Sunday, May 24, 2009

Miracles Are Possible

Hola, everyone! Or as we learned to say to the people we meet buenas (which means good day. My experiences in Nicaragua have been wonderful thus far but may be difficult for me to explain it as well as they were told to me. Nicaragua reminds me a lot of my own country, the Philippines. I see some resemblance of the houses, people’s hospitality, and the general atmosphere of the environment. On May 22, 2009 I started off my day by doing yoga with Jhon and other delegates at 5:30AM. I know so early! I normally don’t get up that early but doing yoga in the morning allows me to get ready for the day’s activities. After breakfast which is made ready for us at 7:00 AM two people offer to do dishes and everyone takes turns for every meal. Then we all meet in the circle and have a check-in and reflection. A check-in means that everyone can say how he or she are feeling at that moment without anyone commenting on what they said. Then someone has a reflection of some type prepared.
While still in our circle, Patty and Rachel our Witness for Peace gave us some information preparing us for our campo experience. Each of us will be paired up with another person and live with a family and ask them about what things they like to do, the earthquake that occurred, and anything else that we may be interested in learning from them. Likewise, they will be asking questions to us. I am excited to meet these people because all the people that I have met so far have been very welcoming and inspiring.
We then left for Los Quinchos, which is a rehabilitation project for street children. When we finally arrived in San Marcos we waited to speak to Carlos Vidal who was the director of the program. While we waited for his arrival, we spoke to other people who worked for the program. Many of the children they find in the streets are glue sniffers. And they do this because it allows them to not be as hungry. They have unstable families mostly no dads-just moms who end up trying to play both roles. They were explaining to us that it is hard to get the children to come because they are scared. Some children wanted to leave the program in the beginning to look for work so that they can make money to buy more glue.
Los Quinchos started off as a project for little boys, but after some time they learned about the domestic violence that young girls were facing. The project consists of a lot of different activities such as painting classes, computer classes, sewing classes, music and dancing classes. After talking with Carlos for a few minutes he said that we can split up into groups and some of us can stay and help to show the teachers/mentors of the children to do yoga with Jhon or plant plantain trees with the young boys. I was extremely excited at the thought of being able to plant something.
Some of us got to ride in the back of a pick up truck. In America, we would not be allowed to ride in the back of the truck because it would be deemed as being to dangerous. Nonetheless, it was a good experience and it felt like a safari ride. When we arrived at the young boys facility/learning center all the boys got up from their seat and began giving us hugs and kisses. It was such a great feeling to have these boys come up to me and be so caring. Many of the boys are parents of current or past glue sniffers and they were rescued and brought to Los Quinchos to have a better life where they can learn to be good citizens of their country and bring kindness into this world. We had to dig some holes in order to plant the plantain trees and then put dirt back on top of it. After that, Carlos gave us a tour of the facility. He even offered to give us some avocados and mangos what was a wonderful treat. We were also have to see how the boys made hammocks. Some of the older boys would teach the young boys how to make a hammock. I was even given the opportunity to try it myself. Carlos was explaining that this was therapeutic for the boys. It was hard to say goodbye to the boys because they were just so nice to us all.
We then went to lunch and some great tasting Italian pasta. While at the boy’s facility we met an Italian man, who teaches the boys Italian and music. After lunch we went to go visit the girls facility. We first met the teenage girls who were a bit shy at first but then warmed up to us after a few minutes. We asked them what they wanted to be when they grew up and some responses were doctor, lawyer, or teacher. A couple of minutes later, the young girls arrived they ranged from being in first grade to fourth grade. The came running in and giving us hugs and kisses just like the young boys. They were so adorable and excited to see us and play with us. After everyone introduced herself we began playing hand games and gallo gallo pinto, which is there version of duck duck goose. We also played some jump rope and a game of hot potato, which we taught the girls. In addition, the girl’s favorite thing to do was dance and so we did some dancing which was really fun for us all. All the girls here were abused in some way so Carlos is helping them to better there lives by allowing them to get an education and teaching them skills to be successful in life.
Leaving the girls was extremely tough because I got so attached to some of them with the little time I was able to spend with them. During that moment when I saw their face light up and smile I just wanted to stay longer to spend more time with them.
Carlos is a compassionate and selfless man who does everything he can within his capacity to help all the children in the streets. The people of Los Quinchos have the goal to make sure that no child is found in the streets. After he spoke to us about how the whole program began and how they went through many ups and down to get to where they are today I want to come back and volunteer. I do not know when I will get the chance to volunteer but it is definitely on my to do list of things I want to do in life. One of the things written on my list was to witness a miracle and I did not think I would be able to witness a miracle this soon. The children being given the opportunity for a better life is a miracle made possible by Carlos because a majority of people considered these kids as outcasts and said they would not amount to anything. But they come back with degrees wanted to give back to Los Quinchos by helping to gather more children.
I learn something from every experience and person I talk to in Nicaragua and I am eager to absorb MORE throughout the rest of the delegation!

