Located outside of Nicaragua’s capital city of Managua, La Chureca is a community of 1,200 individuals living in the city’s municipal dump. The community is severely underserved in access to public services and unable to sustain themselves. Manna Project International (MPI), an organization working to empower communities in need through volunteer support and educational programs, is continuing to develop ideas to help the community of La Chureca get back on its feet. Through nutrition programs, child sponsorships, and health and wellness programs, MPI is working with La Chureca to holistically tackle the poverty that many, if not all, of the residents face.
Katie Messick, Country Director of MPI Nicaragua, has been working hard to help the women create better lives for themselves. A Duke graduate from the Sanford School of Public Policy, Katie is focused on finding sustainable solutions to the problems those community members in La Chureca face.
At the moment, things have become complicated. With the government moving the community of La Chureca to new houses at the outskirts of the dump, uncertainty for the future has become an understatement. People in the community of La Chureca, especially the women, need a stable job. But as Katie said: “These families cannot afford their new homes; now they have to pay water and electricity bills up to $20 a month”. Moreover, the recycling plant where some of the families of La Chureca worked is now hiring “outsiders”, leaving the community without job opportunities.
An especially innovative idea emerged from within the rubble of the trash dump. Why not make jewelry using the recyclables in the trash dump to generate income? From this thought emerged The Female Entrepreneurs of La Chureca (FELC), a women´s cooperative dedicated to creating jewelry from recycled materials. The Cooperative offers stable jobs to 23 enterprising, capable women who otherwise would not have any source of income.
Katie explains that one of the biggest challenges is to create a cooperative with women that once competed with each other for resources in order to survive. Nevertheless, The Female Entrepreneurs of La Chureca is moving forward and the women are positive about their future with the cooperative. “They not only enjoy making the jewelry but they also appreciate each other’s company” said Katie.
As of now, FELC is searching for opportunities to expand their market access in order to provide a better income for the women and maybe someday expand the membership. Katie explains that they “will be able to pay more as we earn more and as this happens we can alter the base amount and price for production.” In order to achieve this goal Manna Project International is creating a partnership with Camino Nuevo, a student base group dedicated to expanding the cooperative´s access to market, diversifying the products and empowering women. Moreover, FELC established a partnership with Walmart Mexico and Central America, their products will be sell in stores soon.
A bright future is ahead The Female Entrepreneurs of La Chureca. This has been possible because of the hard work of the women and the Manna Project volunteers. Most importantly, it has been possible because of the incredible leadership of Katie Massick.