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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Our Experience in Nicaragua

I would like to share with you a wonderful experience that my wife and I had in Nicaragua.

To start off I need to go back a couple of months and begin there.

I was in a financial presentation and it was there when I met Steve Petersen. Steve owns Petersen Inc. which is the largest steel fabrication company in the western states. As we began to get to know one another we found that we had several things in common. Our fathers used to work together at Marquart inc. and as kids Steve and I shared memories of going there and eating lunch with our fathers sitting around the fountain at the entry way. We both had a great love for the people of Peru. Mine came from serving a mission there and his came as a young man always having a feeling that he needed to help the people of Peru. When he found out that my wife and I were leaving in January to serve a mission in Peru he became very excited. He wanted to introduce me to a charity that is called “Cause for Hope”. At first I thought I thought to myself “another charity”. We are preparing to leave in two months on a mission and still wondering how I was going to be able to take care of my financial obligations I was in no position to be involved with a charity. I agreed to meet with them in Sandy. Steve made it a point to clear up his schedule and drive from Far West to Sandy to be at that meeting. There we met with Elder Wells, Dan Gifford, and President Moss. The charity works with priesthood leaders of the church who are living in poverty. The charity helps the individual develop necessary skills to be self reliant. It provides small loans; “micro credit loans” to the individual to help them get started in a business or to get an education. They participate in classes teaching them business skills and the importance of budgeting and paying back their loan. After they pay back their first loan they are able to get a second loan. Eventually they build up a financial history where they then can go to a financial institution and get a regular loan.

It was a short presentation but the spirit testified to my soul in a way that was undeniable that this is what the Lord wanted me to be involved with. I went home and thought about what could I do?

Cause for Hope has 10 cities that they have opened up in Central America to help the members of the church. Each city has an office manager and at least one assistant. They work directly with the stake presidents and bishops to find those who are in the most need. They invited us to take a few days and go to Nicaragua to see how the program that they have put into place really works.

Saturday morning Dec 12th we met with President Quintero who is a stake president who operates the office in the city of Mesaya. He showed us how they bring their clients in and teach them the skills they need and just as important they teach them the importance to be self reliant. This generates a great amount of pride in what they are doing. We spent the morning visiting several families that the foundation is in the process of helping.

Our visits all had tear jerking experiences and I would like to share a couple of the many experiences with you.

The first visit was with a sister approximately 50 years old. She had recently lost her husband 4 weeks ago. She had fallen and severely injured her arm and was unemployable. The foundation gave her a loan to buy some racks that she could hang some small food essentials on in front of her house and to buy a very meager inventory. This gave her the means to earn enough money to provide at least one meal a day for her family. She was so happy and so very grateful for the help and proud that she could earn her way. She was anxious to get her loan paid off and to go to the second loan stage. With that money she wanted to buy a used refrigerator that would allow her to sell soda pop. That would bring in more customers and increase sales. Her daughter that was 21 years old was helping her with the store. She was one of the most pleasant people that I have ever met and was contagiously happy. She was going to leave and serve a mission, but she now needs to take care of her mother. This new business over the next year will allow her mom to be self reliant and allow her to complete her dreams of serving a mission.

We visited a family that lived in 3 separate houses side by side. The family consisted of grandpa and grandma, five children and about fifteen grand children. The houses were about 10’ x 20’ made out of sheets of tin supported by sticks and anything else they could find to keep them standing up. They all had dirt floors with and there was almost nothing inside of the structures. If you wanted to sit down you would sit on the dirt or on a piece of a log. There are no rest rooms or running water. The family, about 12 of them that was old enough, would take large sacks an hike to the dumps. There they spent their day going through the garbage from morning to night collecting things that could be sold to recycling groups. The one sister wanted us to see that they had found a package of balloons and now she had a Christmas present for the kids. Even though they were living at the very lowest levels of poverty that can be imagined they were so happy and so very faithful. They paid a full tithing and walked miles to get to the chapel on Sundays. The foundation has started to work with the family. The first step was to develop a talent that each member of the family could participate in. They got an old sewing machine and taught grandma and one of the daughters how to sew. As they found pieces of cloth in the dumps they would bring the cloth back to the house where they could be sewed together to make clothes for the kids. They also made tarps out of cloth by sewing pieces of material together that they could sale in the market place. The grandpa learned how to make picture frames out of savaged pieces of sheet metal. The next phase was to purchase a cart where they could cook tortillas and sell in the market place. In every case they were so excited to show us what they were doing and that it was not a hand out but something that they were working hard to pay back. It was impossible to keep the tears from flowing.

We visited an elderly sister who appeared to be about 65 to 70 years old. She was unemployable and at times went days with out food. Cause for Hope provided her with a loan to fabricate a 50 gallon steel drum cut in half and a thin piece of metal welded over the top of the drum. This allowed her to build a fire in the drum and cook tortillas on the metal sheet. She used part of her loan to buy corn meal for the tortillas and a small inventory of food products that she can sell. She has made all of her loan payments and has had food on the table. She also has started a savings in her piggy bank.

We visited about 20 families that have been helped this year each with their success story and each so very grateful for the life changing experience that Cause for Hope played in their lives.

Cause for Hope will open 5 cities in Peru this year and 5 cities in Mexico. They go where the Church directs them and they work with the Stakes that the Church directs them to. The cost to open a city is about $65,000 per year. They have helped 5956 families that are members of the Church since January. 2054 of those families saw an increase of 50% or more within the first month. They help missionaries prepare for their missions and they provide a way for them to earn the $400 that is required for them to have earned in order to serve a mission. They do this by providing service projects for them to work off their $400. They collect missionary clothes and provide them for the missionaries. The seven stakes only had a few missionaries at any one time prior to Cause for Hope. Now they have 263 between the seven stakes. When the missionary returns Cause for Hope provides the resources for them to get involved in the Church’s perpetual education fund or help them get into a carrier.

Please go to their website”www.causeforhope.org” and learn more about “Cause for Hope”. If you can support them in any way either financially or as someone that can be involved in sharing the vision of Cause for Hope it would be very much appreciated and you will be a part of a program that is changing peoples lives.

May God Bless you your friend always,

Alan Noall

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