Miracles are possible.
Lots of love, peace, smiles,
Martha Garcia

Esperanza, Amor, y Luz

Hello! Writing from Esteli, Nicaragua…Today has been a pretty crummy day, felt pretty sick in the morning. But I took a nap for a few hours and felt a lot better. Missed the visit to the midwife clinic and the museum of Esteli however… Everyday has been jam packed with lectures and lots of activities. Yesterday we visited Los Quinchos, a center for street children who have been neglected. The visit was, by far, the most intense experience for me. Carlos, the founder of the center, spoke about the program and everything it has achieved so far. During his speech, I couldn’t stop crying. I’m guessing everything we have been experiencing hit me all at once. Overall, the release of all the emotions that I kept inside felt really therapeutic.

This experience has been extremely eye-opening. I’m really excited I was fortunate enough to be a part of this delegation. I can’t wait to go home and share what I saw and felt.

Love Michelle

nicaragua, spelled with an "n" for ninos

Yesterday we visited an inspiring and beautiful project called Los Quinchos. Los Quinchos is a safe haven for street children with no family who are victims of physical or sexual abuse, who sleep in the street, and who huff glue in order to suppress their hunger. There are two separate communities of Los Quinchos one for boys and one for girls. Originally Los Quinchos only took in boys but soon realized that young girls need saving too.
Los Quinchos involves three phases the children go through. The first phase involves getting these children to get off the glue. The second phase involves children living in the community of Los Quinchos where they go to school, go through therapy, and learn how to make crafts: boys make bracelets and hammocks (also a form of therapy) and girls learn how to sew, dance and play guitar. The third phase is where they go to a separate community, learn a trade, and then return back to society.
Sadly though, society harshly judges and discriminates against these children. The U.S government, when told about Los Quinchos, called the children “social parasites that will never change.” Schools refused to accept them, even though the children where in phase two of the process and off glue, and parents threatened to remove their kids from school if the allowed the “glue sniffers” in.
Despite all of the harsh criticism, Los Quinchos never gave up believing in the children. Many children in Los Quinchos die from health effects of the glue sniffing or HIV aids. But those who survive Los Quinchos are able to rise up, make something for themselves, create a family to call their own or choose to live in community with other ex-Quinchos. Many even return back to Los Quinchos in order to add the new children accepted into the project.
While at Los Quinchos, a group of us where able to help plant plantain trees. Although it was hot and the trees themselves were heavy it was a wonderful feeling knowing that in six months the trees we planted would be used for the children’s meals. But the highlight of our time spent at Los Quinchos, for me, had to be when we visited the girls community. We were able to play clapping games, gallo pinto (the Spanish version of duck duck goose), hot potato, and dance with the girls. Although each of the girls had been through traumatic experiences you would never be able to tell by the smiles on their faces, and it is a great peace of mind to know that they shared their smiles with us.
At the end of the day, these “parasites” are children. Children who deserve the right to an education, shelter, and above all LOVE. Los Quinchos strives everyday to fulfill their motto… “Never again a child on the streets.”

