As part of the MPI Nicaragua Child Sponsorship (CS) team, one of my roles is planning the quarterly field trips for participating children and caretakers in our program. The CS program is unique in that we provide opportunities for the children of La Chureca to leave behind the perennial smoke and trash of their neighborhood for an afternoon of recreation and relaxation with their families in a safe, clean place. Earlier this year in late July, we joined the former PDs in hosting a trip to El Salero, the Community Center land on which we run our programs in Kid’s English, Library, Baseball, and Soccer. The day was an undeniable success, allowing the children plenty of time and space to enjoy the great outdoors. I decided to repeat another popular field trip idea last Friday when we brought our children and their mothers to Laguna Xiloa. Last year’s group did the same with summer volunteers, and in light of the MPI Nicaragua 5-year anniversary celebration in which PDs of ages past reunited this weekend in Managua, I thought they might join us in the fun of hosting a trip to enjoy the waters of Xiloa.
Laguna Xiloa (pronounced "Hee-Low-Wah"), site of our field trip last Friday
We arrived at the side entrance of Chureca to meet the mothers and children at 12:45 on Friday, where we awaited the arrival of a big yellow school bus that would take us all to Xiloa, about a 30 minute drive away. Ian and I road up front, took attendance, and chatted with families on the way. When we got to the laguna, we were delighted to see the beautiful open space with little covered areas for benches and picnic-ing. Some of the children and mothers took to the water fairly quickly, while others preferred the grass and the shade. Some of the children had little bathing suits, others swam in their clothing, others half naked. Whatever their manner of taking to the water, the smiles and laughter were abundant. We waded right in with the kids...from the shallow end with the toddlers looking at the minnows rush by to the deeper areas with the more adventurous kids. Mothers swam and lounged in the cool water, where they stayed talking away the afternoon. We were already in the midst of playing with children and visiting with mothers when the PDs of the past arrived to join our festivities. Some of these PDs were acquainted with certain families from years past, and others were members of the board and staff who were able to visit and see one small aspect of what we do on Child Sponsorship. We were all able to learn from the afternoon at Xiloa, and we all had a grand time! I learned that children play tag in Spanish by saying “la landa” and that sometimes it just takes a handhold to get a timid child to enter the water. I found out that everyone needs time to just be - be with family, be refreshed, be safe and relaxed, be a kid, be a mother. On last Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, I gave thanks for the ability to join these mothers and children in an afternoon away from La Chureca. Reflecting on the day, I am thankful for the relationships I’ve been able to establish through Child Sponsorship, how I’ve seen these children begin to grow, and how the mothers have entrusted us with their health concerns and needs.
To put this day into perspective, these children and their families do not have access to complete immersion in clean water. They bathe with buckets and hoses or in sinks (for the children who are small enough). Moreover, I oftentimes walk around Chureca and find recently washed children already dirty from playing outside without their shoes on or from the dust and smoke that fills the air. And although they live next to a huge lake (Lake Managua/Lake Xolotlán), the runoff from La Chureca has polluted it to the point that swimming and fishing these waters is highly dangerous. Many have fallen sick from mercury laden fish, and the pollution is visible as trash and sewage line the banks. The Laguna Xiloa, on the other hand, is a local getaway where the waters thrill and awe visitors. I say ‘awe’ because my limited experience has taught me that some Nicaraguan people I have met who have never had access to a pool or natural body of water (and thus have never learned how to swim) have a healthy fear of water.
Milton views the laguna
It was that healthy respect for water that helped us have a safe day at the laguna. And with a provided snack of fiber cookies, bananas, and juice, the day ended with many smiles and lots of wet clothing!
Jose Manual enjoys the water and a few extra bananas
From Nicaragua to America, Happy Thanksgiving!