In April 2018, a civil crisis began in Nicaragua. This civil unrest drove the country into a period of instability that is unprecedented in our twenty-four years working there. Because of safety concerns for our North American volunteers, Bridges rerouted all of our volunteer activity to our site in the Dominican Republic and will continue to do so through 2019.
This influx of volunteer activity has been a blessing for our DR community members. We have been working in the DR since 2010, but the increased number of volunteers gave us the chance to do so much more. We built 18 additional homes this year that wouldn’t have been built for another two years, we hired a Youth Center Assistant to expand programming in our Derrumbadero Youth Center, and are working toward starting projects in a new community, La Guama, in January 2019.
While we have committed the resources necessary to expand in the Dominican Republic, we have not abandoned our communities in Nicaragua. Since the unrest began in April, our Nicaraguan masons built 4 houses, 2 school classrooms, and 18 sanitary latrines in Nindirí and Masaya. Following a brief suspension of classes, our scholarship students returned to their normal studies, and we have now dedicated a full-time staff member to mentor our students, give workshops, and research internship and employment opportunities to connect students with after they graduate. Additionally, we have designed a new family gardens project in Siuna aimed at improving nutrition, increasing income, and providing access to fruits and vegetables during food shortages.
We are proud of our continued progress in both countries, but the unexpected changes in 2018 impacted us in many ways. Bridges lost 73 trip volunteers previously scheduled to travel to Nicaragua who were unable to travel to the DR, to help those that were able to switch their travel arrangements Bridges paid airfare change fees, Bridges also quickly increased infrastructure in the DR and flew staff from Nicaragua to the DR to work with our volunteers. We need to raise nearly $150,000 to overcome the financial impact of these changes.
We thank all who generously donated this year, trusting Bridges to continue our good work no matter the location. Without you, we would not have been able to expand our work in the DR with our volunteers while making crucial, strategic decisions for our work in Nicaragua.