As Gilma and I began the long task of numbering items to sell at the fundraiser, 2 little girls wandered by as their mother went to English class. They saw us labeling each toy, and asked if they could help. A few minutes later, 2 young boys walked by, looking for a way to pass the time before their afternoon classes at school, and asked to help us as well. The job took us 3 hours when it would have taken Gilma and I the entire day, and the kids wanted to contribute their time in support of the fundraiser. We were very appreciative of their help, and we had no problem paying in cookies! :)-Erika C.
This group of youth has been studying about environmental stewardship as well as acting, and the play is about birds and other wildlife that are being threatened. They will perform at the Center’s annual fundraiser in two weeks, so let’s wish them the best of luck!
I have had an amazing first few days back in Nicaragua after my month long hiatus to Minnesota, for a visit and to clear up some medical issues. It felt like an eternity, but I came back to realize that life here does not skip a beat. I was welcomed right back into my role at the Center, and the staff was incredibly welcoming. It felt great to come back to the English class feeling like I had just left yesterday, and everyone has been buzzing around preparing for the annual fundraiser, which will be at the end of the month. I am so overwhelmed with gratitude for all of the love and support that I received while I was gone from my community here, and it reminded me that I am back to where I need to be.
We are also blessed to have a new camera here, so I have been busy learning how to use it! enjoy a few shots of life at the center this week. Abrazos!
Name: Arlen Patricia Lopez Gutierrez
Birthday: October 9th
Neighborhood: Batahola Sur
Job Title: Librarian
Time working in the Center: 3 months (although previously worked here 6 years and has now returned)
A Little Information About Me:
I live with my mom, my daughter and my two nephews. My daughter is 13 years old and is studying in secondary school. After work every day I go to night class since I’m working on a degree in accounting. In my free time I like to dance, sing, make handicrafts and read literature. The farthest place I have traveled is to Guatemala with Father Angel’s choir. If I could travel anywhere I would love to go to Brazil. It’s the one country that has always fascinated me.
How I Arrived at the Center:
I grew up coming to the Center because my mom was part of the original group of women who gathered to form the Center with Sister Margarita in the 80’s. After that she was also the professor of beauty class and later on handicrafts class. My brother and I participated in classes since we were young such as painting, dance and music. I was part of the choir and played the french horn in the orchestra. I was also a scholarship student from about fourth grade up until my first year of college. In those days we did about every social service imaginable, including cleaning bathrooms, helping in the cafeteria, teaching basic education to adults and my favorite which was helping in the library.
The most gratifying part about my work is being able to work with young people. When you work with adolescents you can really see them change and form their character throughout their time at the Center. I also like that we create a space that allows children with economic needs to come and learn. When I was a kid I never would have imagined myself working with young people, let alone in charge and organizing a program like this. But, thanks to my own formation here at the Center, here I am.
Growing up in small-town rural Iowa, I always expected that living in a big city meant that you don’t know very many people. But here, that is actually the contrary. In fact one of the great things I’ve learned while living in Nicaragua, is that it’s a pretty small world. When you get to know someone, you’re bound have some shared friend or at least acquaintance. And once you’ve started making a web of connections, it only goes on expanding more and more the longer you spend time here. One example of this small and connected world of Nicaragua happened last month when I realized that our Formation Coordinator at the Center, Sonia Olivares, had met and gotten to know my host mom from my study abroad trip two years ago. My host mom’s name is Lola Esquivel, a strong leader and member of a women’s cooperative in the rural community of Santa Julia. With this community only being about a 45 minute bus ride out of Managua, we decided to plan a trip to visit Santa Julia with the idea of providing a service to those in the community, especially the women from the cooperative.
