Friday, March 09, 2007

Sandías y Swinging

Two weeks ago we hauled fifty tiny kids and their mothers from La Chureca (the Managua City Dump) to our community center for a day-long, health-centered event. The children, all part of our Child Sponsorship Program, were dressed in their finest, having been freshly scrubbed and bathed by their mothers. The little boys had their hair parted and most of the girls wore sweet, frilly, lace dresses- presents given to them on their birthdays as part of the Child Sponsorship Program. Upon hugging the kids as they exited the shuttle from La Chureca, I smelled the subtle, inevitable stench of rotting trash and smoke that clung to their tiny bodies- a heartbreaking reminder of the homes these children were coming from: the City Dump.

For the next 4 hours, we played with the kids on the playground; running on the soccer field and spinning on tire swings and giggling and swinging and dirtying up their clean outfits, all while their mothers listened to a health lecture given by a local nurse. The nurse spoke about the importance of nutrition in children’s lives and how it is essential to proper development. After the lecture, we served the kids and their moms fresh watermelon, bananas and oranges- delicacies that the families in La Chureca rarely get to savor.

The aim of this event was to (1) bring the mothers and their children out of the Dump, even if for a few hours, (2) give the kids time to play without breathing in the toxic smoke of burning trash, (3) educate the mothers regarding their children’s nutrition, (4) build friendships with the children and their mothers, and (5) take pictures of the kids to send to their sponsors as a monthly update. The day was a huge success and after a good four hours, the kids (and we, the Manna volunteers) were completely exhausted. Two-year-old Jorge even fell asleep on my lap while we were swinging together. I laughed as we swung back and forth because the sight of this little boy fast asleep in my arms was just too cute to handle. I noticed that his yellow collared shirt was buttoned up all the way and still tucked into his pants... but his once-combed hair was now full of grass (we did somersaults down the hill) and both he and I were covered- head to toe- in dirt after a full day of racing and jumping and dancing in the dusty Nica park. Yes we'll give the kids vitamins, oatmeal, medication, pediatrician visits, birthday presents and love, but we make no promises to keep them clean after a day of playing with Manna Project volunteers.

Jorge and I getting some watermelon.

Some of the mothers during the health talk.

">Dan and I pushing Saleska and Arlen on the swings.

Katy (see earlier posts) looking happy and healthy.


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