“Imagine a young girl forced to grow up inside a garbage dump, exposed to extreme filth and severe malnutrition, at risk of physical abuse, rape, drug abuse, pregnancy – and even being sold into prostitution by her family for first access to incoming garbage.”
These were the words we first used to describe an unimaginable existence, but a reality for many girls living in La Chureca, the largest open-air landfill in Central America. Any chance of having a healthy childhood here was lost at a very young age.
In 2008, Villa Esperanza (Hope Village) was established as a response to this urgent situation, rescuing vulnerable girls and giving them the opportunity to live in a safe, supportive environment, get healthy, learn life-skills, get an education and pursue a career – something that for many would’ve only been a dream. Since the Villa opened, more than 70 girls have been rescued, introduced to Jesus and the healing power of the Gospel, and offered the chance to fulfill their God-given potential!
Thankfully, the treacherous days of life in the Managua city dump are a thing of the past. In 2012, the government closed it, replaced it with a recycling center, gave jobs to some of the residents, and provided newly-constructed housing.
However, despite these improvements, the poverty mentality and dysfunction so deeply ingrained in the people persisted, and young girls of the former dump community, as well as many similarly poverty-stricken ones, remained at risk from sexual predators and criminal behavior. The Villa began reaching out to, and being contacted by, families in neighboring communities to rescue and restore other vulnerable girls from dangerous situations.
Over time, the scope of the Villa broadened, and in addition to ministering to the girls in residence, visiting Forward Edge mission teams began engaging in work projects and outreach at local public schools, sharing the Gospel, and training students on teen pregnancy prevention.
The Villa also began to train local pastors in holistic community development, conduct support groups for women, and minister to children in local neighborhoods.
Then, in the spring of 2018, things shifted once again as socio-political unrest arose that resulted in a national crisis for Nicaragua. For many months, normal operations at Villa Esperanza had to be suspended. All scheduled mission teams were cancelled; the girls were sent to their homes to be near their families; schools and businesses shut down; travel blockades were erected; mandatory curfews were implemented; and people stayed inside for safety as much as possible. Violence and fear were pervasive, but the staff at the Villa felt a burden to reach out to their neighbors to see how they could serve. With the assistance of local pastors, they helped provide and distribute food and ministered to the children in local neighborhoods with daytime activities at the Life Skills Center on campus.
Over time, the protests and violence in the country subsided and, currently, a ‘new normal’ has been established. This new normal has allowed us to resume services at Villa Esperanza. Teams are regenerating, and the staff are eager to receive them as they reach out to serve those still recovering from the crisis. As is often the case, it was during this time of crisis that a new God-given vision for the Villa was being crystallized.
In as much as the plight of vulnerable young girls in the garbage dump was grossly evident and the need urgent and clear, the risk to young people is not exclusive to this community. Though possibly less visible, there is significant risk to many others that live in detrimental and degrading situations in which they are socially relegated to second, third and even fourth class citizens, and have practically no opportunities to get ahead.
These dire conditions of poverty lead to many forms of violent, sexual, and emotional abuse, unwanted pregnancies, drug use and trafficking, all manner of crime, forced labor (including prostitution), lack of education, life-threatening diseases like AIDs, depression, dysfunctional families, lack of self-worth, and suicide.
This is what motivates Villa Esperanza to continue reaching out with its heart to rescue others who are desperate for opportunities that would allow them to break free from the bondage of their circumstances. The desire is to offer them a new life and role model in Jesus Christ and to break the destructive cycle that, without help, the next generations would be destined to repeat.
We believe that we can help accomplish this goal through new strategies, and this next season of Villa Esperanza will be one of even greater impact to a wider range and number of vulnerable individuals.
Perhaps the most exciting part about the vision for these five programs is that, God-willing, in time they will extend throughout Nicaragua through pastors of local churches who we’ve already taken through extensive holistic community development training. These church partners will be able to replicate these programs in their own communities, so that together, we can impact thousands upon thousands of at-risk children in Nicaragua!
However, as with most major endeavors, changes are often slow and small in the beginning. Due to the significant revenue loss the Villa experienced during the shutdown last year, we are moving gingerly, but deliberately, into this new vision with God’s guidance and provision. These growing ongoing programs have monthly costs, and monthly support is vital to ensuring the long-term, consistent care they provide. We’re trusting God to bring both the financial and team resources we need, through others who catch, and are passionate about, this same vision for Villa Esperanza.
It’s an exciting time to see and be part of what God is doing through Forward Edge in Nicaragua as we stay the course and prepare for new, unprecedented growth! We’re thankful for the vision He gave us in the beginning and the one He continues to give for the future.
Villa Esperanza has always been a place of healing and hope, and will continue to be so, for even more children, for years to come.
Join the Village and be part of transforming futures for more children in Nicaragua.
Have you ever experienced an offer of generosity from a family member, friend, or acquaintance that was well-intentioned, but…misplaced? Perhaps a friend making you a meal you’re allergic to or a parent buying you a piece of furniture you have no room for. Of course you say thank you, but
For over 35 years, Forward Edge has mobilized more than 20,000 individuals on nearly 1,600 mission teams to many parts of the U.S. and 34 countries. Over this time, we’ve learned tried-and-true principles that allow short-term teams to help without causing harm. 1. Support programs that are directed, designed, and
International children's programs and mission trips that transform lives.
Share your story: #MyForwardEdgeStory
Habari (hello), my name is Jacob
5 yrs. old
Entered the program: October 2019
Jacob lives with his parents and brother in a one-room, wood house with no electricity and a dirt floor. The family cooks with firewood and they all share one small bed. Their toilet facility is in very bad condition and is almost falling down.
Jacob's father has a drinking problem and does not work. His mother works as a casual laborer but work is scarce and sometimes they will go days without anything to eat. She cannot provide for the basic needs of her children.