12 nov. 2009

Building Community Alliance Brings Support for Children

One of Hogar’s most recent and exciting initiatives has been launching a new Agency Alliance in the city of Camoapa. The local government is, by law, required to provide 1 percent of the city budget to the local children and to the programs that support them. However, since May 1998 when this law was first created, the Comision de la Ninez y la Adolescencia (Commission for Children and Adolescence) has not seen any of that money. Nor has the Comision been functioning in any practical capacity. Feeling frustrated with disorganization and a lack of services provided to the people of Camoapa, we decided to take matters into our own local hands.
To start building capacity Hogar Luceros del Amanecer initiated a town wide meeting and invited all local organizations that work with children, adolescents and/or adults. Local representatives from the following organizations came to the meeting:

  • Los Pipitos, a national non-governmental agency of the families of handicapped children to increase their involvement and abilities within their communities.
  • Programa Amor, a subsidiary program of the Nicaraguan Governmental Agency, El Ministerio de la Familia, that works for children’s rights and protection.
  • Centro de Desarollo Infantil (CDI), a strictly local organization that provides daycare, early education schooling and nutrition to infants and children up to the age of 6 whose families are of limited resources.
  • Casa de la Mujer, a local chapter of a national program for women that provides training and social services, and especially assistance to those who have been victims of domestic violence.

To begin, all organizations provided brief presentations and raised individual issues of concern. One of the most salient matters raised was the lack of representation from other organizations that were invited, including the Mayor’s office. After some deliberation it was decided that there was a great need to make a personal visit to the Mayor in order to somehow demand local government support. We decided to write a letter and have all representatives sign it. We were consequently invited to meet with the Mayor, the Vice-Mayor and all local representatives in a large scale, public discussion that called the attention of all local news media. On our end, we invited all people in town interested in talking about children’s issues and children’s rights. About 40 people showed up to talk and offer support, and out of it, the Comision was reinstated. Though there is still a good amount of work to be done in order to maintain support, we have nonetheless gained momentum and garnered ideas for moving forward.

The Alliance has met on several occasions. Struggling, at times, to find a way to build on community strength, we have nevertheless come up with a list of activities that we believe will support the city and the most vulnerable children and families who live here. Some of these activities include the development of a girl’s softball league (never before seen in Camoapa,) organizing a visit (with the local radio and TV news channels) to a local barrio that is in desperate need of sanitation services, and planning free transportation one day a month for the elders of Camoapa to visit the local health center. We will continue to work for children’s rights and ongoing services to the vulnerable.

28 oct. 2009

Keeping a Family Together

The Nicaraguan Ministry of the Family (MiFamilia) has stated that a child is better off with a loving family than in institutional care, no matter how poor the family. We agree. In collaboration with MiFamilia, our team works as hard as we can to maintain this family structure by offering social services if it is within our capabilities. We have recently had the opportunity to organize a community in order to help a child remain with her family despite their tremendous lack of resources. Here is her story:

Our Social Worker received an urgent phone call from Don Augustin, the local representative from MiFamilia, asking her to use her contacts to place a three year old girl into a residential facility. “The whole family is starving to death,” he said. Our team went to meet the family and found an elderly couple, their daughter and the three year old grandchild living in a tiny shack. They were as he said: starving. The grandfather, with occasional help from his wife, had been supporting the family by collecting and selling firewood. He was now too sick to work. The daughter was disabled; she appeared to have poor coordination and could barely walk on her own. And because of this situation, the granddaughter was without the necessary food to develop appropriately.

Before sending this child off to an orphanage, we decided we should see what could be done to, literally, get the family back onto their feet. First, Don Augustin went to the farmers who live nearby. He knew a neighbor who agreed to drive the grandfather to the hospital. MiFamilia was able to give them a sack of soybeans to make soymilk. Another neighbor offered to bring them a hot lunch each day and teach the grandmother to make her own soymilk. Still a third family that we know is bringing them a bag of vegetables twice a week from their stand in the market.

We were also able to get the daughter to the Neurologist at the hospital in Juigalpa, although this took a little doing. The Doctor is there only once a week to see children in the handicapped program, but she agreed to see this young woman for free and on her own time. The Alcaldia (municipal government) provided a ride.

The young woman was diagnosed with a cerebral lesion, malnutrition and depression. She was given medication and prescribed hydroterapia, exercises done in water, and equinoterapia, horseback riding. There isn’t a swimming pool in Camoapa, but with good Nicaraguan ingenuity, one more neighbor volunteered the use of his pila, a large concrete tank used to store rainwater for his livestock. And yet another offered to come with a gentle horse for her riding lessons. One of our educators, Omar, is trained in physical therapy and is helping her with her exercises.

It is rare that we get to see such immediate results for our efforts. But in this case we were able to bring a neighborhood together, not just to help a malnourished family but also to save a child from the trauma of institutionalization.

6 oct. 2009

Donate to Nicaragua

Once or twice a year The Sunrise Foundation organizes a large shipment of donated items that leaves (by large truck) from a sister project in Buffalo, New York and arrives in Teustepe, Nicaragua a town about an hour outside of Camoapa, where our center is located. (See our recent Donations post from July.)

The time is here again! We are collecting items that will be shipped at the end of the year.

