At Friends of Students for 60,000, we provide critical emergency food assistance to individuals and families in need, both in resource-poor Nicaraguan communities and here on Long Island. This assistance has proven to be particularly critical during recent periods of health crises and natural disasters.
Pictured above is our long-time Nicaraguan representative Conchita providing an elderly woman in El Jicarito in great need with an emergency food bag during the COVID pandemic.
Conchita has distributed hundreds of such food bags to needy families on our behalf. The food bags contain a supply of rice, beans, corn, flour, sugar, cooking oil, powdered milk, toilet paper, and other staples, a 2-4 week supply of basic necessities for a Nicaraguan family. After hurricanes and during the COVID pandemic, food and even basic supplies were difficult or impossible to acquire. Disasters and drastic conditions hit the poor more severely than others, particularly in a rural agriculture-dependent community. However, our emergency food assistance is an ongoing program. Many families have lost jobs or are otherwise unable to work, due partly to COVID and recently due also to other factors in Nicaragua. Further, there are many seniors in those communities who would otherwise be without food altogether.
Friends of Students for 60,000 believes in the power of community, and we work to build strong relationships with the people we serve to connect with those in the greatest need and provide support. Of primary importance is a safe and stable home for a family or an individual.
We continue our ongoing commitment to building safe housing for homeless families, or rebuilding and repairing damaged or unlivable dwellings (this is an area of seismic activity as well as severe tropical storms). The homes are built or repaired by Friends volunteers working side by side with Nicaraguan families, contractors, and local volunteers. Families participate in the cost of building their home, and their gradual repayment of their portion of the cost, interest-free, makes it possible to build or repair more homes for other community members.
Pictured above is just one example of living conditions that are sadly common - shacks cobbled together from found materials with no protection from rain or wind, a beaten earth floor, an indoor open fire, and no safe living space. This photo shows one family's dilapidated, dirt floor house made of made of plastic -- and in the foreground, the solid brick walls of their sturdy new house being erected by Friends of Students for 60000. Friends members have built nearly 200 houses beginning with the many homeless victims of Hurricane Mitch and continuing until now, and repaired three times as many structures. Each house costs from $2000 to $3000 to build from scratch, including the cost of cement, wood, bricks, roofing, nails, and local labor costs. The houses are sturdily constructed, with a solid foundation, floors instead of dirt,and a strong hurricane-proof roof and walls. Families are selected on the basis of need.
Along with the importance of having a secure place to call home is a means to live every day safely and with dignity.
Our latrine project evidences our commitment to providing sanitation in the form of latrines in communities which otherwise would have no safe recourse. In the community of El Jicarito, for example, we met with 500 families and learned that 100 had no latrine and had to use the fields as their "toilet," creating unhealthy and unsanitary conditions for all.
Friends' donors have funded and helped build more than 200 latrines in El Jicarito and Chacraseca. Latrines cost about $220 each for bricks, cement, a seat, a door, a roof, and labor. Families who are able pay back half of the cost of their new latrine, which in turns creates funds to build additional latrines with the payback money. In the case of senior citizens who cannot dig, families or neighbors help by digging the 20-foot hole themselves for the neediest members of their community.
Children in poor communities have no means of recreation. We have built and maintain a "Field of Dreams" athletic field in Chacraseca, Nicaragua, to provide for the children and young people, and bring the community together safely.
The athletic park is named "Parque Hermanita Juanita" - named by the community in honor of their beloved Maryknoll Missionary Sister Joan Uhlen, who lived among them for more than 45 years, dedicating her life to the community through wartime and peace. Sister Joan loved baseball, even founded their local team the Chacraseca Cardinales.
The park includes a Little League-sized field, a full-sized adult baseball field, and a regulation-size soccer field. Friends of Students for 60,000 purchased, prepared, and leveled the 17-plus acres of land, a painstaking endeavor often with primitive tools in an area subject to drought and rainy season.The backstop, drainage, fencing, and all improvements and ongoing maintenance have been funded entirely by Friends. Schoolchildren use the park on a daily basis for recreation during their school day, in addition to little league and other community team activities.
Watch the creation of the park here:
In 2009, Friends bought and leveled the land for the athletic park, land which was also to include a 2-manzana parcel for a large teaching garden or "mini-farm" adjacent to the main Alberto Berrias K-12 school in Chacraseca, Nicaragua.
There students learn with the guidance of their teachers how to plant and grow nutritious food for their school, families, and community.
Nutrition education and food assistance are critical in an area such as this with prevalent food insecurity, stunted child growth and development, difficult weather conditions for agricultural communities, and chronic diseases such as diabetes.
Friends provides monetary assistance to local organizations for food, shelter and clothing, along with donated supplies, for those in need .
These local organizations include PRONTO in Brentwood, and the Gerald Ryan Outreach Center in Wyandanch. Annually we typically provide each of those groups about $2K - $3K in funds alone, plus needed supplies, clothing, necessary household items, sports equipment, electronics, and so on.
In addition, there are many individual needs that arise and come our way to which we respond -- for example, two longtime helpers in Nicaragua passed away, with families too poor to afford burial or food. We helped. Then there are emergency medical needs, for example the case of a young Nicaraguan man who suffered severe trauma and burns from a chemical explosion at work but who could not afford the needed medical intervention.
We also contribute funds to Long Island Cares, Catholic Relief Services for Ukrainian refugees, local refugees. And the list goes on.
Friends of Students for 60,000 funded $50,000 toward a clean water project in Nuevo Amanecer, a water-less and extremely poor community of 70 families built entirely by Students for 60,000. Friends supported the complicated collecting and piping of clean mountain spring water, a critical resource, to the drought-ravaged communities below. Prior to the success of this huge project, women and children were forced to walk and climb long distances up the mountain to find water, which they would carry back for their families in heavy plastic containers, and families would wash and bathe in a rocky stream as pictured above. Illnesses and water toxicity were common.
Through our "Becas" program, Friends continues to provide several thousand dollars a year to send deserving but needy Nicaraguan students past high school on to further study, at a cost of a few hundred dollars per student. Friends has provided for dozens of students to continue their education in this manner.
Friends also began and supported for many years a school lunch program known as the "Comedor" project, so that the children of poor families could receive at least one nutritious meal a day. The role of adequate nutrition in educational achievement and development is critical.
Friends supported for years a local community garden in Huntington Station created to provide healthy food options to low-resource communities.
In Nicaragua, Friends purchased the land and supported the creation of a large 2-manzana school teaching garden in Chacraseca, large enough to grow vegetables and fruit trees, so that school children could learn how to grow healthy food for their school and families and become more aware of appropriate nutrition.
At Friends of Students for 60,000, we believe that every person deserves to live a life free from poverty, hunger, and injustice. We work tirelessly to provide aid and support to vulnerable communities around the world. From building homes to providing clean water and sanitation, supporting nutrition and education, we are committed to making a positive impact on the lives of those we serve. Join us in our mission to create a brighter future for all. Thank you for visiting our website!