-Loretta Carlen

Mommy and Daddy: It was nice KIND OF being able to hear your voice today. I wish I was able to have an actual conversation with you guys but the static on the phone was awful. Mommy, please don’t be sad, be happy for me and all of the wonderful experiences I am having and thank you for allowing me to have them. I miss you and can’t wait to hug you, daddy and Harley Brown.
Matt: I’m sorry I haven’t really gotten a chance to e-mail you. I would have phoned you too but I guess I need to memorize your number by heart! I can’t wait to see you! I listen to Black Sabbath when I miss you and it makes me feel better.

To all of my friends: I miss your craziness. Although I must say, the Team does a good job of making up for the lack of crazy! Haha. I hope you all have a safe and lovely MDW. Cafone: HAPPY BELATED BIRTHDAY! And Jaclyn, yes I am so very attractive haha.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

No words can describe the past five days...


Hola familia, friends, and our awesome followers. This is Jo (Joarlynn) blogging from Managua, Nicaragua (CEPAD where our Hostile is located). Right now I would like you to do something for me…check the tags on your clothing and find out where they were made. Was it made in Nicaragua? Have you ever wondered who made your clothing and what they had to do in order to make the shirt and pants you are wearing? About ten minutes ago we had a sit down talk with the Maquila workers who came to tell us about their jobs and life here in Nicaragua. What we learned is that they work in textile U.S. factories that are here in Nicaragua. These factories produce clothing for various brands like Wrangler and North Face just to name a few. Clothing that we buy and wear everyday without thinking where they came from or who made them.

I must say I never gave a second thought to where my clothing came from or who made them. It was something that just did not seem important to me and I figured that whoever made them would get paid fairly. And then I realized how these Maquila factories are run, especially the ones in foreign countries like Nicaragua. The factories here employ thousands of people and they get paid cents per item of clothing that they sell. For instance a pair of pants that you may find at the store may cost $25.00, $13.00 of that goes to corporate (i.e. wrangler or North Face) then another portion goes to advertising $10, a small portion of it then goes to the Maquilia factory owner $2.00, and finally the rest of the money goes to the workers. Which in this example would be $3.00, which would be split between all the workers (sometimes hundreds of workers). Which means that the person that made your clothing only got paid a couple cents (if that) per item.

When Patty and Rachael explained this to us I was shocked and frustrated. I honestly could not believe that this is happening and that U.S. factories are allowing these hard working people to be paid this little. Especially, when it is obvious that they cannot live off of what they make (usually $2.00 a day). The Maqulia workers also said that one of their biggest issues is keeping their job. With the poor economy in the United States, people are buying less in the U.S., which means that the Maqulia workers have less clothing to make since he demand is less and therefore jobs are being lost. It is amazing to see firsthand the effects of one countries struggle on another. In the U.S. we have many options if we were to loose our job. My brother for instance, had been collecting unemployment for the past nine months and he just recently got a two-month extension. Nicaragua doesn’t give these options to their people. The Maqulia workers that came today made me very proud to be an American but it also reminded me that I have a job to do because of this fact. And more importantly because I am here now experiencing this firsthand and have seen and heard the realities that they live in everyday.

My eyes and ears have seen and heard a lot these past five days and it is amazing that I am still able to absorb it all. I no longer feel “bad” for these people, they are the most resilient people I have ever met. They live life with love and passion everyday. I saw the resilience in the eyes of the little boy who jumped on the back of our moving bus when we visited the dump. Even though he was covered from head to toe in dirt, he smiled at me and waved. He’s heart filled with joy, I couldn’t help but imagine what his eyes have seen, or what his ears have heard. I couldn’t process that fact that his next meal will be the leftovers of several others. I also had a chance to hold a little baby boy when we went to visit the clinic yesterday. He reminded me so much of my niece Bella when she was his age. He was so active and alert for a four month old. His parents easily handed him over to me, they trusted me so much to hand me their young son and that itself felt so good. When was the last time a stranger let you hold their child or invited you in their home? The clinic had so little yet so much. I can’t even begin to explain what visiting the clinic did to me. So I am not going to attempt it. No words can explain the resilience in these people, it is simply something that you have to see firsthand.

