Monday, January 26, 2009

finding joy in beaches and basura (trash!)

As a reward for studying hard and acing their end-of-semester tests in December, Maddie and I organized a trip to the beach for our respective intermediate and advanced English classes. This morning we filled up two large micro-vans with gringos and Nicas and started the hour-long trek down pothole ridden highways and bumpy dirt roads. The weather couldn't have been more perfect or the water more refreshing. Norman and Gabriel jammed out on the guitar. Dayana and Fabiola collected nearly a hundred sand dollars. The boys played sand soccer and the girls tossed the Frisbee around in the ocean. Emilio was buried in the sand and had his body shaped into a beautiful sirena (mermaid). Adriana, Gelme, Elena and Olga had a sand and water splashing fight. I learned that Mercedes' favorite song is "Total Eclipse of the Heart" and more about Olga's life as an aspiring attorney. All in all the day was wonderful and injury free, phew! Getting to know our neighboring Nica community via our English program has been a HUGE blessing thus far and I'm excited to deepen these friendships in the upcoming months.

Last week our Child Sponsorship team had a long overdue meeting with the La Chureca clinic staff and Ministry of Health officials to sort out some long standing questions and concerns. We thankfully made some headway and plans but continue to be frustrated by miscommunication that seems to plague our program. But wait, good news… we're graduating a number of children who have reached and maintained healthy weight, woohoo! Thus, we'll have ample room to enter more needy children in the upcoming months. I'm saddened to see a number of my favorite children and mothers go – familiar faces will be exchanged for new families and stories once again – but overjoyed that some of the children have grown and have some semblance of 'healthy bodies' amidst such a toxic environment.

Working in La Chureca has been by far the most challenging and shocking, yet joyful and rewarding, experience that I have had thus far in Nicaragua. It's one of those "you can't understand 'til you see it" kind of places, and even then you may not believe it exists. I feel compelled to overcome these insufficiencies and somehow share this incredible place with you. Here is a trailer for a short film being made about Día de Luz, a day long concert and celebration sponsored by 'Love, Light and Melody' in La Chureca. The film documents last year's event, which is when I was first exposed to La Chureca while on a spring break trip with the Nicaraguan Orphan Fund. Please check out the video and other pictures on this website to get a fuller picture of this place I have grown to know and love.

Peace, Christina

Sunday, January 18, 2009

back where we belong

Manna PDs returned to Nicaragua earlier this week, eager to begin another six months of sudor and amor. We’ve been well-fed, well-cleaned (with hot water!), and well-Christmas-ed up – totally ready for Nica life to begin once again…

And it’s now going in full force! We’ve been joined by two new PDs, Kyle and Jed-Josh (see pic below) and the ten of us have been busy preparing for programs, cleaning the house, taking rides on our newly-fixed motorcycle (thank you, Kyle!), and trying to keep our psycho male dog from impregnanting his mother. (We think a litter of incest puppies is on the way…)

Two days after our own arrival, we received a group of occupational therapists from Worcester State University, two professors and four students. After a restful weekend at beautiful Laguna de Apoyo (a gorgeous crater lake just outside Managua), these visitors began work at a school for children with disabilities and a special needs orphanage. While these women spent the week pouring their hearts into therapy for numerous children with both physical and emotional delays, Manna PDs had the privilege of serving them through transportation and interpretation.

And it truly was a privilege. In driving around Managua and attempting to translate between gringo and Nica, my eyes were opened to a population that is often overlooked and mistreated. Because special needs children require such specialized attention and expensive care, many developing nations simply do not have the resources or knowledge necessary for proper growth.

Yet both the school and the orphanage handle these children with amazing love. Sitting in a cement “playpen” with five deaf, autistic, or downs toddlers, tears streaming down my cheeks, I couldn’t help thinking about how different their situations would be had they been born into the prosperity of the United States. It’s a sad truth indeed. But more importantly, I was blown away by the daily enthusiasm of these babies’ caregivers and the way that these Nicaraguan women exude such a deep gentleness and grace. While money and training are undeniably essential, a mother’s love (and the orphans do call these women “mamá”) is powerful.

Who knows what the next six months will hold?! But we’re thrilled to be back home where we belong.