We landed in Managua yesterday evening and were received by Carlos Amador, the National General Secretary of Nicaragua YMCA. And with this arrival our 30 days marathon through Central American YMCAs has officially taken off. (I used this metaphor in a tweet yesterday, and that tweet was favorited by World Runners!)
15 hours in the air resulting in a 7 hours time difference made for a long good night to sleep away the jetlag.
We woke up early anyway, time enough to deal with last days e-mails, and after breakfast we met with the leadership of YMCA Nicaragua. Here was staff and volunteers, experienced and very young leadership. Carlos Amador led the session and we got an inspirational and very encouraging morning together. Strong volunteer leaders as well as strong staff presented different elements from the reality of Nicaragua YMCA.
National General Secretary Carlos Amador
They are focusing very much on governance and the need to modernize the way they lead and facilitate their YMCA. More evaluation, both of programmes and staff, new policies on youth and volunteers, gender policy already in place.
Jose Louise Cortez, Coordinator for Governance issues in the Board
They give priority to Board development, especially on planning and on finance development, and they are developing manuals to share knowledge in key areas of leadership development.
Sofia Gutierez, Director for Programmes
Basically all key elements of governance need to be updated and adjusted to present time’s requirements.
Miguel Cruz, Director for Movement Strengthening
Jessenia Nohemi Parrales Torres is a young leader, who started as a beneficiary of a local YMCA programme and grown into senior leadership in the movement. She told us about the local community centre that she had been a part of.
Jessenia Nohemi Parrales Torres
“All of a sudden we observed that the gangs had disappeared, the business with drugs was dying out, and the situation for young people was different!” Then, a few years onwards the YMCA centre had to close, due to lack of resources. Now tears were rolling down the cheeks of Jessenia. “Again the gangs were growing and people were using drugs, the violence was taking over the streets of the neighbourhood.” It was like a story about a neighbourhood with and without a YMCA, and the different scenarios following the presence or no-presence of the YMCA.
Marvin Prado, member of the National Board
Marvin underlined the need for a balanced approach to gender, generations as well as staff and volunteers. “We want a stronger YMCA because we want to be present in all parts of our country so that we can touch the lives of many more!”
Hanson Hernandez, member of the National Board
“YMCA is about loving your neighbor. To be able to do that, we need to fundraise more money. The Peace Boat may sound like a crazy idea, but it has vision and it has dimensions. We need to find new ways of generating income. We need to use our creativity. This is the only way we can obtain sustainability. I support it!”
Daniela Martinez, Finance Manager
“I must be honest and admit that I was against it when I heard about this cruise ship. It sounded like luxury. Now, when I know what it is all about, and that it is a very cheap venue for the Change Agents, I am all in favor of it. It must just be open for people above 30 years of age!”
The photo above is showing an amazing excavation. These are footsteps from nomads walking towards the huge Lake Managua, walking in cold, but still soft volcanic material. Through scientific method it has been proven that these footsteps are more than 6000 years old. I was amazed! Look at this close up of a naked foot, 6000 years old:
From the museum we continue on our way to the YMCA Youth centre in this part of Managua.
We are on our way to District 2 in Managua, a symbol of the poorest part of Nicaragua. As Carlos was driving along the streets of this informal community with houses built from recycled treasures found on the nearby garbage dump, we were stopped by police. He introduced himself as the chief of police in this district, and he found it suspicious to see us driving around like we did. When he heard that we came from the YMCA, his face became a big smile. “I know Gloria, the leader of the YMCA centre around the corner!”
Carlos Amador and Gloria Cortez, Centre leader
Gloria welcomed us to her YMCA Youth centre, and all her volunteers were very well prepared for our visit.
Lesther Moises Blandon Lucuyo and Priscilla Ines Mayorga Landez
Lester and Priscilla, two of the volunteers, showed us a very elegant power point presentation and told us about all the activities in the centre. They had monthly planning meetings to decide the programme and the different activities. I was impressed. This is really a youth led programme and showed me Youth Empowerment in the purest possible version.
These volunteers had started when they were 13 years old, some of them, and after a while as beneficiaries of the programme, they started to volunteer. “Who owns this centre?” I asked them, and they responded: “We do!”
The direction is away from gangs and drugs and into a better future with hopes and light ahead!
And on the way into that future, lots of sports activities and educational activities, cooking and exercising!
Managua city centre had been devastated by the huge earthquake back in 1972, and the old cathedral stood there as an empty shell, nobody knew what to do with it.
We go to bed after a very interesting and engaging day in Nicaragua. Tomorrow we get up early to meet with the President of the YMCA and together drive into the countryside far away from Managua to visit rural programmes of the YMCA. Nicaragua is the second poorest country in Latin America, so effective programmes for rural populations are really needed.
More tomorrow! There is a party going on in our hotel, so to the swinging rhythms of a local band we drift away to dream land. Good night.