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Neglected Villagers Benefit From Sacrifice – Donation will aid Nicaraguans

Anabelle de Gale, adegale@herald.com

Published Saturday, March 17, 2001 in the Miami Herald

She wrote letters, made hundreds of calls and knocked on doors.

It wasn’t enough.

The night before the deadline to collect the money for a humanitarian relief mission to Nicaragua, Janet Ray Weininger was thousands of dollars short.

She lay in bed, trying to concentrate on the Spanish book she was studying.  Somewhere between the conjugation of ir and the explanation of irregular verb tenses, it hit.

“My engagement ring,” she thought.  “I could sell it.”

She did.

The $1,500 she got from the one-carat diamond, plus about $4,500 she borrowed, will cover most of the distribution costs for 72 pallets of donations bound for the northern mountains of Nicaragua.  The shipment left the homestead Air Reserve Base at 3 p.m. Friday aboard Black Jack, a C-5 belonging to the Stewart Air National Guard in New York.

A crew of 13 New Yorkers arrived in Homestead on Friday morning and later flew the 247-foot plane three hours and five minutes to Honduras.  From there, the supplies will be shipped to Nicaragua by truck.

“This is what it’s all about – knowing you’re making a difference,” said Jeffrey Sheeny, the mission’s crew chief.

Weininger is the president of Wings of Valor, an organization founded to help rebuild lives torn apart by war, poverty and natural disaster.  During the past year, Wings of Valor collected school supplies, hygiene products, clothes and more form local businesses, women’s groups and residents.

It’s a great humanitarian effort,” said Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who joined Weininger at the air reserve base Friday.  “She’s doing what the government is supposed to do, but hasn’t been able to.  Janet’s filled in those gaps.”

After the aid arrives in Honduras, it will travel 14 hours in 14 trucks before having to trade the vehicles for mules.  The trek from there will take about seven hours.  Wings of Valor, with the help of the Organization of American States, then will take the donations into remote villages in the northern mountains of Nicaraguan – an area of harsh terrain, security risks and land mines.

The total cost of distribution, including drivers, the truck rentals and dozens of mules, is about $7,000.  Of that, $1,000 was paid for by the Early Childhood Initiative Foundation.  The rest came from personal loans and Weininger’s diamond ring.

What does her husband think?

“I haven’t told him yet,” Weininger said. 

A self-dubbed gringa, Weininger is the daughter of an American pilot shot down in down during the Bay of Pigs Invasion in 1961.

For years, she rallied to recover her father’s body, which had been put on display by Fidel Castro.  After succeeding, she turned her efforts to bringing home the two pilots buried in Nicaragua’s Jinotega province.

Along with the son of one of the dead pilots, Weininger hiked into the woods of Jinotega and located the crash site near the town of San José de Bocay.

She fell in love with the people, she said, and has since taken up their cause. 

“They’re desolate,” Weininger said.  “When I was there, I realized the local people had lived and fought a war and now they were forgotten.  

 

  

 

Wings of Valor, Inc.
P.O. Box 56-2801
Miami, Florida 33256-2801
Phone: (305) 255-8892 Fax: (305) 232-9933

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