Nicaragua: “After Hurricane Mitch, We Became Afraid of the Rain”
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Published on 21 August 2013

From Left to Right: Gemmo Lodesani, WFP Regional Director, Rebecca Richards, the Representative of the European Union in Central America, Marc Litvine, and Sabrina Quezada, WFP Public Information Officer in Nicaragua. WFP/Elio Rujano

Being a humanitarian allows Sabrina to practice the profession she loves: Journalism. Her written texts and photos allow her to capture the achievements, hopes, needs and feelings of thousands of Nicaraguans who participate in WFP projects. She believes WFP’s office in Nicaragua is set in “Emergency Mode" because there are always people in need of help.

1) What is your job and how would you explain it to a small child?

I work for an international organization called the World Food Programme. We work with poor rural communities, those ones where families do not have the necessary food for their children, neither for their adults. I visit these communities. I talk and listen to them, paying attention to every detail in order understand everything they say, what they feel, what they need, what they have achieved, and their hopes. Then, I go to my office and I try to capture their words and feeling on a sheet of paper, in order to share with everyone their feelings, work, and aspirations. I always carry a camera with me, since I take pictures of them, so that people, who read their stories, can also know them.

2) What is the hardest thing about your job?

The hardest thing in my work happens when we arrive to very poor communities. We find ill children, who do not have food in their homes. There are very young children, who are severely malnourished, as well as their mothers, who live in despair and anguish. There is nothing in this world that could justify this situation.

3) What did you do before joining WFP?

I am a journalist, thus I worked at a newspaper covering news in the social area. That is how I learned about health, nutrition, education, etc. Therefore, when I arrived to the WFP it was easier for me to understand my work, so I could engage with it.

4) How did you find your way into WFP?

Unfortunately, it was through natural disasters. Nicaragua is one of the countries with greatest humanitarian emergencies in the world, since there are earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, droughts, and even there was a tsunami. In this case, there was a WFP staffer who said that we work in an “emergency office” since there are always people who need our help to not be for abandoned and forgotten. 

5) What’s your most moving experience with WFP?

Every new operation is a very exciting experience. From the moment we start it until the moment that we close it. Nevertheless, I am always very excited when we go to the field with country representatives, organizations, and private companies that make contributions to WFP. They come from countries with high standards of living in order to know the rural communities where their contributions are invested. In these communities there is no abundance, nor comfort. These people do not have smartphones, no tablets, and there is always short supply of food. However, these people are very generous and share the little they have. They are very kind with their visitors, and above all, they are very grateful to those who support them. Participating in these encounters is always exciting because visitors leave Nicaragua touched and with the feeling of have lived an unforgettable experience. 

6) What’s your most frightening experience?

Definitely, it was the Hurricane Mitch in 1998. It rained incessantly, and everything was flooded. WFP staff was transporting food to shelters in some areas of the country, but roads were like overflowing rivers, and trucks could not move because there were many fallen bridges. Then, I saw a devastating scene: Drowned cows, pigs, and hens were swept away by the water currents as people came from everywhere to the main roads, leaving their fields, carrying their children and the little they could carry with them. Some of them pulled their dogs that were tied with ropes. People needed to be rescued and be taken to a secure place. However, there was nobody who could help them. I cannot forget the despair on their faces, neither the destruction nor the pain that was caused by this natural disaster. The following year, when winter started, people were afraid, afraid of the rain. Nobody wanted it rained again. All of us trembled whenever we heard a thunder. It was difficult to us to get used to the rain again.

7) What is a humanitarian?  
 It is a person who doesn’t think about himself in order to serve others. It is a person who is willing to share his life, time, and effort for the sake of building a world with better social justice.

8) Are you one?

I am a person who tries to live her life based on the principle of equity.  My education as a journalist has given me some elements to raise my voice in favor of those who cannot or do not know how to assert their rights. I am just a “laborer of the keyword and the camera,” as many people here in Nicaragua refer to journalists.