El Guineo is a community in the province of Siuna, in the Nicaraguan Caribbean. Some 2,500 people, who are mostly farmers, live in this area with a humid tropical climate and a vulnerability to disasters. Although El Guineo is a key town to access the Nicaraguan Caribbean, it only acquired electricity 3 years ago and is still lacking paved roads. The biggest problem is the scarcity of drinking water in homes. Women must wakeup very early to go to the three community wells to fetch the water that they use for drinking and cooking.
Santa Martha is the only school in El Guineo and it has 234 students at the preschool and primary school levels. These students receive a nutritious lunchtime meal through the School Feeding Programme run by the Ministry of Education in Nicaragua. WFP provides technical assistance and food. Meals are prepared to feed 150,000 children who attend schools in the Jinotega department and the Autonomous Region of the Northern Atlantic in Nicaragua. The Ministry of Education provides meals more than 1 million students.
Arlen Reyes is a mother of four children who attend school. In this very basic kitchen built from stray boards and a wood burning stove, Reyes cooks and serves lunches with help of a few other mothers. The meal consists of rice, beans, vegetable oil and fortified cereal. “I love helping the kitchen because our own children get to eat and therefore learn more. All the kids love the food. They love it so much that they don’t even leave a single grain of rice,” states Reyes. Every day, three mothers are in charge of the kitchen.
Santa Martha School in Siuna set the stage for a documentary on school feeding programmes in Nicaragua which was produced by a Swedish TV channel to raise awareness and collect funds. Felicia Sundenberg, an 18-year-old student from the Global Gymnasiet School in Stockholm, starred in this documentary. Felicia traveled to Santa Martha where she met Mabel González, 17 years old and 3rd grader, who was her guide for the following 3 days during filming. The documentary will be aired on public television in Sweden to motivate students to contribute and help out other children who need meals in their schools.
In a modest wooden home on the main street of El Guineo, lives Juana Arauz and her six children, ages ranging from 5 to 20 years. To feed them Arauz washes clothes at a nearby river which is located 500 meters from her house. To ensure she has enough money to feed her children, she also chops wood and sells it during the afternoons. Four of her children go to school where they receive a daily hot meal. “Sometimes my kids are not hungry when they come home because the school has provided enough food to keep them full. For that reason I make sure that I do not miss when it is my turn to cook,” she said.
Apolonia Montano (44) is a single mother who washes clothes in the river to support her five children. On the best days she makes 90 córdobas (barely US$3.50), but some days the amount of clothes decrease and so does her pay. “When I don’t earn enough I have to be creative to feed my children,” says Montano while she scrubs the clothes on a rock on the river side. “My two youngest sons go to school where they receive lunch,” she says, “this is a great help for me because I am sure that that they eat at school.”