We had just one of those surprises when recently replacing the palms on our rancho. A rancho is a palmed pavilion often found near beaches, or other areas where people can relax out of the intense sun. Our rancho is a working rancho, used as a school for around 100 children who are sponsored for tutoring classes each Saturday. It is also used for community education, our leadership activities, general meetings, health-related activities, and much more. Our rancho looked great, all of the wood looking in good condition, and we thought we would need only the new palms, with an estimated cost of $2,500 to $3,000. We got numerous estimates, but most said they couldn’t give a solid price until the palms were down and they were able to see if there was damage to the wood. I knew there were a few termites in the palms, but was told they were probably not in the wood. WRONG!
As the old palms were removed we were horrified at how much damage had been done. The rancho was essentially a complete loss. We were thankful that there were no accidents in its disabled state. Some of the wood could be salvaged for other projects, but most of it was unusable. Our price for completion had more than doubled! Our expenses have been high the last few months, over our usual expenditures due to some higher than expected costs, and we were going to be way over budget on this project.
When hit with such problems, I tend to isolate, pray and be very emotional for a day or two, and then get my act together and make a plan. I am blessed with a Nicaraguan team of staff who is creative, supportive, and has all sorts of knowledge of local resources. We sat down to problem solve and find ways we could get the rancho built without going $4,000 over expected costs. Each member of the team had some input. They felt that cement pillars were a better long term plan than wooden ones with termites in the area. Although I prefer natural wood, and the pillars would cost more initially, it would more than double the life expectancy of the rancho. We decided to do the subcontracting and find the best values for good materials. It was Ricardita, who works part time as house staff, that came up with the idea of having the parents of the children who use the rancho for Saturday classes assist us in resolving the challenge. We decided to have a meeting with the parents, and see if they were willing to help. The people of the communities get called to all sorts of community-based meetings, and it is seldom that more than 20% of those invited show up, but we would give it our best shot- even with short notice.
I was shocked that about 65 parents came to the meeting. Considering that many of the families have two or more children in the program, this was close to 80% attendance! It floored me that Fransisco Laguna, which has always been the community most difficult to get volunteers from, had a 100% attendance rate, as did Mansano 2, who doesn’t even use my rancho for classes! I was simply blown away by the response. It is an overwhelming testament to the success and value of the program as seen by the parents and students. We pick our students from the poorest of the poor in our villages, and what they willingly offered in assistance was incredible! The story of the widow’s mite comes to mind. I have never seen the kind of generosity in the rich that I see in the poor. After working for 14 years with the poor, I know why Christ loved them so!
Oneyda was our master of ceremony, getting pledges. We planned to ask them for cross bars for the rancho that the palms are tied to, as that is something they have access to without cost. The group decided to have several people get the “barias”, and the others would contribute 100 cords (around $4.00) PLUS a day’s labor assisting with preparing the wood, pealing, spraying for insects, and varnishing. With this help we would not only get much closer to our first estimate, but have allowed something bitter to be transformed into something sweet! I am so touched by the enthusiasm, and the communities coming together. It was an overwhelming affirmation, that what we are doing here makes a difference, and we are doing it together!
When life gives you lemons… well, who thought you could make lemonade with termites!