Casa Bernabé Orphanage started with just a few children back in the 80's. During the Sandinista/Contra conflict the numbers grew. After the turmoil within the country ended and the United States left the eastern coast of Nicaragua, there was little to sustain the economy. The region went from poor to poorer resulting in a growing orphan population. Many men left the area looking for work, never to return. The women were left behind, struggling to raise their children without an income.
The children and young people at Casa Bernabé are there for a variety of reasons. Some, according to Erickson, have been orphaned by death of a parent or grandparent who was raising them. Some are there because there was not enough money to feed them so the mother made the extremely difficult choice of giving their child up to guarantee the well-being of that child.
Others, he said, are living at Casa Bernabé because there is no school where their family lives so they were brought there to receive a quality education. These children and young people often go home when school ends in December and come back the beginning of February for the new school year.
At Casa Bernabé they are fed, clothed, and educated, but most of all they are loved. This has allowed them to grow and flourish in many ways. Some stay on once they have completed high school to attend college or trade schools. Some learn by working with the various teams who come to Puerto Cabezas to work on projects.
Several young women graduated from the nursing program and are now working in the area. One young man has gone on to be a doctor and is now working in Puerto Cabezas. A young woman recently finished her psychology degree and will be working with children at the orphanage when she can.
To see these children grow up at Casa Bernabé, go off to school, and then come back to give back to the community is incredibly heart-warming, according to Erickson. The Verbo Church operates the orphanage.