SOS’s Executive Director, James Arron, spent 10 days visiting partnering organizations and communities in Nicaragua and Costa Rica in March 2017.
The story of Gloria and her team unfolds gradually over the course of our 3 days together. The long drives through the highlands give us plenty of time to get to know one another.
There’s Luis, the engineer who oversees the construction process of Anides work. He explains to me all the intricacies of building a school that can withstand the tests of the rainy season, with mudslides and all. As we drive by coffee crops he gives me the ins-and-outs of industry, learned from his experience working with the plants as a kid like most folks from these highlands. Between showing pictures of his recent fishing trips and softball games, he also delves into tirades about the state of politics in the region, where the intensity is matched only by the substance of the information.
There’s Silvio, the nephew-in-law of Gloria who has joined to help with translation for when my broken Spanish won’t cut it. His English is complete with a laid back California accent, learned from his twelve years living there until family health troubles brought him home. That was a few years ago. He had started an auto shop in Matagalpa which had kept him around ever since.
And then there’s Gloria. She seems to know everyone within the 300km radius we travel. Teenagers come up to give her hugs while we take in local rodeo festivities. At the café, business folks get up from their breakfasts to give her handshakes. And as we visit past projects, she simultaneously plays with the kids while scoping out future projects with the municipal representatives. It’s the result of a lifetime lived for this community, working in whatever ways are needed.
She refuses grand soliloquies about her story, but gradually I connect the dots from the little anecdotes she shares. She had fought as a guerrilla in the revolution for two years, until coming to the belief she could better serve as a nurse to the many wounded soldiers. After the war ended she worked as an actress in a popular theatre. All of it seemed to come together to make a person whose very presence inspires both warmth and strength.
It seemed her whole life had contributed to the success of Anides, which she started in 2002. In fact, the roots stretch back all the way to her childhood. She credits her mother as the inspiration behind the organization. During the revolutionary years, the family migrated to a new community to try to avoid the constant presence of soldiers. When they arrived to their new home they found no school in place. Gloria’s mother went door-to-door gathering neighbours support until eventually they were able to get one built.
Since its origins Anides had grown to about 5 staff, together working with over 50 communities around Matagalpa, all of whom she seemed to know inside and out. Her work with SOS over the past 7 years had focused on education, but I learn about her work helping start women’s cooperatives and coordinating public awareness campaigns for the environment. She knows deeply the challenges her region faces and yet she seems unphased — motivated by necessity, community, and a heart of pure love — somehow always finding a way to make things happen.
I leave Matagalpa knowing that whatever projects we work on together are in incredible hands, having learned so much from our time together, and feeling a better person for having been graced by the presence and hospitality of the whole Anides team.
Thank you Luis, Silvio, Gloria! Muchos abrazos!