see God every day. I see him in each family — in a smiling child at the collective learning sessions or when he gets his meal. That brings me so much joy… God is there each time we visit the communities. He inspires us to see his love and share his love and all the goods that we are bringing to the families that need it.”
Proceeds from this campaign will be used to cover any expenditures incurred through June 30, 2024, 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.