Arch United Methodist Church partners with The Rainbow Network to provide resources to Nicaragua for residents in need

For 13 years, Arch United Methodist Church members and guests have been helping to provide resources to people in need in Nicaragua through a partnership with The Rainbow Network and a yearly whole hog and pancake breakfast held Saturday.

Church member Valerie Munzlinger said the parish has worked alongside the Springfield-based group to sponsor the community of El Paraiso in Nicaragua, assisting with housing, medical needs and education.

The nation's education system stops at elementary school, and students must pay to attend high school. The Rainbow Network provides schools, transportation and other education resources for children. Volunteers also help build cement block homes with electricity and running water, replacing previous stick huts and mud floors.

“They do a lot of wonderful work,” Pastor Stacie Williams said.

Munzlinger agreed, stressing how the group's efforts provides the resources that residents desperately need.

“They wouldn't have the opportunity otherwise,” she said. “Some of these people, their yearly income is less than $200 a year. So when you think about it, it doesn't take that much to help them.”

Williams said she noticed “how hard they work with so little, and how happy they are to have what little they have.”

Williams said The Rainbow Network helps residents through micro-loans for home construction, modeled after Habitat for Humanity. The network also provides micro-loans to help with small business growth and establishes medical centers and helps students access high schools from remote rural communities. In those areas, education is a challenge for children of all ages. The organization has established more than 400 schools that serve more than 7,000 grade school students.

And Williams said the students give back regularly to their communities, volunteering in medical clinics, tutoring colleagues and helping with other projects.

“They're always creating this system of self-sufficiency,” she said.

Williams said the connection between Arch United Methodist and communities like El Paraiso are strong after years of mutual hard work. She stressed that the government is supportive of the efforts as well.

A couple years ago, Williams discovered a surprise during a “Go and See” trip to El Paraiso — she saw a street sign marked “Mark Twain Avenue.” She said that villages with trash in the streets and poor living conditions grow into communities with schools, clinics and new businesses.

“So there's a piece of Hannibal, Missouri, right now in El Paraiso, Nicaragua,” she said. “So it's really cool — because of that long-lasting partnership.”

trevor.mcdonald@courierpost.com