DDU helps 565 impoverished women in Quilali

Last year Divine Daughters Unite donated medical equipment to Casa Materna in Quilali. Casa Materna is a group home and health care facility that is run by nurses and provides excellent care to the impoverished women they serve. DDU donated a fetoscope to monitor babies during pregnancy and a goose neck lamp to aid in gynecological exams of their mothers.


In 2017 Casa Materna  provided care for 565 women in Quilali Nicaragua. Some of these women must travel four hours by foot to receive maternal health care. They stay at Casa Materna when they are close to delivering their babies and for a couple of weeks afterwards until mother and infant are strong enough to go home.


Improving health care for women improves the health and well being of the entire family. When women are given access to quality health care services and health education their children are healthier and their families wellbeing inc,using financial improves. Helping women serves to improve not just their families but the entire community.


DDU is honored to help. You can help us help women by donating here. 

Thank you for your generous support!


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DDU helps victims of Thomas Fire

4173CC8F-227F-4AD1-9715-2E5577BC35D6I am so very honored to be part of a non profit that digs deep to help those near and far. Today, DDU donated $2000 to help victims of the Thomas Fire. Thanks to Help of Ojai, Divine Daughters Unite is able assist those families who lost their homes in the biggest fire in California history.

Thousands of people were displaced by the fire that ravaged Ventura County on December 4th, 2017.

DDU donation funds were distributed for 2017 to support:

Casa Materna in Quilali, Nicaragua


as well as impoverished women though Gabriel’s House in Oxnard, California


and young women through Building Blocks for Kids in Santa Clarita, California.


Thank you for your kind support!

When you heal a woman, you help heal her family, her community, her world!

Please help us help others by donating now. 

May you blessed with an abundantly joyous and healthy 2018!


Deborah Maragopoulos FNP

Founder of DDU

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DDU Supports Gabriel’s House




This year Divine Daughters Unite chose to support Gabriel’s House.

We were very impressed with the work that they do, providing transitional living and emergency shelter for women with children in our own Ventura County. Women who’d otherwise be homeless whether it’d be from leaving an abusive home, or suddenly becoming widowed to any other adversity.

Along with shelter they also provide food, clothing, counseling,  and help with planning and organizing for the future to essentially get back on their feet.

We were lucky enough to meet women from Gabriel’s House at our local radio station Q95.9 for Kat’s Kause. DDU donated $500 and two baskets full of school supplies, household supplies, and toiletries like toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant and shampoo among other personal necessities.

We spoke with Director of Operations, Cindy Wilson, and a resident of the house who was able to share a little of her story with us.  She shared that unlike other shelters, Gabriel’s House allowed her and her older child to take advantage of the opportunity. With her second child on the way, she was very optimist of what her future holds and expressed how Gabriel’s House was the light at the end of her tunnel.

Personally this experience was absolutely amazing. Coming from a family with immigrant parents, I know life can be very tough while facing adversities. Giving someone hope in a time of despair is genuinely gratifying. With all the chaos from this year’s election, I was so happy to be able to give back this holiday season and continue to do what I was born to do – help people.

If you’d like to read more about Gabriel’s House you can visit their website at http://www.tkcoxnard.org


Gaby Tapia, Board Director






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DDU helps Improve Health Care in Quilali

We did it! The hospital in Quilali just got their new microscope thanks to Divine Daughters Unite.

After assessing the needs of the hospital while in Nicaragua in December, it was clear that DDU could make the most difference by purchasing this needed piece of equipment.

Earlier that day I had assessed that the secondary school needed a microscope for their science lab. So when the laboratory director of the hospital shows me the sorry state of their old microscope, DDU had a wonderful opportunity to help improve both education and health care.

I met with the mayor of Quilali who personally assured me that DDU’s donation of funds would go to purchase the microscope for the hospital and the old microscope would go to the school.

The mayor and the director of the hospital laboratory traveled seven hours one way to purchase the Olympus microscope with funds donated by DDU.