Tomorrow we are going to Los Quinchos, which is a street children rehabilitation project where we are going to intereact with the children and teachers. We will even be eating lunch with the children and going out to dinner there so I am very excited, we will be spending the whole day with them. At night Patty and Rachael are going to take us out into the town so I am very excited for that as well.

Before I go, I must say how worried, anxious, and scared I was before this trip. I pretty much had a panic attack about two days prior to our trip. And now I must admit that I haven’t felt homesick or miss my family that much. Hahaha I love my family very much and I do miss them, but being here now is where I know I am meant to be so it makes this whole process so much easier for me. Plus, the bugs aren’t so bad as I thought and the food is AWESOME!!! Until next time Team Nica followers (that we love so much) thanks for reading our blogs. Much love to my family and Dan, I love You Guys!!


Jo <3

Afternoon Delight

This is Salim “The Dream” Laib writing to you from Managua, Nicaragua … lol

I find it very funny that I’m sitting here blogging right now cause im always one of the first ones to make fun of people that use twitter or blog for various other reasons on the internet. This experience however is defiantly worth me going out of my norm so that I can somehow try to explain what I’ve learned and witnessed in these priceless past few days. So my day started off today at 6:30 am as it has been starting ever sense I landed in Latin America. Of course me being the individual that I am I decided that it was a good idea to have a late night to enjoy myself the night before. However after enjoying another amazing Nicaraguan breakfast by our cook Jaihira I was up and ready to go for another beautiful warm day in Central America.

Before I start to explain on this blog what my day consisted of I only feel as though its right that I talk a little about what I’ve experienced so far these past few days. This is my first time traveling south of the border to a Latin American country and from my experience in being raised in Hudson County for the past 10 yrs I felt as though I was as prepared as anyone can be for this trip. After all you can’t find much more Hispanic culture in the states like you do on Central Ave and Bengaline. The opportunity of having some of my closest friends come from these developing countries as well as myself having grown up in Algeria defiantly provided me with the confidence to take this trip. However what I've experienced these past few days no one will ever be able to replicate on a piece of paper or television screen. Imp sure if you take the time to read past blogs that have been posted by my fellow classmates you will hear some very heart felt stories about different things that we’ve been witnessing. The visit to the garbage sector of the city is one that will stick with me for the rest of my life. It’s an experience that I will defiantly be sharing with many of you when I get back home if I ever even find ways to put it in words. I have always been aware of the hardships of these third world countries through my readings, love for movies and stories from various people.

The hardships I've seen in the past with my own eyes back home in New Jersey and Algeria cannot compare to this level of poverty that I witnessed in this section of Managua. The image of people digging through city waste dumps for left over food to feed their kids is something that I hope I never get to see again. We have done other things such as learn about the political and economic history of Nicaragua as well as the environmental history (many natural disasters that have affected this country in the past) and how they have connected to the developmental process of this small country of 6 million people. It also doesn’t help that 75% of the government spending in the country has to go towards paying off the enormous dept that the Nicaraguan government has collected through various bad loans from the world bank and various different countries.

So the first aspect of the day consisted of learning about how U.S. Government backed policies such as the Monroe Doctrine, NAFTA and CAFTA just the name a few have effected the development of these countries. Many would blame corruption on a lot of these issues but from talking to the Nicaraguan people you start to realize that it’s much more than that. These policies are very complex and I wish I had the time to talk more in depth about them. It’s something that we as Americans should take the time to educate our selves on the topic. After all we are the ones that go to the voting booths to elect these politicians that help pass these agreements.

