Agros Blog

Immigration and Nueva Esperanza

52,000 children.

According to stories in The New York Times and The Economist, more than 52,000 minors from Central America have been detained in a dangerous, desperate attempt to enter the US. The count is 52,000 since October, and 9,000 of those last month alone – a heartbreaking record. Compared to the 15,700 children detained in the prior year, authorities predict that this number will balloon to an unprecedented 240,000 by year’s end.

Alone, without parents, some are as young as five. Their mothers have sewn phone numbers of family members living in the US into their clothing.

These numbers startle, but let’s not allow statistics to sanitize the dialog. This is about children encountering a real-life chamber of horrors including rape, kidnapping and death.  We know how many have been detained, but we don’t know how many didn’t last long enough.

It is almost impossible for me to relate to this incredible tragedy.  I get anxious letting my seventeen-year-old son drive alone at night, even with his cell phone fully charged in case of an emergency.  I cannot imagine being so desperate as to send my child on a 1300 mile trek with barely enough food and water to last a couple of days.

Popular media has lost sight of the children, opting to focus on the political consequences for republicans or democrats instead of the heart-wrenching humanitarian crisis on our doorstep.

It reminds me of the Scribes and Pharisees arguing about violating the Sabbath instead of, as Jesus did, healing a person in need.  As I write, thousands of children are landing at the border of this country, famished, frightened and literally dying for some small act of kindness.  Do we really care how this will affect the next election?  Are we really that calloused a nation?

This tragedy demands immediate action to help these children, but it also demands a long term solution to the root causes of the problem.  These children risk their lives to come to this country because they live in extreme poverty with none of the opportunities we have in this country to make a living.   I just returned from a week in Matagalpa, Nicaragua, visiting two of our communities.  In Nueva Esperanza, Julio and his wife, Santa, hosted us in the home they now own after working tirelessly to pay off their land loan.  Their daughter Hazel (12) walks more than an hour one way every day to go to school, overjoyed with the opportunity to learn.

I noticed the entire family could not stop smiling and when I asked Julio why, he told me he how his life has changed. He told me how Agros had given he and his wife, Santa, the opportunity to be successful and he seized it.  With land and technical assistance for Agros coupled with his hard work he and Santa pushed hard to use the proceeds from every coffee harvest to pay off their land. “With our land loan paid, everything we make now comes to my family. I cannot imagine being anywhere else.”

We have a choice: debate policies and politics or force ourselves to look into the faces of these children piling up at our border. If we truly want to permanently solve this immigration crisis, then we must use our resources to bring hope and opportunity to desperately poor families where they live.

Julio and Santa are among thousands who have seized the opportunity to rise above poverty. Given the chance to work their own land in their own country among a community of neighbors, Julio and Santa would never send Hazel any farther than the community school.

Family by family and community by community, Agros has permanently broken the cycle of extreme poverty.  With your help we can stem the tide of this human misery.

Will you join me?

Damages from Tropical Storm Matthew

Last weekend, Tropical Storm Matthew passed across Central America and southern Mexico affecting all of the countries where Agros works. The storm brought torrential rains, flooding, and crop damage. The impact of the storm was exacerbated by the fact that the region had previously experienced 6 weeks of constant, heavy rain that left much of the land fully saturated. By the time Tropical Storm Matthew arrived, conditions were set for significant rain damage.

We have been in close communication with all Agros Country Directors as they have evaluated the storm’s impact and formulated plans to reinvest and support the communities through this time.

The initial damage estimates are:

Basic grain crops damaged in three communities: San Pedrito, Santa Fe Ajké, & Espinal Buena Vista.

Basic grain crops damaged in all four communities and plantain crops showing delayed growth development.

Communities affected: Brisas del Volcán, Nuevo Amanecer, Bella Vista, &La Piedra de Horeb.

El Salvador:
Basic grain crops damaged in two communities: San Diego de Tenango and La Esperanza.

Basic grain crops damaged in all seven of the affected communities; coffee & plantain crop damage in four communities; the greatest damage is in Luz de Mañana–four families are currently staying with family members in the city of Rivas until the flooding subsides. There was also housing and latrine damage in the community of Nueva Esperanza.

Communities affected: El Edén, San José, Nueva Esperanza, Futuro del Mañana, San Marcos de Belen, Luz del Mañana, & Norwich.

No reported damages.

The most significant damage occurred in Nicaragua, particularly with the corn and bean crops, which were to serve as a primary food source for future months.

In Honduras and El Salvador, the Country Directors and their staff are working with the local authorities to access available local resources to help the communities replant.

Agros International’s priorities are to make certain that essential food security remains in all villages; that income generation continues; and to ensure access to needed healthcare and housing repairs as necessary. Agros International has emergency funds that will be leveraged towards this effort; local authorities are making resources available; and Agros will be launching an appeal to raise an additional $16,500 to cover the unexpected losses.

Helping Our Haitian Neighbors

While we do not have operations there, all of us here at Agros are saddened by the tremendous loss and suffering endured by the people of Haiti and the tragedy that continues to unfold. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the countless people struggling to survive, the many families who’ve been affected worldwide, and to those organizations and individuals working tirelessly to help ease the suffering of so many.