How exciting for Quilali’s hospital, high school, patients and students who will benefit from improved health care and educational opportunities!

Thank you, DDU, for this opportunity to serve.

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Last Day – Time to Go Home

December 22nd – the Solstice. There is no sleep on the eve of the longest night.

Up at 1:30 am to drive to the airport under the full moon. I am accompanied by Elizabeth and her sister Erika. On the two hour drive, I suggest that Elizabeth purchase the sheets for Casa Materna while they are here but she explains that the wholesale market is not open. Erika describes the poor working conditions for Nicaraguan laborers at the Chinese owned textile mills. I wonder why China has come to Nicaragua.

It’s because of the canal. Construction will begin this coming year. European and Chinese interests are funding it. Nicaraguans will build it. The plan is to widen the existing river – San Rio. The Panama Canal will become obsolete. Importation to and from Asia and Europe will through this wider deeper Canal will change the face of Nicaragua. When I speak my concern of communities and wildlife existing by the river and the loss of the fresh water, my hosts agree that the canal will destroy much virgin land. Progress comes at a great price to the new heart of the earth.

I learn that Erika has taken in an impoverished girl from the mountains. She clothes her, feeds her, pays for her education. Her mother says there’s no need to go to school when all she’s destined to live hand to mouth having baby after baby. The fifteen year old does not want to spend Christmas with her family. If she stays in town with Erika and finishes her education, she just might have a chance to break the cycle of poverty.

Mangua international airport is small but modern. I am on the first flight out of the country. Elizabeth and her sister stay with me until I pass through security. I promise to text them when I arrive. Although I cannot get the special Nicaraguan aged rum with my connection in San Salvador, I have enough mountain grown coffee, honey and rosquillas to share when I get home to Ojai.

This has been the adventure of a lifetime. So much accomplished in less than a week. I hope we have changed lives. I know my life is changed.

Quilali, I’ll be back.


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Day 6 – Saying goodbye to Quilali

The roosters sing to the moon too. I am up at 3:33 – the witching hour for me, the time Mom died this past July. I thank her for coming with me to Nicaragua. I was so busy serving the poor I had no time to sprinkle her ashes at Elizabeth’s house. I feel Mom reassure me that in serving the Divine Daughters of Quilali, I planted her energy here.

At breakfast, Elizabeth’s Mom packages eight pounds of her father’s freshly roasted coffee beans for me to take home. This is so special as Señor Cornejo is the only coffee grower in all of Nicaragua whose coffee is purchased by a fair trade buyer in America. Elizabeth was the bridge. After the husband and wife owners of Beacon coffee tasted her father’s coffee at her seamstress shop in Ventura, she brought them to her home. They toured the small coffee farm, were devastated by the blight that killed so many coffee plants in the region, and invested in Señor Cornejo.

This last morning we go back to Case de Materna. We decide to donate the needed sheets and pillows for the expectant and newly delivered mothers. Erika will purchase them with her resale license at the market in the city. The mothers are just finishing breakfast at the long dining table. All are poor and incredibly grateful for the baby clothes and children’s shoes we bring.

One very young girl is so petite, a pair of child’s sandals fit her. She asks for the frog puppet that we included with the infant clothes. Of course we give it to her, but the nurses kindly insist she take a few newborn outfits. They are so young. Babies having babies.

I must come back and help educate these women. The machismo attitude has made sexually transmitted diseases, cervical cancer and mental health issues rampant. Domestic violence instigated in part by the stress of taking care of so many children with so little opportunity plagues these poor women.

The director hugs me tight, thanking me for coming and praying for my return.

So hard to say goodbye. I’ve come to love these people. Hugging Elizabeth’s Mom felt like I was hugging Nana. They look so much alike, act so similar, the same fears, the same money sense, the same fussiness about cleaning. Stoney-faced love, barely a smile, but when she finally opens to your embrace, the heart connection is powerful. She follows me, making me promise to come back. Goodbye, Nana…I mean, Mamma.

