Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Viva Nueva Vida!

By: Caitlin Byrne

    A few days ago, I was struck by a quote I saw on the wall of the public hospital, which exclaimed in the beautiful language of Spanish, “No existen puertas que el amor no abra.” Translation: “There are no doors that love can not open.” Today I discovered that these eloquently phrased words embody the inspiring women who have quite literally put their blood, sweat, and tears into creating Nueva Vida (New Life).  Nueva Vida is a Fair Trade Women’s Sewing Cooperative located in a Free Trade Zone in the neighborhood La Cuidad Sandino in Managua.

    Nueva Vida began with 50 women standing under the shade of mango tree. These survivors were thanking God that they were blessed and had withstood the devastation of Hurricane Mitch. Although they had lost all of their material possessions they had not lost their lives and instead of cursing the heavens they were grateful.  In 1998, more than 11,000 Nicaraguans and Hondurans lost their lives as a result of the horrific hurricane.  According to Dealia, the eldest owner of Nueva Vida, “We had the strength to work and keep moving forward.” All the women needed was a helping hand. The hand that was extended to them belonged to Senor Miguel of Jubilee House; a faith based Non-Governmental Organization based in the United States. Senor Miguel offered the soon to be cooperative owners revolving funds with a plan of repayment.  The catch? The women had to build the sewing cooperative themselves and would not be receiving any profit until their business was up and running. After hearing that they would not be receiving payment for their labor many women became discouraged. The group decreased their number from 50 to 11.

The remaining 11 women triumphed after putting in 360 hours of labor that was social capital they willingly invested in the sewing cooperative. These beautiful and strong women mixed the cement to construct the walls of the building among other labor-intensive work.  Quickly the women of Nueva Vida became united as a family relying for strength on their constant faith. They were approached by many women who were not willing to build the cooperative yet were quite desperate to work there. The 11 cooperative members did not turn them away but embraced them as members of their family whom they treat with love and respect. Young ladies who were struggling with drug addiction issues were offered employment at Nueva Vida. This heartfelt gesture towards the group of lost girls was life changing.  Kind-heartedness is just one of the fair practices that makes Nueva Vida such a wonderful work environment for these survivalist Nicaraguan women. Nueva Vida’s values include: sensibility, responsibility to their workers and the environment, honor, honesty, company mentality, communication, and availability. The situation today exemplified the women’s sensibility and fair treatment. Half of the electricity was out in the sewing cooperative so the women were sent home to spend time with their families.

Nueva Vida creates organic clothing using cotton fabric from Costa Rica. When the smiling Nicaraguan women opened their doors in 2001 they began a working relationship with Maggie’s Fair Trade Organic Clothing located in the United States. When the relationship was cutoff in 2005 the women did not despair. Social pressure resulted in the 11 members of Nueva Vida buying into a Free Trade Zone for a total of $10,000. Nueva Vida is allowed to be members of the Free Trade Zone for a total of 10 years. In 4 years the doors of Nueva Vida may close due to lack of clientele but not if the women’s voices are heard around the world. Delia stated, “We are struggling to survive more or less.” The women of Nueva Vida struggle with grace, love, faith, hope and most importantly spirit.

You can spread the word about the story of Nueva Vida through this brief documentary: Ants that Move Mountains! YouTube - Ants That Move Mountains. You can also get a closer look at this incredible grassroots organization at  Equipo Esperanza was empowered today through this unique and beautiful experience. PAY IT FORWARD! ☺

Love to all!


  1. I hope these women are an inspiration to you all to work as hard as they do. Graduation awaits, and the world is not an easy place right now to find work. Think of these women and their struggles, model their work ethic, and you will do well!

  2. An amazing testimony to resilience in the face of adversity!

  3. Hello Team Nica 2011! My name is Jesenia Ortiz (aka Lupe). I am a member of Team Nica 2010. First and foremost I would like to say that I am proud of all of you for making it thus far and for having the courage to get out of your comfort zones and taking on such a journey. From experience I know that many of the things you all are seeing can be very heavy on your hearts and you can't help but feel for those who, despite their troubles, have refused to give up. All of you on the team have one thing in common: you all care!! You care about the lives of others, you care about the rights of others, and most importantly you care about humanity. Caitlin Byrne your reflection on Nueva Vida was magnificent. You illustrated the strengths of these women and vividly described their perseverance. I distinctly remember visiting these women and remember being in awe because they achieved so much after a devastating hurricane. I look forward to reading more blogs from the rest of the team. God Bless all of you!