Presbytery of Southeast Illinois has been partnering with Just Hope since 2014. The number of PartnerTrip participants has ranged from six to twelve. Every year, we have travelled to the small village of La Flor, located in the coffee producing, mountainous region of west central Nicaragua. Trips include not only hard work, but also relationship building, and we feel we have made some strong and lasting connections.
Our service projects over the years have included helping to build houses, latrines and most recently, we focused on green stove construction. In March 2018 we helped construct four new stoves. Projects were funded through grants from the Presbytery, contributions by other church partners, contributions from our home church, Philo Presbyterian and by contributions from generous individuals. Travel for our partners has been graciously subsidized by grants from the Keilman Trust Foundation, managed by Shelbyville Presbyterian Church.
In addition to our work projects, members of our group have established personal relationships with community members. We enjoy not only working together, but also socializing and learning about each other’s lives. We have been fortunate to meet several women who have received microcredit loans and to learn about how those loans have literally changed lives.
As the people of La Flor remind us every year, education is critical to bettering lives and moving out of poverty. We have been helping to support the local grade school, not only with supplies and books. One year a member of our group organized a book drive and we took more than 100 books to the schools in La Flor.
Several members of our travel group and other women from local churches in Illinois are partnering with ten women from La Flor in a Twenty Women of Hope Group. Together, we are sponsoring a university student from La Flor, Jonny Castillo. Jonny will be starting his third year in a five-year program and is doing very well. One of the highlights of each trip is to meet with him and our Twenty Women counterparts in La Flor to catch up and talk about how they are doing.