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Our Children

July 28, 2008
In our volunteer experience series, we bring you a description of children at the slums by Patrick and Melissa Chiappetta, a young couple helping EI in its 2008 program.
Here is what they saw at the barrio :
A sad day

A sad day

The children run around from house to house and play together in the streets with whatever they can find. We saw a couple of boys having a great time trying to keep the outer part of a bike tire rolling down the road in a straight line.

Most of the kids run around without shoes on, and some of them pass their time in even fewer clothes – often times missing pants, a shirt, or both. If the children do have clothes, they are usually full of holes and covered in dirt and mud, as are most of the kids.

Amidst all this poverty, the kids all seem happy even if they are busy doing chores (washing clothes, cooking lunch, or sweeping the courtyard). They smile and often wave as we pass by them. Some hide behind their mother’s legs. A few of the older kids pass by on their way to work – pushing carts of fruits and vegetables to sell at the market or driving horse-drawn trailers with their fathers. But, all seem to have smiles on their faces.

Empowerment International began working with the families in the barrio because many of the parents did not understand the value of an education. Most of them dropped out of school at a very young age; so, very few of them can read, and most work manual labor jobs or sell things they grow or make. They figure that they have done okay without school; so, they see no reason to send their children. Yet, they struggle through life in the barrio, scraping by on next to nothing.

Life their seems to age people much more quickly than anywhere else I have been. Anielka, Empowerment International’s Program Director, introduced us to one woman who can’t be more than 35 but is missing all but two teeth. We met another woman in her 20s who more like she is in her 40s. It is very evident that these women have worked hard every day of their lives caring for their families. We can’t imagine the type of trials and tribulations they have experienced.

Yet, the barrio seems in some ways doomed to repeat this cycle. Anielka tells us that the program has a difficult time keeping the older girls in school. Many of them drop out at age 14, 15, or 16 because they fall in love or become pregnant. These young couples end up setting up a house of their own in the barrio or moving in with their parents to get by. The girls rely on their boyfriends to provide for them.

Empowerment International definitely has its hands full.


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In Nicaragua 50% of the kids that start 1st grade never make it to 5th grade. It is our goal to make this percentage drop significantly.

$30/month is what it takes us at Empowerment International to put a child in school. If you would like to help a child stay in school and get better life, please click on the link below or contact us

Donate at Change.org

One Comment leave one →
  1. August 30, 2008 8:48 pm

    Lilly, thanks for the clarification and concern on our usage of terms.

    While I too think of a barrio as a neighborhood outside of the city center,it seems Spanish dictionaries (two that I just referenced on line)have the same interpretation that our team writers may have allured to the above article.

    New Pocket Oxford Spanish Dictionary © 2005 Oxford University Press:
    slum /slʌm/ sustantivo

    1. (poor urban area) (often pl) barrio m bajo, barriada f (AmL exc CS), barrio m de conventillos (CS) 2. (filthy place) (colloq & pej) pocilga f

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