Beginning on October 22, 1998, Hurricane Mitch dropped historic amounts of rainfall in Honduras and Nicaragua before dissipating on November 5. Deaths due to catastrophic flooding made it the second deadliest Atlantic hurricane in history. Two million people in Nicaragua (40% of the population) were directly affected by the hurricane. Throughout the entire country, the hurricane left between 500,000 and 800,000 homeless.

Operation USA was a major responder to Hurricane Mitch throughout its impact area (Nicaragua, Honduras and El Salvador). After an initial airlift of medical and shelter supplies, Operation USA began a series of projects to restore people’s lives. Through this work, Santa Rosa was discovered—a small village of about 70 families near Nicaragua’s frontier with Honduras, originally set up in 1984 as a resettlement camp to move villagers out of a war zone. Santa Rosa had always functioned at a bare subsistence level—and Mitch nearly destroyed the village.

Our approach in Santa Rosa was to first guarantee the very survival of Santa Rosa’s residents by providing them with food, shelter, access to water and medical assistance. In the years which followed, Operation USA built a village health clinic, a common kitchen, a pre-school, an irrigation system, a micro-hydropower electrical system, a connection to the national power grid, a library, a computer training center, a recreational park and several outbuildings used by the villagers to house a series of microcredit projects.

Operation USA has made a long-term commitment to the village of Santa Rosa, which, over the years, has been transformed from a disaster site to a healthy, productive, self-sustaining community.

Operation USA used the Santa Rosa development model to assist the village of Kalladi, Sri Lanka recover and regain its livelihood after the devastation of the December 2004 tsunami. These village projects are two of Operation USA’s largest long-term development projects.