Monday, August 27, 2012

Pen Pals!

One of my lovely friends, Colleen, had a wonderful idea to start a pen-pal project with students from Tapestry Charter School in Buffalo, NY and students from a local school in El Sauce. When she returned from a month-long stay in the beautiful town of El Sauce, she was (and still is!) on fire for all things Nicaragua, especially El Sauce.

One of her brilliant ideas was to get youth from the US connected to youth from El Sauce, get them to develop a relationship and become as excited as she is about El Sauce so that once they are a bit older, they can come to El Sauce and fall even more in love. One tangible way to do this was to start a pen-pal project with middle-school aged children; how exciting would it be for these kids to receive a hand-written letter from a child in another country?!

In May of this year, she coordinated with a Spanish class at Tapestry school, where one of her grandchildren attends school, and got them to write letters to their new friends in El Sauce, introducing themselves, their community, and their school and asking questions to learn about the lives of students in El Sauce. She sent these letters through the mail to a Peace Corps volunteer who is stationed in El Sauce; believe it or not, these letters JUST arrived to the volunteer! I should also mention that they were delivered to Managua, not El Sauce directly. You see, El Sauce doesn't have a mail system! So, all mail has to go to Managua or another large city.

This week, I was able to get the letters from Rachel, the Peace Corps volunteer. Today, I had the wonderful opportunity to visit two 7th grade classes at Instituto Jonathan Gonzalez, the local public high school in El Sauce, and explain this project to them. The students were so enthusiastic! I had way more volunteers than I had letters to hand out - what a wonderful problem to have, no? They couldn't wait to read the letters and write a response to their new pen pals! Hopefully we will be able to expand the project to include more students in the near future!
Class 1 receiving their letters!
Class 2 - they were outside working in the school garden when we delivered the letters!

 We will be sending the letters back to Buffalo in September, just in time for the start of a new school year in the US! I can only imagine how excited the students at Tapestry will be to receive their first letter from a student in El Sauce! We're hoping to be able to maintain the communication and keep the letters going so the kids can develop relationships with their pen pals...and who knows what might happen in the future?!

Friday, August 24, 2012

12 Year-olds and Machetes?

Would you trust a 12 year old with a machete? If you live in Nicaragua, the answer is YES! Proof? When I visited the local high school this morning, Instituto Jonathan Gonzalez, one of the 7th grade classes was working on preparing the school huerta, or garden. All classes are expected to complete community service about once per week - sometimes they go out into the community and clean up garbage, for example.

This particular day, the students were working on the huerta, preparing the earth for planting. One step of this process meant cutting the monte, or all of the weeds that were growing. And what is the easiest way to accomplish this task? Clearly with a machete! And who is expected to do this? The students, of course. Take a look:

Other students were digging holes:

If I´m not mistaken, these girls are planting something:

So many students! The principal told us that each of the four 7th grade (primer año) classes has about 32 students!

I can't wait to see what it is that they're going to plant and grow in the huerta! And in the meantime, I will keep my distance from those 12 year olds bearing machetes...not that I don't trust them. In fact, I'm sure they are much safer in their hands than in mine!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Where in the world is Ashley Sofia?

So, I haven't posted in a LONG time. I am so sorry, dear readers. You see, things got a bit crazy in Nicaragua. My friend's mom (my host mom), Matilde, ended up in the hospital with cancer suddenly.This sent the family into shock and changed family life and daily life 180 degrees, as I'm sure you can imagine. As the family is a "normal" Nicaraguan family, they unfortunately didn't have the funds to take her to be cared for at a private hospital, meaning she had to go to the public hospital in Leon.

As Nicaragua is a developing country with free public health (and the second poorest country in the western hemisphere), the care isn't exactly the best. This meant that someone from the family had to be in the hospital 24/7 with her - either in her room or at least in the hospital. And when I say they had to be there 24/7, I'm not exaggerating even one bit. The family had to come up with a sort of schedule to figure out who would be able to stay with her each day to make sure she was getting the best care possible.

As Martha had to travel to Leon often to be with her mother in the hospital, I was able to step in and help out the family by staying with Martha's kids, caring for them, taking them to class, helping them with homework, feeding them, and everything in between. One thing I can say for sure is that I have a whole new appreciation for parents and their role in raising their children! I also realized that I love those kids like crazy and that even when things get difficult, you do what you have to do because you love them and want the best for them.

Doña Matilde (Martha's mom/my host mom) put up an incredible fight against the cancer and all of the infections and other complications that presented themselves during her time in the hospital. Apparently, her tumor had been growing for 5 years, and by the time they found it, it was too late to cure her and was just a matter of time. She is an amazingly strong woman, though, and she fought hard and always had hope that she would get better, or at least well enough to come back to her home to be with her family. Her whole family rallied around her and did everything they possibly could to support her and help her to get better, and they also had an incredible amount of hope and faith that God was with them and would not desert them.

Unfortunately, her condition was quite unstable due to a number of complications, between infections, heart issues, respiratory issues, and on and on. It seemed like as soon as they were able to stabilize her and she had a good day or two, something would happen and she would be in an extremely risky state again, and the doctors and family would do everything they could to try to stabilize her again. The family even had to go searching for medicine that the hospital in Leon didn´t have - for example, there was one strong antibiotic that she needed to combat an infection, and the only place they could find this medicine in the entire country was in a hospital in Managua.

Despite all of the actions of all of the doctors and the family who cared for her and everyone who was praying for her, Doña Matilde passed away on Monday, July 9th. At that point in time, I was actually in the US - I went home to visit, see family and friends, and to work at the Migrant Education Summer School I have worked at for 3 years now. The family understandably was crushed by her passing, and still are dealing with the effects. One comfort is knowing that Doña Matilde is no longer suffering, because she did suffer immensely during her time in the hospital, even though she wouldn't complain about anything.

Now, I am back in El Sauce. I returned to help carry out a project that Martha and I have been planning for months, which I will write about in future posts, and to continue working on projects that we are developing. Things are quite different, and Doña Matilde's presence is missed every day. It's funny how many insignificant things remind a person of someone who is no longer with us. One thing is for sure: she was a well-loved woman who fought every day for her family, her town, and her country. El Sauce, Nicaragua, the WORLD has lost an incredible woman, and it is my hope to continue her work in the community that she loved so much, alongside her daughter who also desires to carry on her mother's legacy.