Our project works to help elementary aged children be successful in school. These children probably wouldn’t be completing elementary school, or even attending any school at all, without our program. Being involved with these children and their families and furthermore, being a significant organization within the community, has also led us to want to help other local efforts.

We will be taking our shipment from Northampton, MA to Buffalo, NY toward the end of October. Maybe you have some of these things you would like to send to a good home. Or maybe you know someone who does. Here is a list of some of the most needed items:
  • Baby clothes (ages 0 to 3 months)
  • Baby blankets for the mothers at the local branch of Casa Materna

  • Boys’ clothes sizes 6-14
  • Towels, sheets and blankets (for beds of any size)
  • Children’s’ backpacks
  • All types of school supplies (excluding books written in English)
  • Wheelchairs, walkers, physical therapy and occupational therapy equipment for children. We are working with a local branch of Los Pipitos, a national organization that helps children with disabilities
  • Girls’ softball equipment: balls, gloves, bats, catcher’s masks, helmets, etc.
  • Boxing equipment: gloves, punching bags (speed and heavy), hand wraps, etc.
  • Computers (no more than 5 years old)
If you have any of these items and would like to contribute, please email or call Lisa Hall at lisahallg@gmail.com / (413)268-9271. Please note: we have no way of collecting items from anywhere other than Western Massachusetts. If you live somewhere else and have something you would like to donate, the only way we can accept it is if you are willing to pay the shipping cost.


Thank you on behalf of Hogar Luceros del Amanecer and the children and families of Nicaragua.

25 ago. 2009

Around Hogar - just for fun!

First of all, our dog Lassie, who escaped from the premises just about two months ago, turned out to be pregnant from her escapades in Camoapa. Just last week she gave birth to ten pups! It has brought some excitement to Hogar and an unexpected, yet welcomed, technique for teaching the children how to care for small, vulnerable creatures.


















Here are some photos of a recent field trip up the nearby mountain, Mombacho. It was vacation week, and after a few days of working on the farm and doing other small projects around Hogar (including having fun, of course!) the trip was a much needed break from school. They spent time playing futbol, scrambling for the candy out of a pinata, exploring a bit of the local terrain and swimming in the river.



































The children at Hogar receive a well-rounded education. In addition to regular classes, they also receive cultural dance lessons, voice lessons, basket weaving instruction, health education and the older kids receive a mentorship in a selected vocation. The entire group of 22 also occasionally goes out to the farm to help Don Adrian plant vegetables, flowers or simply to maintain the grounds. Here are some of the older boys at work:


















And here are some of the others receiving basket weaving instruction:


















3 ago. 2009

Sewing classes as a time for sharing

With the big donation of sewing machines that we received some weeks ago, our sewing class at Hogar has really taken off! Several nights a week, some of the Mothers of our students come to learn sewing techniques as well as to enjoy the time engaging with each other, the children and the staff. Most recently they have been helping us with new dance costumes for the folkloric dance performances in which most of our children participate. It turns out that just the other day the kids were able to try out their new costumes for a show performed here at Hogar that actually made the local nightly news! The Mothers bring a wonderful feeling of love and connection to the center and we hope to continue to be able to offer this space for ongoing sharing, growing and support.




































Here are some of the new costumes in use:

21 jul. 2009

Donations

Twice a year Hogar Luceros receives a truckload of donated items from the United States. Most of the items come from Massachusetts and are shipped through a Church program in Buffalo, New York. We recently traveled to Teustepe (a town about an hour from Camoapa) to pick up the donated items, which included 2 bicycles, 10 sewing machines, 6 boxes of fabric and sewing notions, a box of baby clothes, 12 large early childhood development toys and some miscellaneous household items. The baby clothes were given to the Casa Materna here in Camoapa and the large toys were delivered to Centro de Desorrollo Infantil (CDI), which is a program that serves 140 children, ages 1 month to 6 years. Along with the toys, Hogar's Social Worker, Aleyda, provided a training on early childhood development strategies for the staff of CDI. She stressed the necessity to engage young children and offered techniques for encouraging all aspects of a child's development, including fine motor skills, gross motor skills, cognition, speech ability, sense perception, social affectiveness, auto-independence, etc. All in all, it was a beautiful day for the children of CDI who seemed delighted to have some new and interesting toys to play with (see the photos below for their smiling faces) because the reality is that CDI manages with very few resources and an insufficient amount of staff to provide the children what it is that they really need.




















































For information on how to make similar donations, please contact us at the email listed to the right.

15 jul. 2009

Nicaraguan Folkloric Dancing

For about two years now, a group of the boys and girls at Hogar have been taking Nicaraguan folkloric dance lessons. We have a local dancing instructor who volunteers his time several nights a week. The dance costumes that the children wear have also been made by local women and mothers of the children who come to Hogar regularly for sewing instruction. They have performed on various occasions around Camoapa over the past year or more. Here you can see them performing at the Women's Sandinista Congress in June.




















































3 jul. 2009

Bienvenido

We have created a new blog for Hogar Luceros del Amanecer, as a way for the rest of the world to see what we are doing here at Hogar. All of us here believe that our program is wonderful and we want to share our experiences with all of you! Life in Nicaragua is not easy, but as a "family" we hope to pass on what we know and care about so that you will know and care about it too. Happy reading!