More than 12,000 people were living in extremely primitive conditions at Nueva Vida, a relocation camp set up just 30 kilometers outside of Managua. Babies were dying of malnutrition. Elderly were dying from lack of medical care and poor sanitation. Children were running around without shoes or clothing.
San Felipe Humanitarian Alliance stepped in and quickly made a difference. Among our first tasks was the expedient offering of materials to help camp residents make wooden cots. Simple – except that getting the people off the ground was a necessity to reduce the spread of diseases that were running rampant in the camp. Simple – except that providing material to build a bed gives people a little control over their lives, in a way that simply giving them a bed could never do. Since people had to make 10 beds to receive one for themselves, the process also helped instill a sense of self-responsibility among camp residents.
To offset the absence of activities and school at the camp, San Felipe turn a canopy in the middle of the camp into a makeshift recreational/educational center. With the help of locals and a handful of international volunteers, we began to rotate various activities for the children – from baseball games and art projects to teaching the children how to grow vegetables. Eventually, teachers from the public school system began to arrive and used our canopy as the site for daily schooling.
Our greatest accomplishment in Nueva Vida was setting up a permanent medical clinic, Clinica San Felipe. Two full-time doctors were hired and with the help of the Spanish Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders and Northwest Medical Teams International, who donated medicine and supplies, we were able to open an on-site pharmacy and provide medical, dental, eye and pre-natal care. Clinica San Felipe gave Nueva Vida residents a chance at starting the new life they might not otherwise have had.