The gravity of the situation and the sheer amount of work that lies ahead is daunting. But even the smallest of efforts can multiply into measurable impact for so many on the ground. And with so many organizations to choose from, we wanted to provide a list of a few agencies already at work that you might consider supporting in this effort:

You might also consider making a quick donation by text message. The Mobile Giving Foundation reports they’ve facilitated more than $10M to Haitian earthquake relief through text messages to date. For example, you can donate $5 to Haiti-born musician Wyclef Jean’s Yele Haiti Earthquake Fund by texting the word “Yele” to 501501, or $10 to the American Red Cross, by texting the word “Haiti” to 90999, and more.

We know you are a group who cares deeply about alleviating the suffering of those in the throes of poverty and despair — thank you in advance for your care, concern and support for those who truly need it.

Volunteer Spanish Translators Needed

Are you fluent in Spanish and have a few hours to donate to Agros?  We have over twenty-five video interviews from Chiapas, Guatemala, and Honduras that need to be translated.

The process is easy and straightforward:

  • We will send you an audio .mp3 file of a Spanish interview that you can listen to on your computer, Ipod, mp3 player, etc.
  • You type out a word-for-word Spanish transcript of that interview
  • You then translate the Spanish transcript into English (just a quick, rough translation)
  • Send the word doc back to us and you’re done

The interviews vary in terms of length.  We need all interviews translated by September 15, so if you’re interested please email Maria Jose Soerens at mariajosesatagrosdotorg.  Thanks.

An Apology (And A Request)

First — many of you received our in-house staff newsletter in your email inbox today. This was an unfortunate accident and we sincerely apologize. Like many of you, here at Agros we work hard to diminish SPAM and ensure that only essential email enters our own inboxes, and so we apologize all the more for the mistake! We can assure you that this will not happen again.

Second — Agros is saying good-bye to the U-District and moving to our new office in Belltown on March 15th. You can help us in a number of ways:

Before the move:

  • We need people on call who help us move acquired furniture into our new office.
  • Do you have a truck available to share? We need volunteers with a large pickup truck or large enclosed vehicle on an “On Call” basis to help get the furniture we are gathering picked up and delivered to the Belltown office.
  • We need Boxes and Packing materials.

Day of the move: Saturday, March 15th

We will be organized in three teams, you can be part of one of them:

U. District Team
7:45 am – Food Hospitality
We need a couple of volunteers to bring and set-up a continental-style breakfast for the volunteer crew. This would include items like coffee, bagels, and fruit.

8:00 am – We need strong volunteers at the U District office to load boxes (and some furniture) into the moving truck, and to also help clean up once the office is empty. Your friends/family are welcome to join us.

Belltown Team
10:30 am – We need strong volunteers at the Belltown office around 10:30 am to unload the truck, attend to security doors and elevators, and deliver items to designated offices. Boxes and offices will be labeled in advance.

11:30 am – Food Hospitality
We need a couple volunteers to order and set up food for the volunteer crews at the Belltown office. We need a couple volunteers to clean up the food after lunch.

Finish Team
Sunday, March 16, Noon – 4 pm
We need flexible volunteers who could be available in case we need help with all those loose end items which couldn’t get covered on Saturday. We will only need volunteers if there are last minute needs to make sure Agros is up and running for Monday morning!

If you are able to volunteer for any of the above, please contact Kathy Riper at kathyratagrosdotorg or 206.528.1066 to let her know what day(s) and time you are available.

Office Needs
We are also looking for Office furniture! We are specifically looking for:

  • Desks 5 – 6 feet length (we need several of these…).
  • Desk Chairs in good condition.
  • Two-shelf book cases.
  • Conference Table – modular.
  • Kitchen Table to seat 6 (30-36 inch wide).
  • Contemporary track lighting.
  • Coat racks.
  • Plants – indoor, medium to large, easy to care for.
  • New Coffee Maker.
  • Kitchen cart (our counter-top is limited in space, our floor space is much more).
  • Deck furniture.

Our Former Office Space in the University District is Available!
The space is about 2600 square feet. Contact Jean Ingebritsen for details at jeaniatagrosdotorg.

Volunteer translation help needed – this week!

Over the course of the year we get many volunteer requests and for a variety of reasons we are not always able to plug everyone in. However now (this week in fact!) we have need of Spanish translation help.  As follows:

I recently shot over 15 hours of video footage in Honduras, Nicaragua,  and Guatemala.  I am now looking for Spanish speakers who would be willing to help translate video interviews into English.  The process is easy and straightforward:

  • I will send you an audio .mp3 file of a Spanish interview that you can listen to on your computer, Ipod, mp3 player, etc…
  • You type out a word-for-word Spanish transcript of that interview
  • You then translate the Spanish transcript into English (just a quick, rough translation)
  • Send the word doc back to me an you’re done

The interviews vary in terms of length.  None of them are over 15 minutes.  I need all interviews translated by this Monday, Oct 15… so if you’re interested you can email me direct at seandatagrosdotorg.

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Agros International | Land Hope Life Ending Rural Poverty Through Land Loans, Community Training, And Empowerment.