SALT is the Spirit-led social justice ministry of the Chapel of the Resurrection at Valparaiso University in which students in community seek to embody the Christian call to be the "salt of the earth" (Matt. 5:13). SALT helps students develop a passion and practice of Christian social action. SALTers draw upon God’s love for people to cultivate the skills of community organizing, awareness raising, and fund development. SALT alumni are equipped to lead lives of social justice and serve as agents for positive change in their communities.
As an essential part of this mission, SALT partners with both international and local communities in order to address critical needs within those areas. Every year for the past two decades, SALT has selected a specific project in need of funding and organized a fund raising campaign around it known as the World Relief Campaign (WRC). These projects vary greatly in location and type, but consistently offer a sustainable asset to the selected community. Once the project and target monetary goal are established, SALT works to educate and organize the campus and surrounding community in order to both increase awareness of the need within that region and raise funds.
SALT is excited to announce the 2010 WRC: Casas for Kids: From House to Hope! This campaign will benefit children in the village of Los Angeles on Ometepe Island in Nicaragua. SALT will fund the construction of a house to be used as a foster home for four to five children in the village of Los Angeles. The name of our project was inspired by the Spanish word for house, “casa.” SALT will be working in cooperation with Praxis Center and CICRIN Orphanage in Los Angeles to carry out this fund raising campaign and educate the Valparaiso community about the impact that a consistent and loving home can have on a growing child.
Nicaragua lies in the southern area of Central America, near the strip of land that connects to South America. It has a population of approximately 5.8 million people and a land mass slightly smaller than the state of Illinois. About one quarter of the population lives in the capital city of Managua. Nicaragua is bordered by Honduras to the north and Costa Rica to the south, with the Pacific Ocean on its west coast and the Atlantic Ocean on its east coast. Over the last hundred years, conservative and liberal political groups have constantly struggled to gain power over the Nicaraguan republic. Currently the president is Daniel Ortega, member of the socialist Sandinista National Liberation Front.
Primarily an agricultural country, Nicaragua relies on cash crops such as bananas, coffee, sugar, beef and tobacco for about 60% of its total exports and 17% of the Gross Domestic Product. Some smaller industries like tourism, banking, fishing and mining have also expanded recently. Despite these growing fields, Nicaragua remains one of the poorest countries in the Americas with an average per capita annual income equivalent to less than 500 USD. Nicaragua also faces the challenge of living in a region that is extremely susceptible to hurricanes. In 2007, Hurricane Felix killed over 100 people and destroyed 80% of the country’s infrastructure.
Over the past 20 years, the Nicaraguan government has worked tirelessly to increase the national literacy rate. Large-scale programs set into place by the Sandinista government achieved national recognition due to their widespread success. Elementary education is compulsory and paid for by taxes. However, for many families living in rural areas, it is difficult for children to consistently attend school due to the lack of resources. About 96% of children are enrolled in primary school, but fewer than half of those children move on to secondary school.
The CICRIN orphanage is located on Ometepe Island in Lake Nicaragua. Ometepe is formed by two mountains and an isthmus, creating an hourglass-shaped land mass. Its name originates from a native language’s words for “two” (ome) and “mountains” (tepetl). The most recent eruption from the volcano Concepciôn occurred in 1957. Since then, both volcanoes have remained quiet. This relatively small island of about 42,000 people measures on 31 kilometers long and 5 to 10 kilometers wide. The largest villages are Altagracia and Moyogalpa where many folk traditions are still practiced today. In fact, Ometepe is home to more traditional celebrations than anywhere else in Nicaragua. Ometepe lies in the hot Pacific Lowlands region of Nicaragua, an area known for its fertile plains. Temperatures stay at a consistent 85-90 degrees throughout the year, making the Lowlands and Ometepe a popular tourist destination. Like the rest of Nicaragua, the local economy relies mainly on tourism, agriculture and livestock.
