This is what success looks like.

Anyone who lived through Hurricane Mitch in the fall of 1998 will never forget it. That’s because they’re lucky to be alive.

One of the deadliest hurricanes of all time, Mitch formed in the Caribbean Sea and grew to a Category 5 storm before making landfall. Moving slowly, Mitch plowed through Honduras, Guatemala, and Nicaragua, dumping record amounts of rainfall across Central America.

And with the wind and rain came destruction. Rivers flooded. Villages were destroyed by landslides.

All told, nearly 20,000 people died and another 2.7 million were left homeless.

Image: Image of the aftermath of Hurricane Mitch. Photo credit – Fusion

That’s where the story of El Limonal begins. Located on the outskirts of Chinandega in western Nicaragua, the village of El Limonal formed as a result of the storm.

When the Acome river overflowed its banks, floodwaters washed away the houses that had existed in low-lying areas nearby. Those who survived were left with nothing.

In response, the government set aside some land where they could start over with makeshift shelter. But there was a reason the land was up for grabs. Known locally as the “triangle of death,” the land where El Limonal sits is surrounded by the municipal dump, the city cemetery, and a sewage treatment plant.

Those living in El Limonal are survivors. They have a long track record of rising above extreme hardship, working together to make the community a better place for everyone to live.

One community leader is Fatima, who has spent well over a decade serving her community as a volunteer, helping to prevent malaria. In 2002, after receiving training from Medical Ambassadors International at the Nehemiah Center in Managua, Fatima earned a “trainer of trainers” designation. After additional training at a local hospital, Fatima started going from house to house in her community, teaching her neighbors how to recognize early signs of the disease and when to take them to seek professional medical help.

Left Image: Fatima teaching her neighbors about malaria prevention and how to recognize early signs of disease.

When we started working in El Limonal five years ago, in partnership with Global CHE Enterprises, Fatima’s family was the first to receive a house, which was well deserved, since she had already served not hundreds but thousands of hours over the years.

Together with a group known as the mujeres ECS (or “CHE women”), Fatima has been instrumental in training others to do health screenings and to build houses for residents of the community. If you’ve visited El Limonal, you’ve likely seen these amazing women mixing cement, laying brick, or up on scaffolding – whatever it takes to get the job done. Many of their husbands work seasonally on plantations in other areas, but when they’re home, they get their hands dirty as well.

Top Left Image: Fatima and her family lived in this makeshift house prior to earning their new home. Top Right Image: Fatima receiving the keys to her new house, nearly five years ago. Bottom Image: A group of amazing CHE women working on a new house.

Last year, after learning about the work 1MISSION and Global CHE Enterprises were doing in El Limonal, the Nicaraguan government decided to move in and finish the job – building houses for the rest of the community.

Now, as the year draws to a close, we are beginning to phase out of our work in El Limonal. In fact, the nineteenth and final house in the community will be constructed in early January. We will then shift our work to another community in a different part of Nicaragua.

Images: A few of the houses built in the community of El Limonal.

But this doesn’t mean the work in El Limonal will end. Community development initiatives will continue, organized by local community members – including Fatima, who has since gone back to school to become a nurse.

This is what success looks like. It’s not a story of outsiders doing things for the community. It’s the story of a partnership of friends, where the local community members emerge as the heroes.

Thank you for partnering with Fatima and the people of El Limonal. You have made this story possible. And it’s only just beginning.

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