As the death toll continues to rise in Nicaragua where so many of her family members reside, Azucena Orozco, senior journalism & new media major and broadcast director for Lancer Media Group, realized she could not just sit by and do nothing.
What started as controversial social security reforms in Nicaragua quickly escalated from peaceful protests to more than 300 civilian deaths since mid-April, according to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
Large street protests suddenly became violent and repressive toward the protestors. Civilians were shot dead in the streets of the capital, Managua, as Nicaraguan residents broadcast the chaos on Facebook Live.
Citizens have started to call for President Daniel Ortega’s early resignation and justice for the victims, but police continue to instill fear in the country’s residents.
The same day the first fatalities were reported April 19, several media outlets were reportedly taken off the air by the government. Additionally, one journalist was killed while reporting the protests over Facebook Live.
Orozco knew of the violent protests and government pushback from her family in Nicaragua but said she realized this unrest was not being reported — especially not in English.
“When the massacres started, all of the news being delivered was in Spanish,” Orozco said. “I wanted more people to find out what was happening, why it was happening and who was making it happen.”
This is when the idea to begin Change Nicaragua, a non-profit dedicated to raising awareness, started to form.
However, Nicaragua is a small country and since her family has been involved with politics there, Orozco said she was scared her family would be targeted if she pursued helping Nicaraguan citizens.
It was not until she reached out to another non-profit dedicated to raising awareness about the unstable situation and realized it was run by a college student just like her that she said she knew she had to help.
As a broadcast journalism student, Orozco channeled her skills and passions to create a Facebook page and a video with pictures and clips from the violent protests.
“Our goal was to first get the word out — to show the world what was going on,” Orozco said. “What’s happening right now cannot go unseen. I wanted to raise awareness. Nicaragua can sometimes seem hopeless. How do you stop a massacre in your country when it’s the government that’s killing its own people? I know there is hope though.”
Within 24 hours of posting the video, it had more than 10,000 views. Currently, the video has reached more than half a million views.
“When I saw this success, I wanted to do more,” Orozco said
Change Nicaragua expanded its efforts from there and began raising money by hosting traditional Nicaraguan dinners in America and sending the donations to universities in Nicaragua. Orozco also designed a T-shirt she wears to every event which she now sells.
From representing Nicaragua in several international beauty pageants to doing charity work, Orozco said she always had been proud to be Nicaraguan and will continue the work she has started.
“It’s definitely hard being a senior and broadcast director, plus working, but I am passionate about this,” Orozco said. “I love Nicaragua. I feel so blessed to be Nicaraguan-American. I’ve always felt that way since I was a little girl. I’ve worn the name of Nicaragua across my chest in so many international beauty pageants and I’ve done so much charity work for Nicaragua as a title holder but this is unlike anything I’ve ever done.”
Orozco’s goal is to continue to expand Change Nicaragua’s efforts through Facebook and Instagram.
“To me, this project means determination,” Orozco said. “Determination to put an end to the violence.”
Change Nicaragua video by Azucena Orozco.