Save Fatima from govt persecution

(Fatima is on the right in this picture, behind her son Melchizedek. Left of her is her mother, and then sister Julie with her son.)

My former host mom, Fatima, and her 4 children are in mortal danger from Daniel Ortega's authoritarian government. I'm collecting enough money for their passports and safe passage to Costa Rica, where they'll have a safe home and jobs, thanks to a church friend.


How I know Fatima
(Fatima with her husband and son, Abdias)

In Fall 2014, I studied abroad in Costa Rica and Nicaragua. Fatima was my Nicaraguan host mother for 2 weeks, and her family was relentlessly hospitable and loving, in spite of being very poor by American standards. As students, we did nothing but paint a few walls and complain about the heat, but Fatima's family slept 4 to a full-sized bed so that I could have my own space with a fan. At the end of my stay, they gave me a painted wall ornament of Nicaragua's national bird and thanked me profusely for helping the church.

Fatima and I stayed in contact through Facebook, and became good friends. She had her fourth child, and first daughter, Keren, in 2016, and saw her sons Bryan & Abdias go off to college. Their lives were simple and relatively peaceful. Although Nicaragua is poor, it's relatively free from drug & gang warfare, so their biggest worries were an occasional overdue bill. I did my best to help as a thanks for their hospitality.

Nicaragua's conflict
(Peaceful protest against Daniel Ortega)

Unfortunately, the political climate has drastically deteriorated, devolving into a fully authoritarian regime. In April, President Daniel Ortega proposed reducing payouts from Nicaragua's social security program, causing students and elderly citizens to peacefully protest. Ortega met them with violence, killing at least 26. (wikipedia)

The protests then became about Ortega's increasingly authoritarian government—he's been president since 2006, changed the constitution to allow himself additional terms, and nearly controls the supreme court. Each protest resulted in more killed by the government or its goons; the toll is now at least 448 dead, hundreds others "disappeared". 

Fatima's family at risk
(A pro-Ortega gang)

Fatima's family is particularly in danger from Ortega's government. Her husband has not worked in months, since he was furloughed from the gold mine because of the protests, and Bryan and Abdias are in danger of being killed by pro-Ortega gangs, who target university-aged students (BNAmericas). They remain in hiding at home, and don't dare to even step out on the porch. Fatima's brother, a pastor, was shot in the leg by robbers and his daughter was rescued from would-be sex traffickers. Lawlessness is spreading, and Fatima fears reliving the horrors she saw during Nicaragua's 1979 revolution. Finally, her mother requires osteoporosis medication, but the family regularly fasts or cooks with scavenged wood to preserve what little money they have. 

Hope for the family
(Melody, Chandler, and their sons)

Amazingly, the very same week Fatima reached out to me for help, I met Melody & Chandler Slaton, who help Nicaraguan & Salvadoran refugees flee to Costa Rica. Melody's brother, Matt, is a new pastor at my old church in Collingswood, and my former youth pastor happened to suggest we get together. It could not have been a better time, because Fatima said she was ready to leave. She needed to do something to protect her children.

Melody knows of affordable housing in their neighborhood, and my other host mom from studying abroad runs a group of produce stores. Between the two of us, it seems we have everything needed to give Fatima and her family a leg up in Costa Rica. The only thing that still remains is making the journey.

How you can help

Although it is possible to declare refugee status and cross into Costa Rica without a passport, the lines are extremely long because of the conflict and there are reports of government persecution against would-be refugees. Reporters and health workers have even been arrested in the border region, so it doesn't seem wise to camp out several days while waiting for your turn.

So, Fatima and her family need passports to cross normally, and avoid the long lines. Additionally, they need bus fare to the border, and help from a lawyer/notary for the children's passports. This all comes out to about $135 per person. Fatima and her four kids will be making the journey, so $675 in total.

I've also included an extra $800 in the fundraising goal, which would typically cover their living expenses for 2 months. I'm not sure how far it will get them in Costa Rica, but it's a start—they'll need some cash to get started in their new home, as well as support her mother and husband who are staying back home. It would be great to surpass this goal and give them true peace of mind; 

Thank you for your help. This is a true life-or-death situation, and every dollar really does make a difference.
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Jason Jensen 
Philadelphia, PA

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