100 Houses in Nicaragua

Fr. Peter Daly

Parish Diary

March 11, 2009

 

“Fr. Peter Daly describes a house project that his parish is doing with a parish in Nicaragua to build 100 houses.”  

 

            We are going for 100.

            Not 100 years, but 100 houses.

            Our parish is on track to build 100 houses for poor people in Nicaragua, the second poorest country in the western hemisphere.

             By the grace of God, we are already half way there.

            Our housing project in Nicaragua is a modern miracle of loaves and fishes.

            Five years ago we set out to build just one house in Nicaragua through an ecumenical project based in Baltimore. My sister Maureen was working with that group and she asked for a donation of a house. It cost $1800.

            Our parish council approved the donation but asked for photos of the housing conditions of the family we helped, before and after.

            When the photos came, we posted them on the bulletin board in the lobby of our church. The next Sunday as people were leaving mass, a man handed me a folded check and said simply, “Build ten more.”  It was check for $18,000.

            Over the next two years we used his money and gifts from others. Actually we built 11 more houses and 30 latrines. The price of a house went up slightly $2,000 per house because we decided to require latrines.  

            By the third year of our involvement in this project we were ready to go out on our own.

            The pastor of the Catholic parish in Nicaragua came to see us. We decided to develop a parish to parish relationship with a committee at either end. We would fund the purchase the project. They would select the neediest families and supervise the construction.

            We build houses based on need, regardless of religion or politics. But it is a work of the Catholic Church. We build houses not because the recipients were Catholics, but because we are.

            In the last two years we have sent three little delegations to Nicaragua. At first it was hard to find people to go. Now all kinds of people want to go.  

            The visits make the place and people real, not some abstraction. Our project is personal, not just writing a check to some charity.

            We know their stories. And the stories just break our hearts.

            That little town was on the front line of twenty years of civil war and was devastated by Hurricane Mitch. People in that area date everything from Hurricane Mitch, like people in New Orleans date things from Hurricane Katrina.

            We know an 89 year old man with no relatives who was living in a shack of sticks and plastic bags. He now has a house.

            A little tiny lady with osteoporosis with six grandchildren now has a brick box, 24’ X 24’ she calls, “My castle.”

            A poor field worker, cried as he told us he never dreamed his wife and diabetic child would live in a house.

            At each end, we are bound together by faith. Our parishes pray for each other every Sunday. People donating houses and receiving houses get the same stone crucifix made in that parish in Nicaragua to hang in their homes. The crucifix binds the giver and receiver together in prayer.

            The project has energized both parishes. The irony is that donations to our local housing assistance fund have actually increased since we started the project in Nicaragua. Becoming aware of the desperately poor there has made us more aware of the poor here.

            This year we are will finish the 50th little house. We are half way home to 100 houses. We will make it to 100, “Se Dios quiere”--- “If God wills.”