I am currently sitting in the CREA building waiting for folks to come and pick up the mattresses (colchones) that were ordered for them. More later about why I am involved in a mattress project. It is a miracle of dedication and hard work that CREA is open and working as a community library and learning center that is CREA. Four weeks ago this building was 4 feet underwater from one of the several rivers near the property that run through Rancho Santana and the villages of Limón #1 and Limòn #2. Storm Nate—later named Hurricane Nate—damaged CREA severely. CREA opened in August and had hundreds of books, new computers, and workspaces for various ages of children and young adults. Most of the books were damaged and the computers totally gone. After the water receded, CREA was left with almost two feet of mud and silt. So I am sitting at the table of a miraculous recovery.
Hurricane Nate was the Perfect Storm that hasn’t occurred in this area for more than 70 years. We had hurricane force winds, torrential rain, full moon, high tides and humongous waves that lasted for almost three days. Although it was a bit scary at times, I stayed in the condo. Water was pouring through the small cracks in the window and door sills that resembled spouting fountains. Lidieth Alvarez Guzmán, one of my Limón family members thankfully was staying with me for a week. She and I each took a room and kept stuffing towels in the cracks changing them about every two minutes for a day. Having a washer with a good spin cycle that I used constantly and then tossed the towels in the dryer helped keep me from having a lake in my bedroom and living room. The last night of the storm Lidieth and I went to the Rancho Santana hotel at the request of the staff because the river was rising next to my condo. There was no electricity in the villages for about a week. We in the Rancho Condos are fortunate to have a generator that ran constantly for a week. Trees were down along the main roads between Rivas and our area that pulled concrete posts and electrical wires with them.
I am a fortunate person to have great friends both in the villages and at Rancho Santana that seem to take care of me. There were not many homeowners or guests at RS during that storm which was a blessing in many ways as only relief crews were going out with high-wheeled trucks to cross the rivers. So many people from the communities and expats pulled together to provide shelter to those families who totally lost their homes or couldn’t go back inside until the knee-deep mud was shoveled out. A loosely organized group was formed named Tola Community Watch (TCW) that took a census of needs in the communities far and wide and a priority list was developed from this list. Many businesses and NGO groups participated in this effort. There were probably some 20 villages that were devastated and most of them were counted by number of people in the village or campo and how severe was their damage. Besides drinking water and some clothing that were distributed almost immediately, the priority of where to spend dollars was developed. Many GoFundMe pages were initiated at the very beginning and funds were coming in for the purchase of food and water and water filters. The Nicaragua government did contribute with supplies at the local level and even sent teams from Managua to distribute food and water.
The first wave of help was shelter with food and water. Next wave was cleaning the homes that were salvageable of the mud—CREA among this group. Shortly thereafter wells were cleaned and pronounced free of contamination. At the same time Rancho Santana road crews were repairing the roads first in RS then in the surrounding communities. The electric company was removing trees, replacing posts and restoring energy to most of the areas. Needless to say I was without phone service or internet for almost a week—at least I had my tools. Many families lost everything but the clothes on their backs. Fortunately as far as we know there were no deaths as a result of this event.
So how did I get involved with mattresses? My Zavala friends, who also had mud in their Guasacate casitas, pitched in immediately with help from Managua. Ana Z made a deal with one of her vendors Casa del Colchón in MGA to sell us mattresses at the vendor cost. The foam mattresses were high quality foam covered with sturdy water resistant canvas with a zipper. I became the organizer of the Zavala Colchón Project, collecting donations, taking orders, paying the vendor as I placed the orders. Yesterday, the first three orders were delivered—103 mattresses to five different drop off spots with a combo of twin, full, and queen that were allocated to families by their donors or in a few cases by people paying for their own. Last night I could have used a good stiff drink but was too tired to think about anything but a bite to eat and a bed. The Project will continue on for probably the next month as more people see what the mattresses look like and wish to order now too. A sidebar plus for me was dusting off my ExCell capability with multiple spreadsheets in several workbooks. Always making lemonade.
My next adventure in a week or so is to participate in a TWC meeting with the Tola Mayor—mayoral elections at the end of next week. A subgroup of TWC requested this meeting to hear what Disaster Plans exist in the Rivas Department and specifically the Tola Municipality. If there aren’t any, how can we help develop something sustainable. The TCW subgroup has experience in living through disasters of flood and drought here in NI. I am anxious to listen then offer my many years of study in community development. We’ll see how that goes, or at this point if we can get an agreed upon date for a meeting.
Unfortunately I was always too busy to take photos of the damage and the photos that were forwarded aren’t easily put into this blog. The good thing for me is that Ron Urroz, Ana’s husband and builder of our houses, is a fantastic engineer and builder. The Great Wall on the hill in front of our houses didn’t budge an inch while other retaining walls in the many areas either collapsed or are leaning over. Again I am grateful for this. Several families in Guasacate went up to our houses on the hill for shelter and slept in my house on the dirt since it doesn’t have floors, doors, or windows. Ana and Ron’s house next door is finished and locked so my house was the refuge point. The damage to the oceanfront businesses in Guasacate was very bad. It will take months before some of them will be able to dig out, repair and reopen.
So this is my story for this blog. Hopefully, I’ll have some photos in the next writing and some normalcy back in my routine. So far, that isn’t happening.