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Coordinating the Vision

Helping Poor Families:
An Overview

Nicaragua is the second poorest country in our hemisphere, with one out of four people living on $1 a day.  People living at this level are, by definition, living in “extreme poverty.”  Without outside assistance, they will always remain at this level of deprivation and hopelessness, unable to improve their situation in life.

In 2007 Friends of Families United was created to assist a group of twenty extremely poor families in the northern city of Esteli—driven by a mission to partner with these families in finding ways to improve their living situations.  Our most important gift to them is a sense of hope and dignity.

Our success can be measured in a number of ways:  the kids who have been able to go to school, the improvement in the health of the families, the new houses that fifteen families now live in, the access to a savings and loan program of their own.

Through all of the changes over the years we have tried to remain focused on our principle goal:  to help these families reach a level of self-sustainability.  At that point they will have control over the major aspects of their own lives, able to help themselves without outside assistance.  

We are moving steadily toward that goal—with the help of our faithful supporters, the Friends of Families United.

Shared Goals and Responsibilities

The Friends Executive Board works very directly with the Committee of Care, the coordinators in Esteli who manage all parts of the program.  The keys to our successful relationship over the years include communication, transparency, and mutual trust.

Proposals as well as decisions are generally the result of ongoing discussions (via email and Skype), as the Board tries to adapt its ideas to the realities on the ground.  In the end, it is the Committee of Care that thas responsibility for implementing the final plans.  It is truly a collaborative effort.  

The families we serve are considered partners in the work.  They are never passive beneficiaries.  In all aspects of the program they share the responsibility of actively working to achieve the goal.  For example, in helping them build up their Savings & Loan FUND, we match their savings dollar-for-dollar rather than simply handing them the deposit.  Again, in a program to improve their diet with vegetables and eggs, they contribute an equal amount to the purchase.  Even in the housing program the family who receives a new house is required to pay for 20% of the costs through a loan from the Families United FUND. 

The Board anticipates that the families will soon be organized as the "Families United Co-op," a legal designation that will give them more control of their futures.