Tuesday, July 21 – The women and men split up today. The men went to the village to work until sometime in the afternoon, when a few of them visited a jail (that housed about 75 men and 2 women crammed into a few cells), and all of them went to Furia Santa, which was a rehab facility. They played the Furia Santa guys in a game of baseball, and I hear they lost because the Nicas cheated. 😉 The women started the day with a very scary/bumpy bus ride to the House of Hope – an organization trying to help women get out of prostitution, which is legal in Nicaragua.
Although they are technically supposed to be of-age, I believe they said the average age of entry was 11. (Two years younger than the U.S.) We had the opportunity to purchase jewelry and cards made by the women at House of Hope, which they do every Tuesday during a weekly spiritual program – for many, the crafts are the only “honest” income they get. I think there were probably 80-100 women there. For those who want to enter the program full time, they offer basic housing to stay in for 4 years with very strict rules. They receive training and a small microloan to begin a business. If they are still in the program after those 4 years, they are given a bigger microloan and a home off-site, and they have slightly less strict guidelines to follow. If they stick with it 5 more years, the house is theirs and they graduate the program. We got a tour of the facility and watched a bit of the morning sermon, then gave out sunglasses and just hung out with some of the younger girls. And when I say young, I mean really young. They were covered in makeup and wearing slightly more provocative/feminine clothing than all the other Nicas I had seen. But they were joking around, acting like typical teenagers – it breaks my heart to think of what they’ve already had to endure.
Next we went to the dump, where people actually live. I was expecting to see homeless people around the edge of a landfill, but we stopped a couple of blocks out, because it can get quite dangerous the farther in you travel. There was a group of kids already at a building (which was recently purchased by Project H.O.P.E.) having Bible study, I think. We played music with them with Sariah’s musical instruments, and not a single piece walked away when it was time to leave. Amie and I served them lunch – one ladleful of rice, and one spoonful of soy protein mix. It didn’t smell appealing at all. They all had old bowls (sibling usually shared one), and ate it with their fingers. After serving lunch, we headed back to basecamp for our own lunch of sandwiches.
In the afternoon we visited the women’s cancer hospital, adjacent to a women’s hospital in Managua. As an employee of the American Cancer Society, I was really looking forward to this experience. I have to say, I’ve never wanted to end cancer as much as I did while I was there. It was hot – there was no airflow whatsoever. The women were all laying around aimlessly in a room full of beds lining the wall, but when we got there, they began to rise and graciously accepted our hugs, and their eyes just lit up. Claudia, one of the Project H.O.P.E. staff/interpreters, created a really fun and energetic atmosphere with games and music. While we were doing games, 4 women from our group went into rooms where women were getting chemotherapy and prayed over them. They said it was really emotional. We finished off our time there by painting their fingernails and toenails. One lady wanted all her red nail polish removed and French tips added, which took me quite awhile. It was a rewarding experience.
Back at basecamp, we cleaned up and ate meatballs, rice, and mushroom sauce for dinner. We stayed up late and played Phase 10 with several of the others in our group.
I forgot to mention that on Sunday night we tried to Skype with Lil’ Miss K, which was a complete disaster. She started bawling when she saw us, so we decided we’d better not attempt it again the rest of the trip. Luckily we had Wi-Fi at basecamp so we were still able to hear from the grandparents each day.