We do have a routine though in our day and are now working with the staff and boys in the Si A La Vida project. Most mornings we walk to the project (about 15 min) and spend the time assisting with homework before the majority of the boys head off to school for the afternoon. This time is proving to be a great way for us to get to know each boy individually. Even in these very early days, we feel very welcome by both the staff and boys.
There are currently fourteen boys here on Ometepe ranging in age from 11-16 years. The boys all come from home situations that may include experiences of family violence, neglect, abandonment, sexual abuse and substance abuse. They are a great group, but it is clear that they are also a complex group of boys. I have no doubt we will see and experience more challenging aspects of our work as our ‘newness’ wears off.
One of the issues that face the boys daily (aside from the impact of their early life experiences) is education. In Nicaragua you cannot move from one grade to another without passing the set test. Hence you have boys of 16 in Grade 3. The majority of children do not complete schooling within the expected time range. This brings issues of humiliation and disengagement- not great indicators for learning.
The other issue for some of the older boys is the same as those faced by most boys- they want a girlfriend. The team at Si A La Vida are considering the best response for this. There is a balance between the aims of the project of supporting the boys to be integrated and contributing members of society, and having their care and welfare, and the welfare of others in mind. Although many of you who have teenagers will empathise with this situation, the staff, as committed as they are, they are not the boy’s parents, and the project is not a nuclear family. As the boys are also struggling with this it makes their connection with the project more tenuous. They are looking for more freedom and feel they can do things on their own. These are just some of the many challenges that are being wrestled with.
Regarding our work in the future- I have started to formulate how I will approach the introduction of the art classes and have bought the basic equipment. I must say I feel like the new teacher at the school. I am very nervous, but quietly confident, despite my struggling Spanish, that little by little things will become clearer and less daunting.
Marty has dived into working towards a more financially sustainable model for the project, which is very timely for its future. We forget that the global financial crisis does not just impact our investments and superannuation, but it has heavily impacted on supporter’s capacity to contribute funds to project like Si A La Vida. Mart is busily going around to various hotels and tourist sites promoting the woven bracelets that the boys make as well as working with the Board of Directors on other funding possibilities. He is also the only one with a licence to drive the projects ute so it is hoped that we will be able to take the boys out to the beach on the week ends.
We are still working on a long-term visa but that is going to be an ongoing game. In the short term we have the possibility of going to the Costa Rican border, which is not far from where we live, to get another 3 month visa. Our house is almost ready and hopefully we will be in there in two weeks. Our big hope is to get a phone line so we can get wifi internet without having to buy a coke and sit in a hotel foyer.
Hope the things you are wrestling with are manageable and that you have good friends to celebrate with.