I am a 21-year- old prelaw student at Whitworth University, recently back from a three-month internship with the Christian Center for Human Rights (CCDH) in El Tuma, a mountainous village an hour and a half outside of Nicaragua’s “coffee capital”, Matagalpa. CCDH is a grass-roots movement. It is a national network of local citizens who are empowered to bring about justice in their respective communities. That is what my internship supervisor Sara, a 51-year- old lawyer, does as a volunteer for CCDH in El Tuma. Sara will tell you that her office is her home; there, she provides pro bono legal advice to anyone who shows up at her door. During my internship, I lived with Sara and her family, and I served as her scribe. I witnessed her help young mothers who had been abandoned by their husbands to file for child support, I saw her explain to farmers how to secure the titles of their land so that it couldn’t be stolen from them, and I worked alongside her to facilitate mediations. These mediations brought opposing parties to sit down together and helped them avoidexpensive court costs by coming to self-initiated agreements. Not all the work we did took place in Sara’s home.
My last two weeks of work in El Tuma came to a dramatic culmination when Sara was asked to take on a tragic case of rape. A husband and wife travelled more than three hours by bus from their village of Rancho Grande to ask Sara to help them recover their 15-year- old daughter who had been kidnapped by an adult in their church congregation.
Maddeningly, the family knew the town where their daughter was being held, but the police refused to help, saying the fuel to travel there would be too expensive. Over the course of two weeks, Sara and I crisscrossed the region by bus, twice accompanying the mother of the victim to press her case with the head of police in Matagalpa, visiting the family’s village to push the local police to act, and obtaining the use of a pickup truck from a local, women’s advocacy group for the police to use in rescuing the victim.
I left El Tuma before the case was resolved, but Sara called to tell me that the daughter had been reunited with her family. The suspect was being investigated by the police—an extraordinary result in a country where the police often fail to investigate rape crimes. It was a win for Sara and for CCDH but most of all, it was a win for the victim and her family. They had been trapped in a horrifying situation that they did not choose, and they had no way out. CCDH, by equipping Sara and supporting her exactly where she was—in her home in El Tuma—provided them a way out and a path to justice.