It all began in 2011 when my husband and I bought Lonely planet's "Central America on a shoestring" and decided to go backpacking for a month in Nicaragua and Costa Rica with our 3 kids, then aged 6, 9 and 11. Those who know me well, will know that this type of travelling is somewhat out of my comfort zone and we came across quite a few bedbug infested hostels and shared facilities where the snob in me desperately tried not to focus on germs and other people's bare feet. Still, it turned out to be the trip that, in many ways, changed my life forever.
Carita Feliz - love at first sight
In Nicaragua, we were excited to meet up with my brother in law Diego who lives here but we also wanted (apologies in advance for the cliché) to show our children how lucky they are. A friend had told me about the organisation "Carita Feliz" located in Granada, Nicaragua and the story behind it touched me deeply.
When Danish entrepreneur Peder Kolind first came to Granada in 2001, he was overwhelmed by the number of children begging for food in the streets. He hired a local cook and set up a stand in the street. The first day, 70 children showed up, then 100, then 150 and it quickly became clear that the poor children of Granada needed a safe place of their own. A place for education and a place to get at least one meal a day for free. Carita Feliz (located in an big hangar-like building) grew over the years and now offers a full-time kindergarten, classes (either before or after school) for primary and secondary school children, various vocational courses such as baking, jewellery making and crafting well as a free evening meal on week days. In our attempt to help a little and at the same time get our kids involved, we brought books, toys and stationary - and we felt honoured to be asked if we wanted to help serve the evening meal. During our stay in Granada, we were lucky enough to meet Peder Kolind. He took us to some of the poorest parts of the city and proudly showed us around. It immediately became clear to us what a respected personality he was in Granada. I remember several people coming up to him as we were walking around. A woman showed him her infected toe and asked for help, someone asked if he had any news about a much needed street lamp - and others simply shook his hand and greeted him with a "Buenas, Don Peder".
Fast forward to 2018. A sudden loss and a look to the future
I'm writing this from the front porch of our hostel in Granada. I'm here for my third visit and this time, I brought my daughter Rebecca (soon 13) with me. Two weeks before my last visit in July 2015, I received some very sad news. Peder Kolind had suddenly passed away. The loss for the entire community was (and still is) enormous. But grief soon turned into pro-activeness. A trusted and capable team of people at Carita Feliz knew what needed to be done in order to ensure continuity of the services and projects which, over time, had become an institution in Granada. In 2017, Carita Feliz joined forces with the Fabretto Foundation - an organisation that has been active in Nicaragua for more than 50 years. An exciting and secure future for a life changing project that started 17 years ago with a food stall in the streets of Granada, Nicaragua.
More about how to support Carita Feliz/Fabretto - and for my special Thanks.
You can support Carita Feliz via www.fabretto.org - and please contact me if you would like to sponsor a child! You will really make a difference and I would love to share more about my experience with creating a personal bond with the children.
'Don' Peder Kolind.
Everyone at Carita Feliz. Children and staff - as well as Andreas Kolind - for making me feel like part of the family!
Our friends who have supported Carita Feliz through donations of clothes, books and money - or by becoming "padrinos" - godparents.
My daughter Rebecca for being the best travel companion one could imagine. For your engagement, your big heart and your desire to help those in need.