I am doubled over, hair flipped in my face with four young Nicaraguan boys picking through my hair reassuring me in a spattering of Spanish words that I am no longer covered in ‘flying spiders.’ It as this moment I can’t help but wonder: What, exactly, have I gotten myself into?
Today was dedicated entirely to the Los Quinchos organization. We started by meeting with Carlos Vidal, its founder. He spoke of a need for an organization to serve the street children of Nicaragua who suffer first and foremost with the implications of abuse, neglect, and poverty. It was impressive seeing the hard work this man has done to create a safe haven for children who lack stability. The organization provided beds, meals, classes, and additional resources that allowed the children to flourish. Carlos was once a street child himself and explained the affect of large economic policies and wars on society’s most vulnerable: impoverished children. was adamant about the fact that money should not be invested in war, but for the future, in children. He spoke of an epidemic that is hitting Nicaragua: children sniffing a dangerous mix of highly toxic glue (used to construct shoes) and a gasoline derivative. In the past week alone, 6 children have died due to complications from this dangerous behavior. What would compel any child to do this? Not so much for the high, but children feel forced to do this out of hunger. Instead of going to sleep hungry, they sniff glue so that they may pass out and not have another sleepless night from hunger. In some cases though, it does serve as an escape from the hard life on the streets. Carlos was sure to clarify that children fall into two categories: children in the street and children of the street. Those in the street may have a roof over their head whereas those of the street do not. In either instance, many children who end up at Los Quinchos have suffered abuse in some form. With all this despair, Los Quinchos is a beacon of hope for children to come and find a home.
With shared activities and events the boys and girls spend much time together, but there is a separation of locations where the children sleep and eat. We started off by visiting the girls who greeted us at the gate with hugs and kisses, an excellent welcome! Each of us received a personalized tour from a new friend. The girls excitedly showed us their rooms, friends, work, and ,as an unexpected surprise, their tiny puppies. Although we did not all speak the same language, dance was the universal way to build a friendship fast. We laughed, moved, and sang loudly enjoying ourselves. The girls showed us their dances and we came prepared with a song to show. It was hard to exactly connect these smiling bubbly girls with the harsh lives that they once led. All too soon we left our new friends to see their brothers, cousins, and buddies at the boys’ farm.
While the girls’ location served as primarily rooms, a common huge open space, and a large kitchen, the boys’ farm was huge with cows, pigs, chickens, rabbits, and a vegetable garden. There was a friendly challenging of a soccer game, but first the boys wanted to show us their space. Their idea of a tour included a trip into some acreage of wood, We followed through wire fences, some over barbed wire and if these weren’t signs that we were getting into some wild land, I don’t know what else would be. The boys took us by the hand, stopping to pick treats for us (what the English translation is, pretty much beyond me; will my stomach hurt tomorrow? I am not sure if Montezuma will enact his revenge on us or not). We were walking, stopping, talking, enjoying the sun and our company. Before I knew it I heard shouts of ‘RUN. GET THE HELL OUT OF HERE.’ My feet carried despite not knowing the perceived threat with tons of boys and Pilots alike running, screaming, and scrambling to escape. It was not until we stopped I saw them on Ellen, Triska, Jordan, Kyle, Becca, and Laura’s back (probably more, it was difficult to tell in all the haste). They were black ‘flying spiders’ that would jump, attach to any and all clothing to bite. Painful bites, let me tell you. The boys helped, using practiced moves to hit the bugs off of us. Some of us girls were ‘lucky’ enough to have several of these bugs all in our hair. I could not be more grateful for the tiny hands examining my clothes and hair to make sure my companions and I were safe. It was an experience to say the least.
Our final visit was to the house of an “ex-Qunicho”, or a man who once lived in the boy’s farm himself. He is now an art teacher for the children in order to give back to the community that raised him. We were lucky enough to see some of his beautiful art and even purchase a few paintings to bring back home. Our evening ended at an Italian restaurant (who would have guessed we’d be eating lasagna in Nicaragua?!) that benefits the street children’s projects. In fact, the chicken we ate had come from the same coop we saw this afternoon at the boy’s farm. As we waited several hours for our meal to be served, our evening started with some wonderful dancing to the music of a live Nicaraguan band. Our group really knows how to get moving alongside some of the locals. All are now exhausted and we look forward to a good night’s sleep and an event-filled day tomorrow in the rural community of La Curva. Buenas noches!
-Sarah with lots of Kevin’s help