H is for hope in Nicaragua

Book takes kids on alphabetical tour of Rainbow Network's work in Nicaragua.

Linda Leicht News-Leader January 8, 2011

After reading "H is for Hope," Ben Zimmerman hopes to go to Nicaragua someday, but until then the 11-year-old will raise money, collect shoes and share what he has learned.

"H is for Hope" is an alphabetical tour of the work Rainbow Network does in Nicaragua.

Springfield author Louise Jackson donated her skills to create a book that is intended to interest both children and adults, and to raise awareness about Rainbow Network and the poverty of rural Nicaragua.

Rainbow Network was looking for a way to provide churches with a resource for teaching issues of social justice to their children, and the book seemed to be the perfect venue, says Ryan Owen, U.S. director for the Springfield-based nonprofit.

And Jackson, a longtime supporter, seemed to be the perfect author. "Louise is a masterful storyteller," he says.

"Labor of love"

Jackson has published four previous children's books, including the national WILLA Award-winning "Exiled! From Tragedy to Triumph on the Missouri Frontier."

This one, however, is a "labor of love," providing her with no royalties. In fact, she paid her own way to Nicaragua to view the work of Rainbow Network herself.

Despite years of financially supporting the organization and learning about the impact it had in Nicaragua, she had never been there. Writing the book required seeing things firsthand.

There, she saw vibrant villages like Ciudad Sandino filled with sturdy homes with roofs that don't leak and tile floors, families running successful businesses, children attending schools, medical clinics and more.

And she saw poor villages like Ciudad Dario, dotted with shacks and filled with hungry people who have never seen a doctor or learned to read.

The difference is Rainbow Network, which provides ways for communities to flourish through assistance with housing, food, water, education, medical care and microloans for businesses. "I wanted to see the final results," Jackson says.

She saw the results in the face of a woman who worked in a sweat shop to support her young siblings after their parents' deaths. The woman went from suicidal to successful with the help of a microloan to start her own small shop, and she is now sending her brother to college.

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She saw a woman who now provides for her family as a dressmaker, and men whose sawmill turns a profit from both planks and sawdust. "It's the stories I didn't know before," Jackson says.



The stories that have made their way in the book reflect both the poverty and the successes.

A Christian context

Jackson hopes that churches will use the book and its stories in Sunday school classes for children ages 8 and older to learn about need and how to respond to that need within a Christian context.

Ben and sister Kelsey, 8, believe the book would work well in their Sunday school classes at National Avenue Christian Church, which has supported Rainbow Network for several years.

Kelsey says she likes the real-life examples of how children are helped. "Like they give them shoes. ... I really liked how Rainbow Network really helps them a lot," she says.

"B stands for Barefoot children who are too poor to buy shoes," the book reads.

Jackson can see that leading to a shoe collection for the children in Nicaragua.

"You can do one whole lesson on this," she says.

Optimism, need

Chase Heilman has wanted to shoot photographs for Rainbow Network for years. The 2005 Parkview High School graduate learned about the organization's outreach to Nicaragua through friends.

Those friends brought him into contact with Owens, who saw the quality of Heilman's work and invited him to be part of the project.

Traveling to Nicaragua to shoot for the book was exciting and surprising, he says. "I was incredibly surprised with how organized they were ... and the amount of work that went into it."

He loved the "optimism" of the people he spoke with in the Rainbow Network villages. "Everyone seemed to be in a mind-set that they were going to be successful," he recalls.

Heilman hopes that his photos reflect both the need and the optimism. Some of the photos didn't make it in the book, but are available to view on his website.

His favorite is a startling photo of a nearly starved dog, its skeleton clearly visible and its sad eyes heartbreaking. Dogs like that, he says, were a common sight in the poorest villages, while the villages that have been working with Rainbow Network had healthy dogs whose tails wagged as they ate scraps from a family's table.

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"The health of the dogs in the community is a way to showcase the health of the community itself," he says.



That photo did not get in the book, but those that did were carefully selected to communicate with a young audience. Although he has illustrated other books, shooting photos for a children's book provided a special challenge.

"You have to think about your audience more," he says. "You have to convey a message to people who don't have the experience of adults."

At the same time, he hopes the book and his photos will help those children "understand there are people who don't have what they have in Springfield."

It is a lesson Heilman also learned. "People have tiny problems in their lives compared to what you see down there," he says. "And this is just one country" experiencing that level of poverty. "You have to put things in a broader context."

Both author and photo illustrator share a passion to help the poor people of rural Nicaragua through the work of Rainbow Network and hope their work stirs that passion in others.

It has already stirred a passion in Ben and Kelsey Zimmerman. Kelsey would like to put together an "action plan" to collect money and food for Nicaragua. Ben would also like to raise awareness, and he believes the book can help "let (kids) know how much of a problem this is in Nicaragua and other Third World countries."

 

 

The Rainbow Network helps the poor in small, remote Nicaraguan villages. It targets six areas: health care, education, nutrition, economic development, housing and sustainable agriculture. Louise A. Jackson of Springfield wrote about the Rainbow Network's work in "H is for Hope."

The Rainbow Network helps the poor in small, remote Nicaraguan villages. It targets six areas: health care, education, nutrition, economic development, housing and sustainable agriculture. Louise A. Jackson of Springfield wrote about the Rainbow Network's work in "H is for Hope." (Chase Heilman)

Who's who and what's what?

Louise Jackson moved to Springfield after retiring from her position of associate dean of the college of education at the University of Wyoming, where she also taught reading and language arts.
She wrote her first children's book, "Gone to Texas: From Virginia to Adventure," a full-length novel, in 1978.
Her other books include "Grandpa Had a Windmill, Grandma Had a Churn," "Over On the River" and "Exiled! -- From Tragedy to Triumph on the Missouri Frontier."
Learn more at www.louiseajackson.net.

Chase Heilman is a 2005 graduate of Parkview High School. He then attended the Art Institute of Colorado and now has his own photography business in New Jersey.
Examples of his work, including photos for Rainbow Network, are available at www.chaseheilman.com.


Rainbow Network
Rainbow Network was established by Keith and Karen Jaspers in 1995. The faith-based organization works to end extreme poverty in Nicaragua through housing, health care, education, microfinance and sustainable agriculture. To learn more, visit www.rainbownetwork.org.

 

Rainbow Network feeding centers provide healthy meals for children, pregnant and nursing women and the elderly. It is often the children's only complete meal of the day.

Rainbow Network feeding centers provide healthy meals for children, pregnant and nursing women and the elderly. It is often the children's only complete meal of the day. (Chase Heilman)

Jackson

Jackson

Heilman

Heilman

Ben  Zimmerman

Ben Zimmerman

Kelsey  Zimmerman

Kelsey Zimmerman

H is for Hope

"H is for Hope" by Louise A. Jackson, with photo illustration by Chase Heilman, is available online or directly from Rainbow Network through PayPal. The softcover book sells for $18.99, which also provides 50 meals for children at one of Rainbow Network's 157 feeding centers in Nicaragua. An electronic version is available for $4.99.
To learn more about "H is for Hope" or to order, click the link at News-Leader.com.

 

 

 

 

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