By Jessy Bowman
Jessy, an Abriendo Mentes and Lacrosse the Nations (LtN) volunteer, recently made a trip to Nicaragua where she visited two LtN program sites; here are her reflections from the experience.
Among the dirt, garbage, and scraps of metal holding the community of La Chureca together emerges a school filled with music, dancing, and smiling faces. As you look at the children’s joyful faces, you completely forget you’re standing in the middle of the largest trash dump in Central America. This underprivileged community in Nicaragua on the outskirts of Managua hosts The School of Hope, an organization I visited which gives kids a positive outlook on life even when this maze of a community feels entrapping. In partnership with The School of Hope, Lacrosse the Nations is able to provide a PE and after-school lacrosse program, a life skills curriculum, and a breakfast nutrition program.
Political turmoil in Managua compounded with destruction from hurricanes, earthquakes, and bombings has left this capital city in ruins and consequently with extreme poverty. In this city and others like it, the implementation of community development projects has greatly reinforced the importance of education and brought hope to the people of the region.
Lacrosse the Nations is also working in the Nicaraguan community of Chiquilistagua in partnership with the Manna Project. Upon arriving in Chiquilistagua, I was immediately struck by the similarities between the Lacrosse the Nations programs there and in Potrero. Focusing on more than just lacrosse skills, both locations also reinforce a life skills curriculum to transfer lessons learned on the field to everyday activities. We hope that through lacrosse the kids will acquire qualities like confidence and teamwork and carry these attributes wherever they go. I also observed that both programs are very flexible with timing and organization; in Costa Rica and Nicaragua, each program caters to the needs of the communities and adapts to unexpected events such as classes getting cancelled or rain persistently flooding the fields.
Successful partnerships between organizations like Lacrosse the Nations, Abriendo Mentes, and Manna Project strengthen a shared goal of improving the quality of life in the communities. Abriendo Mentes and Manna Project both aim to conquer the educational deficit through their dedication to teach children as well as adults valuable life skills. Both have established women’s empowerment groups, community centers, fitness programs and English classes. Similar to AM’s women’s sewing group that makes and sells bags, Manna Project works with women in La Chureca in the production of jewelry, which provides them with an alternative income as opposed to the hazardous job of sorting garbage.
It appears that in the community of La Chureca where basic needs are not being met, English is not as high a priority as in Costa Rica, or even in the neighboring community of Chiquilistagua. Only a few English classes per week are provided in Chiquilistagua and all age levels are in a single classroom. Nevertheless, I spoke to a sweet girl named Dana who proved through her fluent speech that English could be learned through this program, even with about 40 students regularly attending one class. Manna Project also focuses on nutrition programs and personal hygiene where the kids are provided with a meal and then required to brush their teeth.
The cycle of deprivation can seem insurmountable, but my travels have shown me that organizations like Lacrosse the Nations, Abriendo Mentes, Manna Project, and The School of Hope are striving to provide the pillars necessary to disrupt the pattern, and progress is being seen one child and one adult at a time.