It took us three years to get this one off the ground, but on February 4th, 2016 sixteen members of CDRS  International left Edmonton for Villa El Carmen, Nicaragua.  We had struggled with customs and duty issues since we had first decided on Nicaragua as our destination, so we packed our seacan on December 19th, and it left Edmonton the following Monday. We wanted to ensure that the container arrived in plenty of time for it to be released before our arrival.


On the day before we flew out of Edmonton, we were advised that our container “should” be released FOR SURE on the day we arrived in Nicaragua.  We were met at the airport in Managua on Thursday night by Patrick Hiebert, founder of “Help Them Help Themselves”, and Osman Picado who was to be our translator during the build. They announced that the seacan had been released that day and would be delivered to the site the next morning.


After an hour and a half drive south of Managua towards the Pacific coast, we arrived at the town of California in Villa El Carmen. The ground was cleared, the seacan was parked, and the people of the neighbourhood were eagerly awaiting our arrival.


The local population was very poor – most people lived in cement block houses (three walls with a fourth wall a tarp or piece of corrugated metal). We saw poverty but all of the people we met were very happy and very generous.  Our playground site was next to a baseball diamond, about two blocks away from a school and across a barbed wire and cactus fence from two small ‘farms’. (The farms consisted of a couple of chickens, a cow and a pig, an outhouse, and an 8’ square building that housed families of at least 5 or 6, and a total area of the size of a normal home lot in Castledowns.) The ladies at both farms brought us plastic lawn chairs to sit in the shade every day, and graciously offered us the use of their outhouses.


At the last moment, our build site was moved from closer to the school to an open area by the ball diamond.  The area had been used as a landing strip for drug cartels at one time and, as a result, was very hard packed. Lucky for us, a local American contractor and his Nicaraguan wife paid 20 of their employees to work for us for four days.  Without their help, we never would have dug the over 90 holes that we needed. Even though the 20 men were being paid by their boss to be there, they were all at the Grand Opening with their children and showing their friends the playground that THEY had helped to bring to the community.


Thanks to generous donations from Community Park Little League, Carlisle and Dunluce Community Leagues, there were 36 local baseball teams that received equipment and uniforms. These were presented to representatives of the teams at the Grand Opening on February 11th.  All of the school supplies were going to be distributed to local schools in outlying areas by our partner “Help Them Help Themselves”.


Another successful playground build and we will be meeting soon to talk about our next project.