The next aspect of the day consisted of going to Puntas de Encuentro which is a center that is set up to educate the community about different aspects of life that can help them better themselves. Some of the things that they do include:

  • · Setting up workshops
  • · Youth Camps
  • · Communication Training
  • · Promoting Sex Education
  • · The Acceptance of Sexual Diversity
  • · Women’s Rights
  • · Workshops for journalists so that the media doesn’t have an negative attitude towards women’s rights, youth, and lower class
  • · Discrimination – change attitude towards Classism, homophobia, sexism and racism just to name a few
  • · Talk about Commercial Sexual Exploitation

Through various different funding opportunities from international aid and other donations they were able record their own television show that deals with all these issues. So far they have filmed more then 80 episodes. This is all in a country that is strongly influenced by the Catholic Church. It amazes me how the church has such a strong affect on the government that they are wiling to not even educate school children about anything other abstinence only sex ed. Does that remind anyone of certain policies that our past politicians tried to pass?

This is just one of many different community organizations that we have visited so far these past few days. It’s amazing how even though they receive very little to no funding from the government these people still don’t give up. Whether it’s setting up a health center in a small shack or starting a television show these people refuse to stop trying to help their community.

I wish I could go more in-depth about these issues but I have to run to a fan cause I am dying in this heat lol… Hope everyone is doing well back home and insha Allah ill see everyone soon

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Seeing vs. Witnessing By Joed Lopez

Humbleness is everything. It is the prerequisite to learning. I am astonished, and sometimes frightened at how much we think we know about those around us. Whether its in a country miles away, or a colleague in the cubicle next to us, there is a wealth of information out there that can easily enlighten us to the true nature of reality. This trip has shift the worldviews of many including myself. Everyday that passes, I become more humbled that the more I know, the more I know I don’t know. I believe that having this type of humility can help us reach new levels of awareness and consciousness.

We learned a lot about various trade policies and how it has significantly impacted the people of Nicaragua and much of Latin America. It is important to highlight that what allows this knowledge to sink in more is not so much the studies or statistics of those who are suffering, but the personal encounters of those who bleed the same color of blood that I do, who have to worry about where they are going to get their food on a daily basis. I have met someone who lived off the trash of a garbage dump yesterday. It gave the saying “one mans trash is another mans treasure” a very sad and sobering new meaning.

What is amazing and inspirational about the people we are meeting is that regardless of the conditions that are beyond their control, they make the most of what little they have, and use it to serve their community. I met a 28-year-old woman who saw a need to attend to those who are sick around her. And now, there is a mini-clinic set up from converting a portion of her house (which might actually look more like some of our sheds). While she is greatly limited compared to an actual hospital, it is more than they had to begin with. And as more people hear and read about resilient people like this, who knows what can happen next for them. There is something we need to remember though… It all comes down to how we assess what we witness. Yamith, the woman who used to live off of garbage, noticed high levels of violence in her community. While others saw death and desperation, she witnessed the potential of creating peace. After creating a soccer league for the youth, violence was reduced drastically. It is one thing to see something but it is another to witness it. When this occurs, we take the encounter in and it becomes part of whom we are, and it becomes impossible to not do anything about it.

I ask you all, are you seeing something, or are you witnessing it? Are we just letting the status quo blind us of the possibilities that can be created? Or are we taking the steps necessary to raise the quality of life of all around us?

I know that people who put politics, policy, and profit over people will most likely always exist. I know that we do not live in a perfect world and may never will, but the potential out there to create the change we need is too big and too close within our reach to do nothing. We may not change Nicaragua within the 13 days we are here, but I have no problem being a stepping-stone for those who will tomorrow. Now that will be a sight to see...and witness.

