Town of Palo Solo
Palo Solo is an impoverished community about 45 minutes south of Managua, Nicaragua. We started this to help the 45 families (over 200 people) that live there. Palo Solo is like millions of other villages throughout the world that are economically challenged but whose families seek a better life for their children.
Palo Solo is an agricultural community in the mountains at an elevation of over 2400 feet. It is located south of Managua and only eight miles from the Masaya volcano. Palo Solo is one of several communities in the area that receives acid rain from the volcano which limits the crops that can be grown. As a result, the area can only produce pineapple, pitaya, cabbage and beans which limits the economic potential of the region. Income in the area is about $12.50 per week for a family of five or more. The smog from the volcano also creates asthmatic conditions for a number of the children in the area leading to specific medical conditions.
In addition to the smog from the volcano, the town faces some additional ecological challenges due to changing climate conditions. As a result of warmer than normal temperatures in early 2007, the number of cases of dengue fever has exploded in Nicaragua. Palo Solo had an epidemic in the April - May time frame that affected most families. Dengue is a debilitating illness spread by mosquitoes that causes severe fever symptoms (Learn more about Dengue by reading the Dengue Fever Wikipedia). Nicaragua provides free health care but does not provide medicine. As a result most families can get medical attention but receive little medication, limiting the benefits of the care provided.
Due to the drought that affected Nicaragua and much of Central America in late 2006 and early 2007, Palo Solo residents did not have sufficient water to survive. The community normally draws water from local wells and from a pipe from a nearby community. Both of these sources dried up during the drought. In normal conditions, the area has sufficient rainfall to support the communities and local agriculture. In the 2006/2007 drought, families were forced to buy water trucked up the mountain, which was expensive - $2.50 per week for two months. For families earning $2.50 per day, this is a catastrophic expense.
While neither of these events were insurmountable (this year the rain seems to have returned to normal levels), it highlights that relatively small challenges for families that are already living on the edge can have devastating consequences, wiping out their savings or making it more difficult to get out of poverty.
Nicaragua is the largest country in Central America, rich in natural resources and beautiful scenery. It is also one of the poorest countries in all of the Americas with a GDP per capita of $3,100 (U.S.A. $43,800), ahead only of Haiti and Cuba. The country has been economically challenged due to political mismanagement of the economy. The company has had democratic elections since 1990 but has had mixed success with various leaders. As a result, while there is a strong desire to help the plight of the poor and numerous programs such as free education and health care, the government lacks the resources to truly solve these challenges without outside help (Learn more about Nicaragua by reading the Wikepedia article on Nicaragua).