Report on visit, January 2020.
Shortly after Maggie and Chris returned from Nicaragua in 2018 the situation there changed dramatically. I had intended going in January 2019 but things were still much too tense and potentially dangerous so I delayed my visit to the projects until January 2020. I was accompanied by a good friend, Mandy Nash, who has supported the Fund for many years and who was very interested to see things at first hand.
Maggie’s account of their visit in 2018 contains all the information needed about the projects. I will give my personal reactions to the situations as I experienced them this year.
Leon, our base, is very much quieter than it was, the streets are empty at night and people are wary of discussing issues in public. Many businesses have closed. We were fortunate to have a good friend who drove us to all the projects and who generally kept an eye on us!
First visit – to los Quinchos in San Marcos. There is a big road construction going on outside Leon as a new Prison is being built nearby. The road to San Marcos takes us up into the hills though El Crucero, it is much cooler here than in Leon. We find the finca and Lourdes, our contact in los Quinchos, comes to meet us, a huge smile on her face.What is really delightful is that Alberto, the Quincho we’ve known for a good few years, has graduated with his social science degree and now has a very responsible job in the organisation. This is a real achievement for him and for the organisation.
It’s four years since I’ve been there, the farm itself has not changed, cows for milk, new calves, chickens for eggs, ducks, rabbits for cuddling and pigs for – eating, I suppose. The boys all have duty rotas. It’s the boys themselves who have changed, they have all been drug users and have gone through the filter house before coming to the finca where they get a lot of therapy from the staff. We meet the resident psychologist , a young woman who has a real rapport with the boys.
The lads are likeable, desperate for a hug, the usual cheeky chappy, in your face the whole time. They are proud of where they are and what they are doing, we can understand that life here on the farm must be so good compared to their earlier lives. These are the boys who have not been able to go to families for the holidays – by next week there will be twenty-five of them. Enough for two football teams! They are pleased to be in local leagues.
The girls in La Yahoska are just as welcoming, again most are on holiday but the ones here are friendly and polite, we see their rooms which are much as before. The girls can stay here until they are sixteen and as well as school they get training in skills for life and work. These girls have often been abused sexually at home, often by a relative. They take to the streets and that’s where many of them would stay if it wasn’t for organisations like los Quinchos.
It has been so good to meet up again not only with the kids but also with the staff who have worked with this organisation for a long time and in increasingly difficult circumstances. Our main contribution here is to pay the wages of the nurse and the cost of medical supplies for two of the centres. We are shown the infirmaries. I know from the past that the children have many psychological problems, not the least nightmares. Hopefully with the help they get here they will make something of their lives and will avoid addiction and prostitution.
Second visit – to meet up with Julio Moreno at the Colectivo de Muralistas David Alfaro Siquieros at the Casa de Cultura in Esteli, nearly four hours from Leon. It’s a lovely if long drive, strange to see rice growing on one side of the road and sugar cane on the other side.
Julio is continuing to run classes for children and the money we give him buys art materials, he has been able to buy tables for the workrooms with money sent to him last year. Many of the murals he has worked on which have been such a joy to see in Esteli have been defaced but with his group he is creating new ones. It is always a pleasure to see him, this time we meet his wife and two daughters.
Third visit – Cecamo – the Centro de Capacitacion de la Mujer Obrera, the group which helps abused women to seek justice against their abusers and to regain confidence and self-esteem. The group uses psychologists to help victims to stand up for themselves in the very macho country. The Police here do not want to be involved in what they see as domestic situations and judges are dismissive. We see some dreadful photos of injured victims and are glad to hand over a small amount to help with administrative costs, $500 can go a long way here. The women in the office give us such a warm welcome. Things have been increasingly difficult for them, they always were but it’s even worse now.
Fourth visit – to El Barrilete in Leon.This centre is the pre-school for the district which is a disadvantaged barrio. About one hundred small children attend this centre during term time and many of them stay on for after school activities. The ministry of Education pays for one teacher, clearly inadequate. Today there are about twenty children here, most of whom are staying here overnight – we pay the wages of the mama sustituta who is on duty here at night. The place doesn’t seem to have changed much, there are plans to put all the dormitories in one building, for security. they had a lot of problems while the protests were going on and the yard in front may be being used as a dealing patch.The kitchen has been moved too, to a small building just big enough for the cook, Dennis, to make meals for the children.
I think that we could help more at this centre if the person in charge was more accountable and could provide us with more information about plans and costs.
I was not able to make contact with Aspanicasole this time.
The continuing generosity of our supporters is very heartwarming and is much appreciated by our friends in Nicaragua. Many donors are now making regular contributions and this is very helpful. If you would like to make contributions in this way please go to the ‘Donate” section of this web-site.
Kate SaundersFebruary 2020