As last week came to an end so did some feelings of unease and anxiety. Rather than working a regular week at Los Pipitos classes were canceled as the week was dedicated to home visits for all staff members. When my boss Isabel first told me about these home visits I had no idea what to expect and to be honest I was a little leery of being brought into the ´real´ lives of the children. Before the visits my presence only lingered between the hours of 8 and 3 in a safe and happy environment. This time frame ensured food, water and an abundance of love, but after 3 nothing is for sure and a lot is left up in the air. Once they leave Los Pipitos sadly the real world beckons and it isn´t a very good environment for anyone let along a ten or eleven year old.
If I had a choice about going to the home visits I would have probably refused. Not rudely I assure you, but I think a polite mumble of miscommunication that would free me from my volunteer obligations would be on the menu. My fear of these visits was real, the truth isn´t always pretty and I knew going along with bring me a little bit more out of my comfort zone, and needless to say it did.
Our first visit was with Heydin and her mother. Heydin is a young teenager and has been going to Los Pipitos for many years. She belongs to a single parent family where it literally is just her and her mother. As I first walked into their home I was greeted by both Heydin and her mom, her mom smiling and heydin hugging me. They found two plastic chairs for Isabel and I and the interview begins. Heydin´s home is literally unimaginable. It is a two room cement building with literally nothing in it. They have one light bulb and share the space with a few chickens. After the visit Isabel translates that Heydin´s mom washes other peoples clothes for a living and obviously has very little money. Sometimes they have money for food, and other times they don´t. Isabel assures me that it´s no SO bad, at least there no violence.
No violence? Since when is this the only standard? Walking out of Heydin´s home all I could think of were my shoes. Yes you read right my shoes. I´m walking around Nicaragua in a house where people cannot eat regularly in a pair of $90 berks. They can´t even get a decent meal, and I´m wearing a hundred dollar shoes.. yes grandma they were 100.
Heydin´s visit was the first to break through my comfort zone and there were many after her, 13 in all and they were each tough in their own way. In many visits the first thing I would think of was ´who do i think i am´ I felt very uncomfortable sitting in on the interview while they discussed their personal hardships. I thought that because these were such private matters that they all deserved their privacy, but that´s not how they do it here in Nicaragua.
Last week was a great learning opportunity for me ever though it was tough and uncomfortable. Most learning opportunities like that pull you out of your comfort zone and show you what your made of, and this one did not let me down. This week gave me the ability to see a little more of the whole picture. It showed me once again how important Los Pipitos is to them, even though I was second guessing it in the beginning, and what kind of lives they deal with on a day to day basis. These kids, youth and adults are stronger than they will ever know and for that I am still reflecting on the events of last week. I have never really seen such living conditions, these are homes you see on a world vision commercial, I have also never personally known the people living in them, that in itself is a serious reality check. It makes me want to sprinkle fairy dust all over their heads and free them from what tortures them, be it disability, violence, poverty, everything. For children and youth that experience such difficulty they have amazing spirits. I want to keep their optimism with me and think of it in good times as well as hard times because if they can continue to smile so can you and I.