A few weeks ago, on a gorgeous sunny day, I met with the equally gorgeous and sunny Diane Sheehan at the Mazama Store to learn about her recent trip to Costa Rica. Was she surfing? Sunbathing? Ziplining through the jungle? Not this time. Diane has been active with a group based out of Lake Forest Park called Corner of Love that is working to help Nicaraguan refugees that are suffering under the regime of Daniel Ortega.
Corner of Love provides some of the basic necessities to the refugees that are flooding Costa Rica to escape their native country. Many of them are living on the streets or in parks in San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica. In order to deal with the influx of refugees, San Jose has begun housing some of them in a stadium. According to Diane, this is a good start, but they still lack so many things that most of us take completely for granted.
When Diane and her husband, Chris, began working with Corner of Love several years ago, they went to Nicaragua, where Corner of Love had set up their aid station. But this work in Nicaragua is now too dangerous and they have moved their station to a very small town in Costa Rica called La Cruz.
La Cruz is close to the border of Nicaragua, yet most refugees end up first in San Jose. Diane says that they bus the refugees from San Jose up to La Cruz to the aid station.
At the space that Corner of Love rents, there are five main stations: medical, clothing, reading glasses, food and hygiene.
At the medical station, the refugees are seen by nurses and they get treated for any wounds, parasites or eye problems that they may have. Diane tells me that many of the people that they see have been beaten and tortured and require pain medication.
Next, while they are waiting for their prescriptions, they move to the clothing station. Many of the refugees left Nicaragua with just the clothes on their backs and often without shoes and socks. They receive, through the donated clothing that the Sheehans and other volunteers bring down, clothes, shoes, socks, underwear and backpacks. Diane, who manned this station, says that unfortunately many of the donated clothing items are far too big for the smaller Nicaraguan people.
Next, at the reading glass station, people with vision problems get to try on donated glasses to find their proper prescription.
They leave this station and move on to food. The refugees receive a bag of things that are easy for them to cook and use in their difficult situation including rice, beans, corn, pasta, oil, shelf stable milk and juice.
Finally, they are given a hygiene bag that includes one of the feminine product kits that Diane spends her spare time putting together.
Refugee families with children leave the station with vitamins, formula and diapers as needed. Children are given a toy — Hot Wheels, Beanie Babies and bubbles are popular.
By the time they have gone through all of the stations, any prescriptions that they need are ready and brought from the pharmacy by Chris. The refugees then eat a hearty lunch and get back on the bus with some snacks for the ride back to San Jose.
In my conversation with Diane, she emphasized many times that while all of this aid is needed, one of the most important things that the refugees need is to know that they are not forgotten and that people care about their plight. The Sheehans definitely do care and want others to know more about what is happening in Nicaragua. If you are interested in participating, please email me and I will put you in touch with Diane.