Nicaragua’s safety record, low cost of operations and low socioeconomic ranking (second-poorest country in the western hemisphere) make it a virtual playground for non-profit organizations of all kinds. There are plenty of people in need of help, and therefore most NGOs center themselves around areas easily accessible. Organizations reaching out to communities that require the most, such as the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua, are few and far between.
It is in an autonomous region, and the inhabitants feel a real disconnect from the rest of the country. Most speak Spanish when they have to and English or Miskitu amongst themselves. The region has a city but no roads out of it. All transport is done by boat. Costs are high, risks are greater and impact is hard to measure.
Despite the challenges, there are a few organizations that make it work in the region. blueEnergy is a community development organization that focuses on renewable energy, water sanitation and communications projects in communities from Greytown to Sandy Bay Sirpe and have been in the area since 2004.
Since their inception, blueEnergy has installed 10 homemade wind turbines and nearly 6kw of solar capacity, more than 60 homemade water filters and distributed hundreds of portable LED lights. Their installations have helped mitigate illnesses from contaminated water sources, reduce the risk of fires from candles and oil lamps in the home and jump-started micro enterprise in several communities that they work in.
It is a simple model that blueEnergy uses to determine what, how and to whom impact is made. Born from a proven social methodology and experience in the field, a simplified summary is that the organization begins by making several visits to a community to learn what their wants and needs are. The community prioritizes this list and blueEnergy creates project profiles that they then pitch to several donors. Sometimes they catch a few little fish like a recent 10 filter install project in Kahkabila, other times a whale might bite and it takes a little longer to reel in, like an interest from the World Bank or UNDP.
2011 may prove to be blueEnergy’s biggest year yet with the probable start of a World Bank project that will affect nine communities south of Bluefields, a project to build 100 water filters and dig 25 wells in Bluefields, the aforementioned filter project in Kahkabila, several turbines that are slated to be constructed and a big push toward renewable energy policy change with their partner organization, RENOVABLES.
Interested in working with blueEnergy? Volunteer positions are available for all lengths of stay, from one week to one year. There has been a high level of satisfaction from volunteers working with the organization, and life in Bluefields is unique to say the least. Visit their website for more information: http://blueenergygroup.org/spip.php?article236&lang=en
Organizations working on the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua are faced with many challenges unique to the area. blueEnergy has shown the fortitude to take those challenges head-on and continue to make positive impact for a world of sustainable living for all.