It takes five hours to drive from the nearest airport to the base of the mountain on which the village of LaFlor, Nicaragua, sits. From that point, the village can only be reached by foot.
"You need a walking stick and strong, sturdy shoes. You cross over a swinging suspension bridge and then continue hiking up the mountain," said Linda Galloway, a member of Woodridge Christian Church in Wichita. "It's certainly not a trip for the faint of heart."
Kansas Christian Home is partnering with Woodridge Christian Church to collect supplies for those who live in poverty in LaFlor.
"The American people have it so good. The complaints that we make are nothing compared to what these folks live with day to day," Galloway said.
Pastor Bob Gleason said Woodridge Christian Church has partnered with JustHope, a nonprofit organization that works to improve the health, education and economic status of those in poverty through programs including sustainable agriculture and microloans, for six years.
"They work with the community of LaFlor, a village up in the rainforest of Nicaragua, to create a partnership where the community will benefit from clean water, an education system, health issues and housing concerns," Gleason said.
Woodridge Christian Church members have made multiple trips to build three houses, take school and medical supplies and start a microcredit bank program, which allows women to receive financial loans to begin a business.
"If they want to raise cows or chickens, they start their own business with that seed money," said Kansas Christian Home Senior Living Consultant Jo Lehrman. "That's how they support their children."
Next month, Gleason and other church members plan to go to Nicaragua for a week to spend time with the school children and visit the women of the microcredit program.
"When we go, we take a suitcase for ourselves and we carry a suitcase for the village," Gleason explained. "In that suitcase, we take as many supplies as we can carry for the schools, the medical clinic and the overall village."
They will also take school supplies to the children of LaFlor, whose school year starts in February and runs through November.
"We are visiting them right at the start of a new school year and many of the kids have nothing in the way of school supplies, as this village's household income is less then a dollar a day," Gleason said. "I cannot tell you what a feeling it is to spend time in the school and give each child the school supplies they will need to start off the school year."
Church members who traveled to LaFlor saw that while the children were given school uniforms by the Nicaraguan government, they had little other clothing.
"We put out the plea that we needed fabric, thread, trim, sewing machines and people to sew," Galloway said.
Volunteers sewed dozen of outfits — dresses for girls, shorts and shirts for boys — and sent them to LaFlor whenever someone made a trip.
"There's no mail service. The only way the garments arrive is by hand delivery," Galloway said.
Over the past year, other churches have joined in the effort and Woodridge Christian Church plans to take 50 outfits on their upcoming trip.
"These dresses are made with new fabric. In many cases, this is the first new dress a little girl has ever had," Galloway said.
The patterns used in making the clothing for the children allows them to be worn for several years.
"What a girl picks this year, when she's 6 years old, she may still be wearing it when she's 8 years old," Galloway said.
A nurse visits LaFlor once a month.
"We're sending medical supplies for that person to have available to them when they visit," Galloway said.
Kansas Christian Home is accepting donations of adhesive or elastic bandages and over-the-counter medications like aspirin, ibuprofen, antiseptic cream and anti-itch cream. Personal grooming items including combs, brushes, toothbrushes, toothpaste, headbands, hair ties and sample-sized bottles of soap, lotion and shampoo are also needed. Cloth shopping bags and flip-flops can also be donated.
Lehrman said their goal is to fill two rolling suitcases with the needed supplies. Donations will be collected at KCH, 1035 SE Third St., until Jan. 30.
After the supplies are donated, church members will work to pack them into the suitcases, making sure they do not weigh more than the 50-pound limit.
"That's a real work of art to get that accomplished," Galloway said.
For those who donate supplies, a free taco bar will be served from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Jan. 29 in the Health Care Center Living Room at KCH.
"It is a thank you to people who have donated," Lehrman said.
For more information, call Lehrman at 316-283-6600 (ext. 135) or email email@example.com.