Remembering Peder Kolind

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I met Peder Kolind in November 2006 during a trip to Nicaragua to report on the Presidential elections. It was my first trip there and I was pretty much lost until Peder graciously invited me to dinner in the building on Calle Atravesada where he had his museum of pre-colombian ceramics.

I knew little about him until his Danish guests produced an article from a Danish magazine naming him Denmark’s Bill Gates for his humanitarian work. The next evening I visited his  program at Carita Feliz and saw first-hand the staggering commitment he had made to helping thousands of abandoned street kids in Granada.

Subsequently my wife, Julie, and I visited at least once a year, always bringing potential donors in the expectation that they would help various non-profits in Granada.

Every trip was characterized by a visit to Carita Feliz and usually an invitation to his home where he would offer delicious wine and, in essence, give us the “inside” history of Nicaragua. I would be frantically taking notes because Peder was much more than just a man with a large and successful charitable program. He cared deeply about Nicaragua, its politics and future. In addition to his many projects –  the preservation of ceramics in his museum, his sports center for young athletes, the renovation of the historic Hotel La Bocona or the future of the young people he assisted – he was like an encyclopedia in terms of his knowledge of what was really happening in the country. And his expectations were high.

Carita Feliz, for example, was more than just an evening meal. It was an opportunity to learn about punctuality; if you didn’t show up at 6, you’d go hungry. It was a way of learning how to present yourself in public via the dance and singing performances that always preceded the evening meal. Gaining self -confidence was always one of his key goals for these young people.

Peder was an extraordinarily successful businessman, introducing the mass marketing model to the electronic security industry beginning in the ’80s. In turn, however, he poured hundreds of thousands of dollars of his earnings into his programs in Granada. And he did it his way, as he always made clear.

As his very close friend, the Belgian painter, Dirk DeBruycker, just said to me, “He was a man of projects, moving from one to the next with incredible speed and resources. He ran his charities like a CEO of a major corporation, very systematic and efficient.” In addition, “His ability to approach each person the same way, whether banker, minister, fruit vendor or street sweeper was amazing. He really was an optimist and, in essence, a very good man.”

How often we would see him striding through the center of Granada with his white shirt, short pants and his Dalmatian, living each day “ as if it was his last day,” as he used to say to Dirk.

He loved Nicaragua and the Nicaraguan people and was always looking for ways to help. This unique, caring man will be deeply missed.

Morgan Smith from New Mexico has been traveling to Nicaragua since 2006 and has led more than ten humanitarian delegations in an effort to help programs in Granada and Estelí. He can be reached at Morgan-smith@comcast.net.

Editor’s note:Peder Kolind was always a generous and loyal friend to The Nicaragua Dispatch, and never for selfish reasons. He will be missed.

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