Monday, November 18

San Pancho Kukra River

Sarita and Miladis threw me a surprise birthday party. We sang karaoke and ate yummy cake!
Hola, hola, hola!!

It has been forever since I have written in my blog. Lo siento mucho. I have been working with AMC in the territory of San Francisco (San Pancho) Kukra River outside of Bluefields in the North Atlantic Autonomous Region of Nicaragua. Yep, this time I am down south. (There are even people who say Mr./Mrs. as well as sir and mam´m in Bluefields, people love to listen to country music and the other day for lunch we ate green beans. Yeehaw!)

In order to travel to San Pancho one has to travel by panga or the public bote (which turns a 2 hour trip in panga into 8 hours). During the very few days that the road is dry people are able to travel from BlueFields to San Pancho in taxi and it only takes about 45 minutes to get to the community of Aurora. (Aurora is where the AMC office is located and where I am living.) Otherwise the road is a hot mess with the mud mushing and gooshing all over the place. It is mud soup.  

In the 1900s 100% of the population in San Francisco Kukra River was home to indigenous people and now way over the majority of it’s inhabitants are of mestizo origin. San Pancho has around 20,000 inhabitants who live throughout 32 communities. The farthest community from Aurora is about 12 hours away by horseback. Only within the last year the main community of Aurora received electricity and community members depend on wells for cleaner water. The majority of the residents in San Pancho work in agriculture.

Violence is an extreme issue for this territory with statistics demonstrating San Pancho has the highest rate of homocides in the country. If only comparing San Pancho to other countries such as Honduras and El Salvador, Kukra River has a higher homocide rate. AMC´s current project in Kukra River is to help improve the rates of violence in the territory.  Those statistics really don’t take into account the domestic violence, bar fights, child abuse, and other forms of violence that is known in the region as well.

Antonio is the AMC project cordinator for the Kukra River project and the only other AMC employee is Miladis who is the educator for the project. Miriam is a long-term volunteer who helps AMC in whatever way is needed and pretty much volunteers like a full-time employee. It is a small project, but the project is making process. 

During my time in Kukra, we have worked in the Casa Materna with the young soon-to-be-mothers waiting to give birth. We are teaching the young ladies how to knit and cross-stich, and well, I am actually learning as well. I swear Nicaragua as helped me embrace my femine side more and I have learned how to do more sterotypical “woman things”. 

As we knit and sew, Miladis the AMC educator talks briefly about the importance as a mother to prepare your mind and heart for your baby. It is a way we can prevent violence in our homes- if we are excited and ready for our new children. I’ve noticed that sometimes women in the campo wait a long time after the baby is born to even give him or her a name, so AMC is also encouraging the women to prepare a name for their new baby. 
Another project is working with the teachers and directors of the schools to plan out ways they can create a culture of peace in their classrooms and help teach violence prevention to their students. There is one school in the city of Aurora and then I think 2 schools in some of the far away communities.

 One afternoon we taught a group of 20 middle school students who were selected specifically by the school director due to their behavior and self esteem problems. We taught an interactive lesson on appreciating ourselves and remembering we are beautiful children of God. The students had to look in a mirror and tell everyone who they saw in the mirror. Also, I found a poem where you have to fill in the blanks about yourself and then read your poem aloud to the class. These lessons was hard because many of the students did not want to participate or are so shy that it takes a while to convince them to share. I’ve always thought that the many times people who live in the campo are shy because they do not interact with new people, but I believe it is a self esteem issue as well. Also, the issue of violence- I’m sure there are people in the students’ houses telling them to shut up all the time or punishing them for small things. 

AMC also taught some of the students how to knit and sew. It was fun to see the students learn quickly and they really enjoyed the activity, as well as, most of the boys.

Another day we taught different classes how to make fancy cards out of nature or out of rolled paper. All the students loved making cards, even the teenagers, when in the US students would act too cool or think making a simple card was stupid or boring.  These students don’t get to do many creative things, so any activity that is new or different is so much fun for them.  I believe we take for granted our extra curricular activities within our education system in the United States and I have seen first hand how important it is for kids and youth to be able to learn skills besides the basic curriculum.

AMC is participating in the local sports league through the Catholic Church and so I am playing on our women’s softball and volleyball teams. It’s made me realize growing up playing all kinds of sports was really a huge privlidge and it helped me a whole lot with my self esteem, respecting others & authority, working with others, receiving feedback etc. I know that sounds cliché but playing with the young girls on my softball team has reminded me of these skills that are not natural for them. It is the first time many of them are playing an offical sport at 12, 14,16 years old. I think it’s really cool, too, that our league as about 5 women softball teams and women only volleyball teams in a community that really does not have any opportunities for women. It is a pretty big deal.  I think if the league continues it can make big differences in lives of the woman and girls who are playing on the different teams. (My only problem is that I just have to pray for pacience when we are playing volleyball ;) )

A somewhat hard thing about living in this community is the fact I am not allowed to do anything on my own. One day I thought I could walk to the volleyball field on my own, but everyone told me otherwise. I live with Antonio and Miladis and their daughter Sol (4 year old) and they do not feel that it is safe for me to walk on my own whether it be during the day or at night. I respect their direction and have realized perhaps this is true for many women in the community as well.

Sarita (the nanny for Sol), myself, Miladis, Antonio

My "little sister" for this month- Sol (4 years old) Sol means sun in Spanish
Kukra River also has a very machista culture, in which, the men dominate and the women have very little freedom or rights. I participated in a big event we had to promote crime prevention within 14 different communities and over 50 people attended the workshop; only 6 of the participants were women. Not only does this problem affect the woman of the community but also the young guys. I’ve heard many times now things along the lines of those boys don’t serve for anything or that they are useless. I fear it is a common belief amoung many of the women that even many of the young boys are just going to grow up to be failures and treat women badly.

I big inconvience for the community as well as myself now, is that there is only one place in the community where you can receive cell phone reception. Everyone who needs to talk on the phone has to climb up the largest hill in town. It makes it kind of an adventure because when you are talking on the phone there is other people standing around doing the same. It is a community activity.

Overall, I am honored that I get to be in our smallest and one of the most remote project sites, because I know this area has a negative sterotype and many people know nothing about Kukra River. I  have hope that  the negative sterotype can change and I hope the youth and women I am working with feel that AMC cares about them and wants to work in solidarity with them.

Recent Prayer Concerns:

·      Managua has a terrible outbreak of Dengue right now and several people have already died from symptoms.
·      Accion Medica Cristiana is facing a financial crisis as many projects are coming to an end this December and the organizations, which fund many of our projects, are not going to finance new projects in this upcoming year. AMC is a tremendous organizatio and it’s ministries benefit many many people throught Nicaragua and especially in some of the most neglected areas.
·      My sister has a recent apendicitice in the middle of the last weeks of her semester at seminary. Please pray for healing & for her not to stress over school. 

This is where I am living.
You can't walk anywhere without wearing your rubber boots. I think it is awesome, though, that the city recently built a sidewalk that leads through the main parts of the community.

Everyone uses a well in order to get clean water. Many neighbors come to our house to use the well. Also, Antonio or a Juan who is a teenager who lives next door has to collect water for the house every morning. I tried to fill a bucket one day and I could barely fill it all the way- it is not any easy task. I think that's why many women of such chiseled arms.