What if instead of choosing a sandwich from a restaurant menu at lunch, or just opening the break room fridge and popping your leftover pizza in the microwave, you had to scrounge through piles of garbage for recyclables to sell to pay for your next meal?
On the outskirts of Managua, Nicaragua, that’s a reality of life. Nueva Vida in Spanish means “new life.” That may be what all the residents of this area seek, but, unfortunately, it’s not an apt description of the place. Rising up after Hurricane Mitch devastated Nicaragua in 1998, Nueva Vida was originally a refugee camp that is now home to 15,000 severely impoverished people. It sits next to La Chureca, the “city dump” of Managua.
The location has been a continuous dumping ground ever since the hurricane, where the residents scavenge for bottles, cans, cardboard, plastics— anything they can sell or use for shelter— every day. “Basically it’s a place where people live off what others have thrown away,” says Flor Wickham, Director, Corporate Social Responsibility. She should know. Because she’s been there. And through your generous support, you may well have had a very positive presence in Nueva Vida too, with food for children as your calling card.
Since ADP began partnering and volunteering with Rise Against Hunger last year, more than 2,100 associates have packaged over 480,000 meals for children and adults in need.
“Packaging the food all started with the March 2016 Senior Leadership Meeting where ADP executives were introduced to Rise Against Hunger in the most direct way possible,” says Flor. “They packaged thousands of bags of dehydrated rice, soy, vegetables and 23 essential vitamins and minerals.”
As anticipated, ADP leaders took the idea and ran with it across the country. ADP associates now package food destined for people in need in countries all over the world.
One of those locations is Nueva Vida. Flor had the unique opportunity to visit the area with Rise Against Hunger Chief Development Officer, Peggy Shriver, and others from the organization. “The leaders were doing a site visit,” she relates, “and I was already going on vacation to Nicaragua to visit my family.” Since the last day of Flor’s visit coincided with the site visit, she asked if she could join them.
“We met in Managua and took a bus out to Nueva Vida,” she says. “As we got closer, the smell became overpowering and the bus began filling up with big black flies.”
Food packages just like the ones ADP volunteers put together had already been shipped to the distribution center, Verbo Church. Pastor Berman Valerio is in charge of distributing meals to more than 1,100 local children under 18. “They can come either before school in the morning, or after class in the afternoon, but not both times,” reports Flor. So the kids are only assured of one nutritious meal a day. But it may be the only food they get. Names are checked off a list at the church to make sure there is equal distribution.
“The church volunteers had set up a make-shift kitchen so that we could reconstitute the dehydrated packages and then all of us on the bus helped serve the children,” says Flor.
About 250 children were given a meal the day Flor was present. The group also made sandwiches and delivered them to the adults at the dump. The Rise team spent two or three days in that one location feeding and observing not only the children but also the operation at the church that is associated with the ORPHANetwork in Nicaragua. (That network provides other services to the children to help them get out of Nueva Vida.)
“It’s one thing to be part of putting together the packages,” says Flor. “It definitely makes you feel good knowing you’re contributing to the well-being of a child. But to see the recipients firsthand and realize what a profound effect you’re having on their lives is just amazing.”
With the program now underway in many ADP offices across the United States, it’s not surprising that it’s about to go international. We did our first international packing event in France in July, and we’re looking to expand our reach from there. Rise Against Hunger is another great way ADP shows associates are not only willing to help each other, but those around the world in need as well.