So on Saturday morning the Beauty class along with some scholarship students got on a bus along with all of their hair-cutting supplies, books and a cd player bound for Santa Julia. The 16 women in the beauty class set up to begin giving free haircuts, while the 6 scholarship students got ready to play games, sing songs and read stories with the children from the community. Usually members of this community have to travel into the city to get a haircut which could mean an hour walk and a 30 minute bus ride. Not only that, but also many of the women in the community dedicate so much time attending to their crops, their family, their house and organizing meetings with the cooperative that there isn’t much time left for themselves. Therefore the opportunity to get a free haircut right there in the community as well as the chance to take a morning to pamper themselves was a treat! The activity was a quick success and more and more people began to arrive until finally we had to stop and pack up to get back to the Center.
It was a strange yet gratifying experience to be back in the community I lived in for 6 weeks and see all of the women from the cooperative again. It was especially unique to see my two worlds colliding as those from the Center shared their talents and services with the community that I had come to know and love over two years ago. Hopefully there will be more exchanges like these in the near future, both in Santa Julia and in other places where we’re sure to meet someone we know who greets us with warm hugs.
On Saturday I was invited to attend the birthday party of my neighbor and host niece, Hillary. She just turned two…hard how fast she has grown over the past year that I’ve been here in Batahola. What I love about birthday celebrations here is that people go around their block inviting all of their neighbors. And not just that, but they go all out with the celebration. The party included a clown that painted faces, made balloon animals and led games for the children. There was also lots of food including a rice and meat dish, bread, cake and lots of candy. Each person who arrived even got a gift of a Dora themed canister with treats. It’s fun to see a community coming together to celebrate despite the economic difficulties in working-class Batahola. Surely not only Hillary, but many other children in the community will take away good memories and pictures from the celebration. Here I share a few of mine, hope you enjoy and get a peek into what a Nicaraguan birthday celebration is like.
Young adults in Friday morning drawing and painting class put on by a new project called ACCESS supported by the North American Cultural Center in Managua. Project ACCESS is teaming with the Center to have a place to offer classes with the hope that these classes will be more accessible for people in surrounding communities. This particular class will be taking place at the Center until October.
Employee Profile of the Month
Name: Maria Isabel Quezada Acevedo
Birthday: September 28th
Neighborhood: Ciudad Sandino
Job Title: Housekeeping
Time working in the Center: 3 years
A Little Information About me:
I live with my mom, my brother and my son. My son is 25 years old and is studying to become a lawyer. When I get home after work I always continue working. I have to clean, cook and wash clothes so I normally don’t have much free time. When we have vacations I don’t like to go out much, but rather I prefer to stay at home and rest. Although one place I would like to travel is the Montelimar beach, so hopefully I can take advantage of the Center’s end of the year outing to go this December. One food that I could never give up eating is grilled meat, especially steak.
How I arrived at the Center:
I came to know the Center through my neighbor who was a professor here at the Center. I’m happy to have a job here and I truly enjoy my work. I like that we receive many benefits for working here like the ability to take a class for free. Last year I took a cooking class and I enjoyed it a lot. Also I think the relationship that the Center has with the Friends of Batahola is very special. Before coming to the Center I was a very timid person, but now I feel that I can communicate better.
Employee Profiles is a new initiative we’re taking to get to know coworkers on a more personal level as well as promote community here at the Center. We hope to do one employee each month for the rest of our time here. Profiles will also be posted here at the Center and on the Center’s local Facebook page. We hope you enjoy!
International Women’s Day march last year in Managua. Photo curtesy of Miguel Molina, El Nuevo Diario
Today Nicaragua is celebrating “Dia de Accion por la Vida de las Mujeres” which calls for action against violence and femicides going on around the world, but especially in Latin America. Articles on femicides have been plastered throughout the news with 48 femicides currently on record so far this year Nicaragua. Even though this number is disturbing, I was even more astonished to read that Honduras recorded 629 femicides last year, which amounts to one women killed every 13 hours. To say the least, the struggle to end violence against women is long from over. But today both women and men stand up and speak out against this violence. Feminist groups and NGO’s all over the country are organizing vigils, rallies, concerts and other events this week to celebrate this holiday and call attention to the crude reality of femicides that are occurring. Later on this month the Center will be holding its second community forum facilitated by the Center’s psychologist which opens up dialogue about femicides and violence against women in the Batahola community.