We travel to Estelle in the back of a truck. The luggage is wrapped in plastic in case of rain. Erika’s husband Larry has taken time off from his coffee farm high up in the mountains.

We pass through small towns of coffee farmers. The verdant forest shares space with lush coffee planets. Elizabeth explains that just a few years ago a fungus destroyed the coffee severely affecting this fragile communities so dependent on coffee production. Today the scenery is beautiful, the roads winding. I have an iron stomach, unfortunately Elizabeth does not.

This is the same winding route Elizabeth traveled by bus to go to university. She got motion sick then too. We stop for bonine and Elizabeth trades places with her sister and niece. We doze in the warm sun.

Halfway we stop at the coffee co-op that Erika’s husband belongs to. The workers just returning from lunch ride up on bikes and a few motorcycles. Acres of green coffee beans dry in the sun. The modern administrative building is well equipped. There we purchase honey and coffee for souvenirs.


Elizabeth’s sister Erika- the one who makes sure everything goes as planned with her husband Larry and daughter Alejandra



For the last leg of the journey, I sit up front with Elizabeth and Larry. He tries to tell me about his coffee farm so Elizabeth translates. His grandfather’s huge plot of prime land was confiscated by Sandista and he was forced to serve the resistance for seven years. When the government abandoned the land, his father was able to get back 500 acres and Larry purchased 100 acres to reestablish the Zelaya family name in coffee.
Three Zelaya brothers came from Spain and one went to Costa Rica, one to Honduras, and one to here. It was a Zelaya woman who planted the first coffee in Nicaragua. President Zelaya promoted coffee, but native Nicaraguans did not want to farm coffee, so German and Dutch people came to the mountains of Nicaragua and became the first coffee growers. Hence the occasional fair skin, blond hair and light eyes.

Larry is passionate about coffee. He sold a beloved Paso Fino horse to become a coffee farmer. He’s the driver for a rich man in town who gave him some cows which has become his second passion. We share stories about our horses and livestock. He tells me of a deformed filly that he saved and rehabbed into a good brood mare and sick cow he rescued and his daughter named Represita – little present. Elizabeth teases that they might find him sleeping with his cows.

I understand his passion. Agriculture and animal husbandry is a love of mine too.

Cows dot the open meadows, Brahma, Holstein, a few cross-breeds I’m not familiar with, yet no Angus. Some families own cows for milk and cheese, but this country is not known for its diary products. I have not been impressed with the little bit of beef I’ve had here and wonder out loud why no one’s raising Angus, the area seems perfect for grass fed beef year round. Larry is excited but the idea. He’s seen Angus at the fair in Managua. Perhaps there is another way to help.

Elizabeth points out tobacco. Cubans grow tobacco here and produce the best cigars. Last year Nicaraguan cigars won first place internationally.

We stop for lunch. I order the grilled pork, too well done for me. I share my husband’s expertise at open fire barbecue so when we return, he can show Larry how to grill a grass fed Angus steak.

Next stop Hogar de Ancionos Club St Lucia – a senior nursing home. Nuns greet us and we tour the facility. They serve 38 seniors mostly women from the time their families drop them off until the end of their lives. The nursing home is clean, the residents well cared for. This is a private facility run by the Catholic Church. Some of their residents were left on the doorstep. They do not turn anyone away. We fit a few seniors with new shoes, leaving the rest of the shoes for the nuns to distribute since the elders just finished dinner and are preparing for bed. We also leave a donation of money for the nuns to buy other necessities for the seniors. We leave with blessings from the nuns.

Finally, I get to meet Elizabeth’s cousin. Edwin is a cardiologist in a private clinic in Estelle. They grew up together, went to the same school, played together as children. Being the only doctor in the family, Edwin is the first one they call for help. Dr Galeano sits down with us after finishing seeing the last of his patients at 5:30.


