Making a difference in the majority world
Recently I traveled with my wife and a group of architects, engineers and surveyors to the capital city of Nicaragua in hopes of making a difference. We were a group of design professionals from throughout the US, Canada, UK and Nicaragua mobilized by Engineering Ministries International (EMI). Our goal was to connect with the client, the culture and ministry which we were serving, so that we could fully embrace their vision and create a design fitting of their needs, budget, and cultural norms – in a little over a week. Often times this meant stepping back and acknowledging that design practices in Central America don’t match North America. This forced us as a team to step out of our comfort zone of design. We were pushed to think creatively about how we could utilize the local infrastructure and construction knowledge to the greatest efficiency for the client, while at the same time introducing them to a new technique or material.
The Majority World
“The majority world” may be a new concept to you. It is the parts of the world where the majority of the population resides – most of Central and South America, sub-Saharan Africa, and most of Central and Southeast Asia. These areas of the world also tend to have the least developed infrastructure making life difficult and overwhelming. Sometimes it seems that everything is working against you: infrastructure of roads, sewers and water; electrical supply; health care; etc. There is little hope that things will ever change for the better. But this is where architects and engineers are making a difference – one project at a time. EMI has a vision of people restored by God, and the world restored through design. This mission leads them across the globe - assisting mission hospitals, orphanages, refugee shelters, schools, seminaries, and more through master planning, design, and in some cases, construction. The physical and spiritual impact of these facilities touch thousands of people, bringing real hope into everyday life.
Tesoros de Dios – Managua, Nicaragua
Our time in Nicaragua was spent at Tesoros de Dios’s school and ministry center. Tesoros de Dios (translated God’s Treasures) is a K-18 equine therapy center for physically and mentally handicapped children in the greater Managua area. Serving over 100 students weekly, they fill a dire need in the community by providing refuge for families and children otherwise cast out by society. At Tesoros de Dios, parents can find community, children can find enrichment through therapy, and all can find hope. Therapy activities range from learning to walk and talk, up to vocational skills such as computer use and cooking. There are more than 60 kids on the waiting list, hoping for an opportunity to learn at Tesoros de Dios.
Our EMI group spent a week with the staff and students to come up with a long range plan to guide the facility’s growth. It was a week of continual measuring, digging, documenting, drawing and calculating in an effort to come up with an inspired design to best fit the community. Our final design included a phased growth plan, starting with a covered horse arena for the equine therapy; followed by a new education center and vocational center. The master planning documents and renderings that we left with them are already being used to generate interest within the community and potential donors.
Though our part of the project as volunteers is drawing to a close, EMI will continue to stay involved with Tesoros de Dios. EMI staff in Nicaragua will help them find a local architectural team to produce construction drawings as needed and help them navigate the construction process.
The joy and excitement that I witnessed in Nicaragua has helped me realize that we are all a precious piece of the fabric of life. Our team’s passion for design was met by the staff’s passion for the students. Working together resulted in a transformative project for the community of Managua and the families of Tesoros de Dios.
For more information about EMI and their ministry visit: www.emiworld.org