Service and Study
Praxis is a non-profit organization started by Lutherans in Central America which seeks to build transformational partnerships between communities in Central America and North America for relationships of trust and mutual sharing of gifts. Universities partner with Praxis to provide service-learning experiences which are characterized by an emphasis on cultural understanding, consciousness-raising and mutuality. Communities in Central America partner with Praxis in order to share their stories, their knowledge and their dreams as they identify areas where volunteers can be of service – areas such as healthcare, education, appropriate technology, engineering and infrastructure construction and maintenance.
The acronym CICRIN stands for Centro Infantil Cristiano Nicaraguense. It is a non-denominational Christian orphanage founded in the 1970s and serves as a home to between 20 and 30 children and adolescents at any one time. The need was so great on the island of Ometepe, so the founders began with the construction of an orphanage for abandoned, abused and at risk children. In the beginning, the children took classes and slept in tents at night along the lake. In a short period of time, there were about 150 children living around the town at the Center, and they participated together in daily activities: in building construction, making friends and having hope for a better future. In 1979 when the Sandinista government took control of the country, the Center's doors were closed. For ten years, the buildings and property were used as Sandinista army camp where youths were trained to be sent to war. In 1990 CICRIN reopened, bringing back love and opportunity to children who had none. CICRIN continues to keep God as the center of the orphanage and strive to restore hope in the lives of many children.
Praxis is assisting the CICRIN orphanage staff, but all funds will be channeled directly to CICRIN.
Children have been placed at CICRIN’s orphanage because of a variety of family situations including death or abandonment by parents because of war, disease and poverty and physical and sexual abuse. Many of the children came as very young infants and are now adolescents, so CICRIN is the only loving home they have ever known. However, the stability of their home life is under some threat at the present time, due to a new government plan to close all orphanages and place children back with their families or in foster families. Since placing the children back with their biological families is usually not a viable or healthy option, the staff of CICRIN has decided that the best plan to maintain the children’s emotional and social stability is for them to try to build small single family homes on the orphanage’s own land, where couples selected by CICRIN and its partner congregation could serve as government-approved foster families for the children, thus keeping continuity with the safe and nurturing environment the kids have known at CICRIN.
The funds from the WRC would be used solely for the construction of the foster home. Labor will be provided by the CICRIN staff and adolescent residents as well as visiting volunteers. CICRIN hopes that the construction of the house will enable a group of children to continue to live close to their current home and to maintain the trust relationships that they have built. In addition, this project will contribute to the long-term sustainability of CICRIN’s mission to support at-risk children in Nicaragua. The buildings currently in use for children’s dormitories will be used by student and church groups as guest lodging, thus providing sustainable income to support the continuing maintenance and education needs of the children.
Members of the Valpo community have had a relationship with CICRIN orphanage for the past 10 years through the many trips that nursing, pre-med, international service and engineering students have taken to Ometepe Island. This project is an opportunity to continue and strengthen this relationship while simultaneously helping protect and nurture the physical, emotional, social and spiritual lives of the residents. The funds will provide stability and continuity for children who have suffered violence, hunger and uprooting during their early years. The WRC will also contribute to their opportunities to receive a high school and college education through funds generated by the availability of additional space in the guesthouse. In addition, the opportunity for VU students to visit Nicaragua would enable students to learn and share all that the people in Nicaragua have to offer.
There are three major goals of Casas for Kids:
SALT gratefully accepts any personal and corporate monetary donations. Furthermore, campus and community social organizations are encouraged to plan their own fundraising events. Anyone interested in working directly with the project may attend upcoming on-campus fundraisers organized by SALT, as well as join our meetings on Tuesdays at 9:30 pm in the Lumina Room of Huegli Hall. SALT welcomes opportunities to speak to campus groups, congregations, and community organizations. Finally, SALT invites you to pray for this worthy cause and seek opportunities to serve those in need in your community and around the world.
Donations may be directed to:
Chapel of the Resurrection
Valparaiso, IN 46383
*Checks payable to Valparaiso University with “Casas for Kids” in the memo line
Questions may be directed to:
Abby Lange, WRC Chair
Deaconess Heidi Michelsen