In Love,


Hello America!
This is Keyla Silva and today May 19th, 2009 was such an inspiring day. It started off with breakfast (omelets, French toast, tortilla, watermelon, and melon juice mmm☺) then we reflected/checked in on how we were doing that morning. We then learned a lot of information about economics and Nicaragua’s environment. We learned about the Neoliberalism framework/model of economy. We also learned a lot about how much influence the United States has on Nicaragua. Nicaragua is in a lot of debt due to loans, interest rates rising, Nicaragua having to pay loans off by accepting other loans, imports/exports decreasing, etc. Nicaragua has not had a time when other countries were not intervening and meddling in their affairs. Of course we cannot demonize or romanticize- the U.S. and other nations have helped Nicaragua but what were there motives? Whose interests were at hand?
Nicaragua’s debt in 1990 was 7 times bigger than their GDP! In 1998 and 1999 they had the highest per capita (per person) debt in the world! The result of all this debt and corruption as well as dependence on other nations such as the U.S. resulted in poverty, poor education, poor health care, etc. Most of Nicaragua’s children do not attend school because of the costs to even get a bus ride to school. The average family makes $1-$2 a day! This lack of education perpetuates a never-ending cycle of poverty.
We then heard from an environmental agency he talked a lot about the riches of Nicaragua (its natural resources). It’s funny how the countries/continents with the most resources tend to be the most impoverished- I wonder why? Could it be that these other more powerful nations are threatened by the richness and rip these countries of their resources? Just a thought from me, Keyla Silva. This man was very wise he spoke of the fact that all of us may know how to read and write but there are many Nicaraguans as well as others who are very, very wise and think critically and they too are educated. The schools are starting to focus much more on critical thinking because it does produce a more educated being. He talked about the negative effects of the horrible conditions that workers are put into- for example there was a study done in Estelli, Nicaragua that discovered that women who worked in tobacco factories had uterine cancer, and children who worked in these factories also later developed cancer and were infertile due to the tobacco and chemical exposure. He later talked about free trade and pesticides. Can you believe that food that has been approved only for animals by the USDA in the U.S is then given to distribute to 3rd world countries through the world food program? WOW, so these foods like soy, wheat, corn, flour, etc that have been genetically modified and full of pesticides are given for human consumption in these countries!!
This next portion of my day was very disturbing so please read carefully.
Imagine if there was a large dump that reached capacity about 5 years ago in NJ. Imagine if your house as well as other people’s houses was located in the dump? Imagine if everything you ate, drank, and made a living off of was based on the dump? We had a speaker come in who lived and worked in the dump for over 20 years. She had children who grew up in the dump! This community of people is so poor and due to the earthquake, revolution, and so many other factors have nowhere to live. They built houses and a school (HOPE school) in the dump. The children there look through the garbage to find valuable items they can sell (plastic, metal, etc.) they collect a whole bunch for example 100lbs and get a measly $5. They sell it to intermediary companies who then sell it for more to U.S. companies. This woman put everyone in the van to tears; there is so much hope amidst all this poverty. The dump can be very violent as you can imagine-SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST. It was such an inspiring experience that we couldn’t even be taken into the dump area=we went to her house just outside the dump and it was so sad. There was so much hope though, this woman came from nothing and barely had anything and still did so much for this community (volunteering). She is a health care advocate and community leader who distributes medicine to this community and she also organizes programs (like soccer for gangs). I just really look up to this woman-and my mom has so much influence and I love her because she really has prepared me in life and has been telling me about these issues since I was young. I didn’t feel pity for these people, I was angry. I was angry that humans could allow other humans to live like this. Humans are not meant to live in a dump!! Children, babies, and animals are not meant to live in a garbage dump full of disease, rotting food, feces, garbage, mercury from the river surrounding the dump, and such poverty. I feel so unappreciative of everything that I have in my life, I feel stupid for wanting superficial and material things when there are people living in dumps!! I know this experience will have a lasting effect on me, but I also know that it will take time for me to change my American ways. It’s so easy to talk about change, be knowledgeable, and truly feel sympathy for people that have to live daily like these happy people do. The challenge is to actually do something, to change my lifestyle and I know I am guilty and that it will take time before I do change my ways but I also know that I will surely change my ways!
**Disclaimer- I could not put all my experience, thoughts, ideas, and all of what I have learned and seen into a blog! This blog represents 1% of all that I saw, felt, and learned about TODAY. There is so much more that I can put on this document but then no one would read it because it would come out to about 10 pages!! GOODNIGHT AMERICA!!