I explain that I would like to serve Quilali by holding a health clinic focusing on women with the primary goal to provide needed physical examinations, Pap smears, treatment, and education. He agrees a gynecological clinic is much needed yet it would best serve the people for me to educate the doctors and especially the nurses who are the most available to the patients. Train the doctors in colposcopy, the nurses in primary examinations and then hold an open clinic. Work with the politicians to hold a health fair (thank goodness we are already in with Mayor Rodriguez). All I need to do is write a letter of intent and provide my certifications and he will support my efforts.

This is exciting! Kyra, my daughter and Vice President of DDU, wants to come. Perhaps my sister who is a family nurse practitioner as well and my niece who is fluent in Spanish after serving a mission in Guatemala would come too!

I thank Dr Galeano and we head to yet another of Elizabeth’s cousins.


My host Senor Cornejo



We spend the evening with her cousin’s family including gregarious four-year-old twin boys and their three-month-old chow puppy. We bathe the dust from our long journey here and by 10:30pm, the house is quiet but sleep evades me. Too excited by the possibilities of creating significant change and also anxious to be back in my husband’s arms, I lie on one of the twin’s bed grateful for the chance to serve.

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Day 5 – Our muddy adventure, more shoes for kids and fireworks

I’m getting used to the rooster. Perhaps I’m just exhausted. I don’t wake up before dawn this morning. We jumped in and out of truck yesterday finding shoes for dozens of kids. Even bringing Elizabeth’s nieces to help, I think it would be easier to get rid of the boxes and tie the shoes together and organize them by size. We have lots more little kid than big kid shoes so we bring some of the extra backpacks. The shoes are great but the backpacks are like a thousand Christmases to these kids!

Negotiating the mountain all day to find the poorest people and we still have 65 baskets to deliver. We bring as many as we can, plus the shoe bags and the cooler for the chicken. Each gift basket consists of a large round plastic basin that can be used to mix masa, wash a baby, or soak tired feet. The basin is filled with food and supplies – rice, beans, coffee, sugar, salt, spices, oil, toilet paper, toothpaste, bar soap, laundry soap and dry snacks. Plus we have bags of frozen chicken for a holiday meal.

The man whose truck we borrowed brought us a huge papaya. Everyone who can wants to help us. We breakfast on fresh papaya and coffee before repacking the truck. Nothing can be left out as it rains all night. It looks like we might have more rain today so we pick up a plastic tarp from Señor Cornejo where he’s getting his truck fixed on our way out of town.

We stop to buy green guavas to snack on. The fruit has the texture of an apple, tart yet sweet, so big we split them.

Our next stop is a rest stop. While Marlen finds out from the proprietor where to find the most needy families, I feed a parrot pieces of guava. The girls tease me that parrots will bite, but this one gently takes my offering. So far everyone I’ve met including the animals have been kind and friendly.

We drive up and up on narrow mountain roads deeper into the jungle. As we get further from the village, the houses are poorer. There’s a few nicer homes in the midst of wide expanses of land, mostly used for cattle and coffee, bananas and plantains. We pass quite a few cabarellos, riding solo or herding cows. Compared to the cities in the southern part of the country, the horses here are better fed.

We turn up a long mud road, nothing is paved this far out of town, but this road is even less well maintained. Here we might find the sick homebound elderly women we were told about at the rest stop.


When we can’t take the truck any farther, Elizabeth and I jump out and carry baskets to the nearest house. We interrupt a man building a clay oven to ask directions and he stops his work to send a young barefoot boy to leads us up a narrow trail about a third of a mile through the the jungle. There we find an elderly woman in a wheelchair and two little girls. We leave the basket of food for her and ask to take the children back to the truck to fit them with shoes. She gives us her blessing, so we make our way back down the hill.

Once we start fitting the children with shoes, more show up. Women from another household across the way bring their children. We fit them all with new shoes, clothe the little girls who live up the hill and give baskets of food to the families. We ask the boy to bring the little girls back to their grandmother and bring a basket of food to the man who helped us find all these needy people.

