Healing after a fire

Emily Carrión is in the 2nd grade at Carlos Fonseca Elementary School. Every week she comes to tutoring and the Escuela de Familia (Parenting School), with her mom. She’s a lively presence in the Center, especially when she makes the rounds to visit our office, with lots of hugs and smiles (although I suspect that her secret motivation for visiting are the bouncy balls that are stored near our desks).

Over the past two years in the scholarship program, Emily has become part of the CCBN family. So when part of her house burned down on Sunday, May 6th, the other scholarship students and staff were quick to donate the basic necessities to help get her family back on their feet. Emily’s house caught fire due to a short circuit. The two back rooms, which were built with wood, burned to the ground.

The Carrión family lives in the Dinamarca neighborhood, just south of the Cultural Center. Even though Batahola Norte and Dinamarca are essentially one neighborhood, they have very different stories.

Batahola Norte was built by the Sandinista party- with an organized street plan, parks, electricity, water and sewage service. The houses were uniformly built with cement blocks and tin roofs. The original constructions have undergone many changes over the years, so that Batahola now resembles the other diverse neighborhoods in Managua.

Scholarship Coordinator, Gretchen Martinez (right), and Emily’s sister (left) review the damages.

Dinamarca has a different story. The area was originally a “green space”, but it soon filled with families who had migrated to Managua. The improvised houses made of wood, tin, and other found materials eventually developed into a more established neighborhood, however, the area still lacked basic services, such as water, sewage, and electricity. Cultural Center receptionist, Jessenia, remembers that “there were four water spigots which had been diverted from the Batahola pipes. People would come and fill up their jugs and take water back to their homes.” Electricity was also illegally diverted by “pegando” (connecting wires to the power lines to siphon off electricity).

Dinamarca was not officially legalized until the late 90s, when property titles were given to residents. Legal water and electricity services were installed six years ago and the majority of streets were paved just two years ago. This lack of attention has caused Dinamarca to be an area of higher vulnerability and insecurity throughout its history. House fires happen everywhere, but I can’t help but wonder if a more equitable housing policy were in place here in Managua, if this fire would have happened in the first place.

Emily’s family is slowly getting back to normal. The staff at the Center continues to look for ways to support the family, both physically and emotionally. We hope to see Emily back at the Cultural Center for tutoring (and some good bouncy ball play time) soon!

~ Jennifer Ruppelt (one-year MCC S.A.L.T volunteer at the Cultural Center)

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