Matthews-based Bless Back expanding into Nicaragua

For more than two years Bless Back Worldwide has worked in Haiti to bring relief and support to those in need. Now the Matthews-based Christian nonprofit is expanding its reach by sending volunteers to Nicaragua.

Naomi Heidorn (above) helps carry a metal roof piece to repair a house in Nicaragua.

Naomi Heidorn, who is organizing Bless Back’s volunteer work in Nicaragua, is a Waxhaw resident who has worked in the country since 2000 and recently reached out to the organization to help increase support there. She hopes the partnership with Bless Back will bring more medical care, food and educational reforms to the area.

Bless Back founder George Collins hopes to see many different types of work throughout their operations in Nicaragua. The organization plans to send a group of volunteers in June.  Spaces are still available for local residents to travel on the two-week mission trip. The first Bless Back group served in Nicaragua in July. Volunteers are required to pay their own way, which costs about $2,000.

“Our whole vision at Bless Back is to help people identify what they are good at and what they feel God is calling them to be and provide them with the resources to do it,” Collins said.  He hopes with Bless Back’s help, Heidorn can use her passion for education to reach many people in Nicaragua.

Volunteers will first build a medical clinic on four acres of land Heidorn recently purchased to use as a base for volunteer work.  This will give Bless Back volunteers a place to stay and work from when they take trips to Nicaragua.

Heidorn expects at least five volunteer groups to come to Nicaragua during 2013, which will focus on many different projects.  One of the main focuses will be education, as well as building the medical facility, a church and helping local families with home repairs.

“We are hoping to do an education team.  The education system is really poor there. The teachers have about one year of training and then they are set loose with about 50 or 60 children in one classroom,” Heidorn said.

Volunteers also plan to host camps for students focused on sports, arts and more.

According to Collins, Bless Back volunteers also have been partnering with Covenant Day School in Matthews to use aquaponics to help provide food for families in Nicaragua.  Aquaponics uses the waste from fish to grow vegetables in water.

Collins hopes to eventually use these techniques to not only feed individual families but also whole villages.

“It’s kind of a neat project that Covenant Day has been building,” he said. “They set up a tank that holds fish and breed. They give off waste products that allow the growth of vegetables.”

This method of providing food can feed one family for weeks.  Collins said teaching a family to provide for themselves is more beneficial than giving them food for any amount of time.

“We are trying to raise funds for them and then start them on a small scale to see how we can make them grow. That way instead of feeding people, we are teaching them how to feed themselves,” Collins said.

Prior to the partnership with Bless Back, Heidorn and a group of volunteers began working in Nicaragua with children in schools and a group of women who worked and lived at a local dump.

“We did what we called ‘a day of beauty.’ We asked a church if we could set up and invited these women out of the dump for a day and just pampered them,” Heidorn said.

Volunteers gave the women facials, manicures and more all while watching their children so they could fully enjoy the day.  Volunteers also took before and after photos of participants for them to keep.

“It was just a day to make them feel beautiful and love on them and to give them a break from their very rough life,” she said.

Want to help?

Bless Back Worldwide needs volunteers and donations to continue their work in Nicaragua and Haiti. There are still spaces available for area residents to travel with the group to Nicaragua in June.

For more information, visit www.blessbackworldwide.org.

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