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A new freezer, a new way of earning a living

María de los Santos Ruíz lives in the rural community of La Picota, Nicaragua.

María is one of the people who has benefited from a community freezer provided by Trócaire partner ElectricAid. The women in her community unanimously nominated María to be the person who received the freezer, which has to be powered with two solar panels. The women use the freezer to freeze water, chicken, juices, and other goods. Since La Picota is located near the ocean, María also freezes the fish that the fishermen catch, as well as shrimp during the shrimp season.

“I was literally trembling before they let me know that I was the one who would be receiving the freezer,” María admits, shaking her hands as she speaks. “I couldn’t believe it when they told me the news. It made me so happy.”

“Before we had no way of storing the fish,” she adds. “It would either rot, or the fishers would have to give them away before they went bad. Now we can store them and eat them when they have trouble getting fish, and we can sell them more easily. Now, there’s no waste.”

Prior to receiving the freezer, María sold other goods like beans, snacks and drinks, but her income was minimal. Now, the freezer has enabled her and her fellow women to create a niche market within their community. For example, María travels to the nearest town to purchase 30 pounds of chicken. She then freezes the chicken and is able to sell it all within 3 days for a profit of nearly USD $50.00.

“Now I’m actually making money,” María says. “It is such a blessing. My dream is to rebuild my house. I want it to be made of brick for more security.” 

“We’re all connected and we’re prepared for any emergency. We’re all trained in disaster risk reduction, since this is an earthquake zone. Now we feel ready, and we know what’s coming. If there’s bad weather, we have TV now, so we know.” María offered repeated thanks for the freezer, informing Trócaire that it has truly changed her life for the better.

The community of La Picota has received four other panels, which are used to provide solar-powered light to their homes. While María’s panel is used solely for the purpose of powering the community freezer, she is able to do things like charge her cell phone using the electricity in her neighbours’ homes. It is still a much more convenient option for her than the alternative – travelling up to 10 kilometres to the nearest town where she would have to pay to charge her cell phone.

María  lives in the rural community of La Picota – an isolated village of open air houses constructed with wood, plastic, scrap metal and palm leaves.

At 32 years, María is a representative of a local women’s group composed of ten women. She is a young, vibrant mother of two children – a girl of twelve years and boy of five years. She is a single mother who admits to having struggled in her efforts to raise her children alone.

“I never had a salary before,” María says. “But now with the freezer, I have one.”

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