He refuses to take the basket without giving us something in exchange and runs across the road and up the hill to retrieve a huge bunch of bananas!


Thank goodness for the 4WD truck and Marlen’s expert driving. The roads slick with mud are difficult to negotiate but the baskets, shoes and kids stay safely put in the back of the truck. Just after our picnic lunch, this time we brought beans and rice for the girls who needed more than fruit and veggies, the tarp comes in handy during a down pour.

Marlen attempts to take us to the poorest area but the truck begins slipping back down the steep muddy road. I quickly help get the kids out of the truck and off the road so she can maneuver the truck out of ditch. After our muddy adventure, we cross back over the river to find other barrios.

It’s hard to choose who to give the baskets to as all the homes look impoverished to me, but Marlen seems to know who needs help the most. We do not fit children with shoes in the middle of the street, but park out of the way not to be overwhelmed by crowds. A young mother is washing clothes in the river with four little children. One of the girl’s entire arm is scarred, evidence of a bad third degree burn. Elizabeth points out that burns are common with open fire cooking in crowded households. The young mother is delighted to receive a food basket and luckily has enough children to help her carry it and the laundry back home.
By dusk we’ve given away thirty more baskets and three times as many as shoes, yet still have four huge bags of shoes left. But we must head back. I have meeting with the mayor.

The mayor of Quilali meets us at the house. We sit and have coffee with Señor Martin Gonzalez. This year he won a national award for the best use of federal funds to improve the city. He is anxious to help us however he can. I tell him that my concern is improving health care and education. I want to be sure that whatever we donate stays in Quilali. He assures us that he will do everything in his power to keep our donations where we intend them to be used. His newly elected assistant is a retired pharmacist who knows the health care system well and will act as our advocate. I am pleased with our encounter and feel like DDU has a powerful advocate here in Quilali.


the mayor agrees to help DDU help Quilali


After meeting the mayor, we take all of Elizabeth’s available nieces and nephews to help us give out the rest of the shoes. The children all wanted to help but we only had room for a few helpers with the truck filled with baskets. Now we take a dozen of them and her sister Erika and sister-in-law Magdalena too.

Marlen drives us to the poorest barrio at the edge of the city. We jump out of the truck and the kids help carry bags of shoes up the hill to the most impoverished houses. It’s dark now, we have nothing but a few cell phones for light, but we manage to fit another three dozen kids with shoes on a dirt road between two concrete houses. It’s a wonder we make it back to our truck with all our kids!

In celebration of a great days work, we stop to buy fireworks. The kids carefully pick out sparklers and we head home to unpack the truck. The children wait patiently, but when they see I’m finished, they cry, “Deborah! Deborah, andele!” Time to light the fireworks!

We celebrate in the backyard. These children have very little compared to children in America yet so much more than those we helped these past few days. The joy of giving is contagious and truly the greatest blessing of all.

Before I can even wash off the mud, I am asked to sit down for a pedicure. The young deaf woman DDU sponsored last year is here with her mother. We chat through sign while her mother starts the pedicure. She tells me she did well enough last year in her new business that she was able to get married. She shows me wedding pictures and I ask her about babies. Oh, no, not yet, she reassures me. She made enough to get long term contraception (much less expensive than in the US but still a significant investment for someone who makes $2.50 per pedicure).


Magdalena offers to massage my neck, while she shows me some of her nail designs. What do I want her to paint on my nails? I choose a golden butterfly in honor of Mom. Since dealing with her illness and subsequent death, now I find myself here in Nicaragua serving the needy, this has been a most transformational year. Butterflies symbolize spiritual transformation.

I pray through DDU I’ve been able to help others experience such beautiful transformations.

When I pay my new friend what I would have paid back home for an awesome spa pedicure, she cries. It’s more than she makes in a week. Her hug makes it most worthwhile.

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