Many would find such a ministry area to be hopeless. But the Moragas know this is where God has called them. "The role of our foundation is to facilitate holistic community health development through training and study of the Bible that leads to acquiring the necessary values to change the lives of the families and communities," Dr. Francisco explains. "Our main emphasis is on preventive health through education, providing skills to health promoters and local community organizations that are the main promoters of plans based on the issues they feel are important."
The Moragas begin their community development by training local leaders in community health issues. After being taught, these community health promoters, along with local authorities, assess their village and discuss with the Moragas which issues need to be addressed in their communities. "We have affirmed that the community itself is the main agent of change through active participation and good leadership with solid values," Dr. Francisco says.
After the issues are reviewed, several pre-planned projects are activated by the leadership of the community health promoters. Over the past six years, 103 latrines have been constructed and 25 were repaired. Eighty percent of the population now has access to latrines. Where there used to be a problem with unclean water, now 73% of families now use a water filter before consumption and do not report complications from diarrhea or other water-borne disease. Only 65 cases of diarrhea were reported in 2007.
There are now 16 community health promoters, who have the capacity and ability to teach disease prevention and to give primary health attention. Ten of these communities also have medicine kits to aid their people.
Beyond the community health project, the Moragas also want to focus on community development. Working with the community women, they have developed a seed and garden program, teaching the women nutritional values for their family. The communities have started a type of "community bank" for seeds, which is based on cooperative loans. There are eight groups of seed producers, and 133 farmers have benefited from these stored seeds.
Another component of the community development program is teaching the community members their rights as citizens of the municipality of Carazo and of the country of Nicaragua. "They learn to organize and to develop a leadership with Gospel values, and to show the problems that affect their development," says Francisco. "Now they know they can demand to be taken into account in the municipality plans."
And because the Carazo area is prone to disasters such as drought, forest fires, deforestation, floods, and water pollution, the Moragas have been teaching the citizens to recognize situations that may increase the risk of these events. "We coordinate with the Civil Defense and municipalities to train and organize the people to understand lifesaving measures, to make maps of risk areas, and to practice preventing disasters.
Since they have been working in this municipality for some time, the Moragas have recognized early signs of breakdown of the family, and have then taken action to preserve these vital units. "We have facilitated education for the women and men to recognize their rights, to have respect between them, and to have harmony with each other and with God," explains Dr. Francisco.
They also work to educate children. "We promote against childhood violence, against sexual abuse, against working at a young age, for educational health and for love improvement," he explains. They have trained 45 teachers in every school in the municipality and have reached 560 students.
As these communities address some of the major issues, the local members of the community realize the benefits of implementing the programs. "Community participation has increased substantially by encouraging local plans built on the issues that affect their health," Dr. Francisco says. With a greater number of people involved, it is more likely that the program will succeed and become self-sufficient.
The positive results of these programs are not overlooked by the local authorities. "There is better recognition of the organizations and community health agents by the municipal authorities and the Ministry of Health, which has facilitated health management and care," Dr. Francisco says. Not only is this attention from the local authorities an encouragement to those local leaders who have been trained to run the programs, but it is also brings a sense of empowerment to those in the communities, who now feel like they have a voice when they previously did not.
It is also empowering to the Moragas, who continue to seek out new communities needing help getting started in community health programs. "We have experienced deep satisfaction in what we carry out in Christ’s name," they say. "Our vision for service has broadened. We are more committed to the communities and fellow believers who we get to know and share with. God has allowed us to learn from the limitations, mistakes and experiences we’ve had with the community dwellers."