We're expanding to Nicaragua. Here's why.

The jail in Puerto Cabezas is filled with women who got caught selling drugs to feed their families. But we believe that doesn't have to be the end of their story.

Touch of Love International is expanding to Nicaragua, and here is where we begin: In a town decimated by a hurricane that swept all the jobs away, forcing moms to run drugs to feed their kids. Here is where we begin: with women who've learned about freedom and who are now hungry for hope. Hope is where we begin.

EMILY HOWARD, a missionary and TOLI leader, is spearheading our Nicaragua program. Here she shares the story of two women, an unlikely friendship, and the hope of a brand new life.

   Women in the Puerto Cabezas jail, gathering for a bible study with Emily.

Women in the Puerto Cabezas jail, gathering for a bible study with Emily.

"Like most of the women living in this Nicaraguan jail, Diana and Chickymaria* were incarcerated for dealing illegal drugs. I spent several months here in Puerto Cabezas in 2014, ministering to these women, meeting with them weekly, getting to know them as more than "inmates." I learned their stories and prayed for them to be set free — both physically and spiritually.

Diana shared with me her grief in being away from her baby son. Like the other mothers in jail, she’d felt the pressure of providing for her child in a community where jobs are scarce and drugs-to-sell are easily accessible. She had to choose between breaking the law and feeding her child. It broke my heart.

A year later I returned to Puerto Cabezas and was elated to discover Diana and Chickymaria had been released from jail. Even with the new challenge of a criminal history added to their record, their hearts remained free and excited for change. However, I witnessed firsthand the obstacles that kept them from moving forward.

My prayer for the ladies in the jail was growing into something bigger than before: What happens next? How do these women take tangible steps to live transformed lives if no tangible tools are available? I realized these women are already skilled in business; all they need is a gentle nudge to redirect these talents into something meaningful.

Diana, Chickymaria and I began meeting regularly to brainstorm. Diana enthusiastically showed me page after page of designs she’d come up with for her future business. She eagerly showed me pictures of her little son with whom she was working to reestablish a relationship. We spent hours walking through the market, pricing supplies to create an inventory for her future business. I couldn’t ignore the radiance in Diana’s eyes as hope began replacing the earlier shadows of shame. However, as I prepared to leave for a brief furlough to the States, I had no idea Diana’s life would take a turn for the worse before things would get better.

   Diana and Chickymaria with Emily (right) at their first business meeting, brainstorming ideas.

Diana and Chickymaria with Emily (right) at their first business meeting, brainstorming ideas.

When I returned in August of 2016, I tried for weeks to find Diana and Chickymaria. I tried calling and messaging. Nothing. That's why I was shocked five months later to find Chickymaria at a graduation. Her surprise to see me was quickly replaced by sadness, as her face told the story I was about to hear. Diana, our friend, had been sent to a prison in Managua, where they send prisoners to serve long-term sentences. My heart broke. Not Diana. Diana was never made to be a “prisoner.” None of these women were. Diana represents so many women who are longing to live a brand new life, but lack the connections and resources to take the first step.

For all these reasons and more, I am immensely grateful for Touch of Love International, and everyone who partners with this organization. I am equally thankful for the people willing to meet these women in their moment of readiness — to offer a hand up and out, proving that beauty can rise from ashes, future can be completely different from the past, and Jesus makes all things new!

I thank God that the ladies with whom I work can be one more group of lives touched by the tangible love that TOLI offers."


help build a brand new life. 

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 *Names have been changed to protect privacy.