Personal Journey in Nicaragua-Pittsburgh Photojournalist

One of the hardest parts of being a photojournalist, is the feeling that I hide behind my camera, and dont interact. Sometimes this is true. For a week in Nicaragua, it wasnt. In the past I have taken tons of photos and been primarily focused on telling the story of Daniel Bain and his wife Jessenia, and the kids that they are working with inside their children’s home.

This year, was different. I barely picked up a camera, I barely took any photos, and while I wish that I had more to show, the experience of leading a team of six people, with my wife Kelly, was worth all the missed photos. The memories of working together, and guiding people through personal growth, and physical labor, was totally worth it.

We started out the week celebrating mothers day with the children from the home. Pizza, games, a pinata. It was chaos. And as the kids ran around, and spent time with their families, seeing the joy that was over flowing, was a pretty awesome experience.

Monday we took the team to La Chureca. La Chureca is the Managua city dump, and until two years  ago, nearly 850 people lived there. Today the families live in houses inside a small community built by the Spanish and Nicaraguan governments. Many people now work in the recycling plant that has been built at the dump, but some families still go out to the dump and forage for anything that may have value. Rubber, plastic, metal, copper. Men and women spend hours digging through garbage to find items of value, and then spend even more time back at home, working to salvage the metal out of tires, the copper out of cables, only to go back out and do it again. It was eye opening to say the least, and the team began to understand more clearly, how our hardest days trying to find work, pale in comparison to what many people around the world do.

Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday we spent time at the childrens home. Tuesday we helped with homework, and Wednesday and Thursday we painted some of the bedrooms.

Friday we traveled around the countryside, and ended the day having lunch and swimming with the kids in a beautiful crater lake, before saying goodbye and leaving Saturday morning.

For me, this trip was about seeing and being a part of the group. No hanging back behind a camera in my own safe world. I played, laughed, chased, splattered pain all over me, led discussions, and spent time making friends, and talking with Kelly in ways we often seem to not have time for.

Till next year Nicaragua, enjoy the photos.


























 

News from Nicaragua

The Past two days have been pretty intense here in Nicaragua.

On Wednesday we went to Chaco Cente, a working farm out in the country, where former captives of La Chureca are living, farming, going to school, and participating in a community where they are able to grow, feel safe, experience redemption through Christ, and be free of the identity of a person from the dump. The school on the property is now open to local residents, and they said that it is the best school in the area. Parents have pulled their children from the public school, and now send them to Chaco Cente.

A few years ago, Chaco Cente was having problems with the water system. The city water was shut off in that area, and the newly freed residents began complaining that they were better off in La Chureca. “At least there we had water, here we have none, maybe we should just go back.” Deosnt that sound an awful lot like the Israelites after Moses helped bring them out of slavery in Egypt?

The solution was a simple one, build a well. Now there is no fear of running out of water for a very long time.

Later that afternoon, we went to visit Dan and Jessenia’s girls home. We went on a hike to this beautiful hill, and after a while of laughter, and taking in a beautiful view, we sat down to talk with the girls. As we talked Alesca, the oldest girls started to tell her story of sexual abuse by her uncle, and how no one believed her story till it happened again. Finally she was believed. She had never spoke of it to anyone, and as her voice shook and tears poured, she found freedom.

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Nicaragua Day 2. Heading to La Chureca (city dump)

Today will be our first day in the dump. It has been what I consider oppressively hot, but everyone who lives here considers it cool.

We had a great first day yesterday. We went to a wonderful church service in Managua, and it is amazing how different cultures, speaking different languages, can worship and pray together, as one body of the church.

The team met the kids from the girls home that Dan and Jessenia run, for the first time. Wow! They treated the girls, like they were cousins. I havent heard so much screaming and laughter for a long time, and it does ones soul a service to see kids just being kids, and college students acting like kids, both laughing, running, and singing at the top of their lungs.

We spent a good amount of time in the car, doing a loop from Managua to Masaya, and finally ending at the girls home, before finally heading home to the compound. Yesterday was a day of acclimation. Today will be a day of doing. Meeting people in the dump, most likely spending time at a school in the dump, and walking through seeing the oppression that weighs heavily on this small community.

Im not sure how much I’ll be blogging. I will be shooting lots of photos, but I dont want to post for the sake of posting. I want to be putting together a story to really show what Dan and Jessenia do here, so I may decide to just blog with photos from my iphone. but not today. Enjoy

P.S. Be sure to check out the trip blog @ www.mission2nicaragua.wordpress.com

Fresh Mango in the morning

Girls and a Clown; Lunch Sunday afternoon

Dan and Elias

Morning light

A room with a view

I love Nicaragua in the morning

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Yesterday was our last day in La Chureca. I’m sad to be leaving. While we don’t leave to come home til Saturday the rest of the trip will be spent debriefing, which while totally necessary, puts an end to the trip.

Two more weeks here still wouldn’t be enough, but that’s ok. The answers I have been seeking have been made very clear. This trip brought to light that I am to be using photography for change. To tell the stories of those who dont have a voice.

As exciting as this trip has been, its still not over yet.

Today we head to the Masaya market, and then back to Grenada. I can’t wait. I’m going to try and get outside of the main square and shoot some more photos.

Till I have internet access again, have a great day.