It’s one of the oddest sights. A huge sack of used dolls, dozens of smiling faces and bodies pressed against the side of a transparent plastic bag with an assortment of loose appendages settled at the bottom. The dolls are castoffs from North America, either thrown out or given away by families as their children outgrow their toys. Through various commercial distribution channels, the dolls, as do clothing and other toys, eventually make their way to countries like Nicaragua where they are sold to vendors who in turn sort, clean, dress and resell them to their customers. So rather than ending up in a landfill broken and rejected, these dolls are given a ‘new life’, this time purchased for a fraction of the original shelf price and without the fancy packaging.
Beatriz Navarra is one of these vendors who lives in David Andino, a marginal community that has been part of an urban renewal program that World Renew supports in Nicaragua. The program is very unique. First of all, three churches are providing leadership to this program and secondly, instead of trying to identify problems to ‘fix’, they are trying to build on their community’s assets and identify issues that can be solved without bringing in outside resources. The main assumption is that no matter how destitute a community is, there are always latent skills and other resources that can be used to address issues in the community. All it takes is facilitation and networking.
The David Andino community went through this process and after surveying each of the 950 homes in their community, made a 10 point action plan. In the next couple of years they hope to build a ‘green space’ for kids, start literacy courses for adults and organize clubs for their youth. They want to help some families get access to roofing materials for their homes from a government program and address some grey water issues that contribute to diseases spread by mosquitos breeding in dormant water. World Renew’s role is to simply facilitate this process. Another goal is to address the domestic violence issue that is so prevalent in their community. That’s where Beatriz story begins.
I met Beatriz in her simple home that also serves as her little shop where she sells her refurbished dolls and toys. She knew that I was affiliated with the program and readily wanted to tell me her testimony. Beatriz shared how her life changed after participating in the domestic violence prevention program. It was there she learned about the Biblical model for relationships. Healing took place between Beatriz and her husband as they took steps toward mutual respect and ways to manage conflict. It was in this program that Beatriz made a life commitment to Christ as her bitterness and rebellion subsided and acceptance of herself as a child of God increased. She joined one of the churches in the community that continues to disciple her. To some extent Beatriz and husband have been able to work out some of their differences, although she admitted it is easy to still fall into old patterns. One of the blessings they received was the birth of their first child, after having been waiting for 9 years. Beatriz felt that God wanted them to wait until they could be genuine parents. For Beatriz, like the dolls that she sells, she also has moved from brokenness and rejection to experiencing a ‘new life’.
Written by: Mark Vanderwees