04 February 2010
02 December 2009
As part of the MPI Nicaragua Child Sponsorship (CS) team, one of my roles is planning the quarterly field trips for participating children and caretakers in our program. The CS program is unique in that we provide opportunities for the children of La Chureca to leave behind the perennial smoke and trash of their neighborhood for an afternoon of recreation and relaxation with their families in a safe, clean place. Earlier this year in late July, we joined the former PDs in hosting a trip to El Salero, the Community Center land on which we run our programs in Kid’s English, Library, Baseball, and Soccer. The day was an undeniable success, allowing the children plenty of time and space to enjoy the great outdoors. I decided to repeat another popular field trip idea last Friday when we brought our children and their mothers to Laguna Xiloa. Last year’s group did the same with summer volunteers, and in light of the MPI Nicaragua 5-year anniversary celebration in which PDs of ages past reunited this weekend in Managua, I thought they might join us in the fun of hosting a trip to enjoy the waters of Xiloa.
Laguna Xiloa (pronounced "Hee-Low-Wah"), site of our field trip last Friday
We arrived at the side entrance of Chureca to meet the mothers and children at 12:45 on Friday, where we awaited the arrival of a big yellow school bus that would take us all to Xiloa, about a 30 minute drive away. Ian and I road up front, took attendance, and chatted with families on the way. When we got to the laguna, we were delighted to see the beautiful open space with little covered areas for benches and picnic-ing. Some of the children and mothers took to the water fairly quickly, while others preferred the grass and the shade. Some of the children had little bathing suits, others swam in their clothing, others half naked. Whatever their manner of taking to the water, the smiles and laughter were abundant. We waded right in with the kids...from the shallow end with the toddlers looking at the minnows rush by to the deeper areas with the more adventurous kids. Mothers swam and lounged in the cool water, where they stayed talking away the afternoon. We were already in the midst of playing with children and visiting with mothers when the PDs of the past arrived to join our festivities. Some of these PDs were acquainted with certain families from years past, and others were members of the board and staff who were able to visit and see one small aspect of what we do on Child Sponsorship. We were all able to learn from the afternoon at Xiloa, and we all had a grand time! I learned that children play tag in Spanish by saying “la landa” and that sometimes it just takes a handhold to get a timid child to enter the water. I found out that everyone needs time to just be - be with family, be refreshed, be safe and relaxed, be a kid, be a mother. On last Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, I gave thanks for the ability to join these mothers and children in an afternoon away from La Chureca. Reflecting on the day, I am thankful for the relationships I’ve been able to establish through Child Sponsorship, how I’ve seen these children begin to grow, and how the mothers have entrusted us with their health concerns and needs.
Snapshot of the craziness
To put this day into perspective, these children and their families do not have access to complete immersion in clean water. They bathe with buckets and hoses or in sinks (for the children who are small enough). Moreover, I oftentimes walk around Chureca and find recently washed children already dirty from playing outside without their shoes on or from the dust and smoke that fills the air. And although they live next to a huge lake (Lake Managua/Lake Xolotlán), the runoff from La Chureca has polluted it to the point that swimming and fishing these waters is highly dangerous. Many have fallen sick from mercury laden fish, and the pollution is visible as trash and sewage line the banks. The Laguna Xiloa, on the other hand, is a local getaway where the waters thrill and awe visitors. I say ‘awe’ because my limited experience has taught me that some Nicaraguan people I have met who have never had access to a pool or natural body of water (and thus have never learned how to swim) have a healthy fear of water.
Milton views the laguna
It was that healthy respect for water that helped us have a safe day at the laguna. And with a provided snack of fiber cookies, bananas, and juice, the day ended with many smiles and lots of wet clothing!
Jose Manual enjoys the water and a few extra bananas
From Nicaragua to America, Happy Thanksgiving!
25 November 2009
19 November 2009
Last week, we very very excited to have three volunteer consultants visit our clinic to analyze operations and ways to improve. Their presence allowed us to engage in stimulating conversation on the clinic, child sponsorship, and opportunities to strengthen the services the clinic offers to the community in La Chureca.
As far as team CS goes, we’ve had a few illnesses in the Manna House over the past few weeks, changing up how we’ve been doing our home visits. Thus, last week I visited families with Ian. It was great to have his perspective as we checked in with various community members. Ian, who is in charge of fundraising, normally has a very autonomous position within our team, allowing him to visit with various community partners while the rest of us home visit. He has formed strong relationships with many of the children through his visits to the local school, Esperanza, where he also visits with school leaders to coordinate aspects of our work with what is going on in the school. An unexpected highlight of walking around with Ian last week was the discovery of the birth of a litter of puppies at Mariana’s house. The new pups crawled playfully about as we visited with Mariana’s mother and her three younger sisters. One of our hopes for the future of the program is that we can begin to enter siblings of current children into our program; we believe that by targeting siblings of current participants, we can see substantial growth for families in La Chureca.
Yesterday, our weekly charla at 9am heralded some exciting announcements. For one, our next Milk Day will be the following week, Tuesday and Wednesday. We were excited by the fact that all of the mothers have had better attendance overall during the last month of charlas and will be able to benefit fully from the upcoming Milk Day. Also, I announced the upcoming “field trip” we will be taking the children on next week the day after Thanksgiving. With a Nicaragua Program Director reunion to take place over the holiday weekend, we will all be taking the families in our program to a nearby laguna to relax and play in the cool water. The charla yesterday concerned “Community Improvement” and “Hygiene” and was given by Esmerelda, the nurse, using posters from the Ministry of Education. She spoke upon house clean and hygiene as ways to prevent disease, and the mothers actively commented throughout the charla.
Stay tuned for more updates...and MILK DAY!
09 November 2009
28 October 2009
27 October 2009
Amelia and I were back to our routine of Tuesdays - Right Side, Thursdays - Left Side, and thus, we walked around the right side of the clinic today. We visited almost all of the 13 families living along our route, briefly checking in with some and staying longer at other houses, informing them of the upcoming Milk Day (tomorrow!) and inquiring about some of their sketchy attendance in recent charlas. Accountability in this area is necessary, and today we were surprised by some of the reasons the Mothers could not make it to the charlas during the past month: a necessary trip to get an identification card, etc.
Walking around today, I learned at least two new words: churequear, meaning to work in La Chureca, and the phrase “Llevame en tuto” - “Carry me on your shoulders!” One of the most entertaining (and dirty) parts of the family visits are getting to see some of the children who are out playing in the neighborhood. Often times, this can be an opportunity to get to know new families and potential children for our malnourishment program. Today, we met a delightful little boy living near some of the other children in our program. His bright smile and enthusiasm were traits I see often in the children living in La Chureca, and they are just one more reminder of what this place is, a neighborhood and a home, in addition to being a municipal dump. Walking around, it is surreal to see children playing in the dirt roads right next to a huge pile of trash. For them, it’s home. As a foreigner, it’s not recommended that I stay in La Chureca for more than four hours. FOUR hours. But for the dwellers of La Chureca, this is life. Visiting families, I get a glimpse into life in the La Chureca neighborhood. The harsh realities fade as I laugh with the mothers and toss their children into my arms, but they are never far away due to the sickness, the dirt, and the trash. We hope that by developing our program further, we can help provide for one of the most fundamental needs: the need for food and nutrition.
Tomorrow’s charla will highlight Dengue and H1N1. Stay tuned for more updates as Milk Day is this Wednesday and Thursday. Also, with visiting pediatricians in town, all of the children will be receiving check-ups from two very kind-hearted US doctors. For that, we are very thankful and excited.