Friday, July 18, 2008

A week with Canica

After a week on the beach in Mazunte and Puerto Escondido, we headed to Oaxaca. At the bus station (after a very bumpy ride), we were warmly welcomed by Thomas, a Dutch volunteer working at Canica. We were met on the road by Munye, the Director of Canica, who immediatly introduced us with Canica´s vibrancy with her lively manner of speaking. At a nice cafe, the four of us discussed Canica´s proposal for spending Nam Jai´s donation and the plan for the week to follow was laid out.

Tuesday, we went to visit the Centro de dia, the daycare centre Canica has for the children of the vendors at the nearby market. Since it´s holiday time now, Canica organised a two-week long summer course open to all the children it works with. This means it was crowded with some 90 kids in different age groups - between 1 and 15 years old; some were being read a story, others were working with origami, and others made small carts of newspapers and glue. The atmosphere was relaxed and most kids seemed happy playing and working. During the schoolyear, the Centro de dia has about two groups of 40 children that have breakfast there and can bathe and get dressed for school there. After school they can come back to play or follow computerclasses.

Wednesday, Thomas took us to Casa Canica, a home for girls until the age of 15, who have been abused. The house is located some 30 minutes outside of Oaxaca and truely is a home. The ground floor has communal rooms, all located around a patio and upstairs are the girls´ bedrooms. In total the house has space for 25 girls. At the moment there are 11 girls living there. Even though it became clear from the stories we´d heard from Miya, the volunteer we´d been corresponding with, that the girls have difficult lives, they seemed at ease in Casa Canica. One of the girls, a student of beauty school, was cutting another girl´s hair. Two smaller girls were doing their laundry; another was just sitting around, listening to music.

On Thursday, we were introduced to the division that works with streetvendors, Traja. Leonardo, its coordinator, took us to several neighborhoods where Canica assists families that sell wares on the main crossings and big square (Zocalo) in Oaxaca. They work only with families that comply to all their requirements; the entire family is involved and all children go to school. Canica sends two educadores to the families each week of which one works with children (helping them with homework, talking about their issues) and the other focuses on the parents (giving them advice on how to arrange for paperwork and so on). Also, they work with the family as a whole, teaching them about fysical hygiene, nutricion, the importance of education etcetera. We went to two families, the latter of which was in a really depressing situation: the house was completely made of sinkplates (hot during the day and very cold at night), they had no water or electricity and the toilet merely consisted of a clay bowl. An eight year old girl welcomed us, pulled up chairs and told us her mom wasn´t there. She was taking care of her little brother and sister. How do you tell them that it´s better to send their kids to school than to bring them along to sell gum and earn some 6 euro´s on a day?

Up until now it´s been an inspiring week. It´s an honor to be around people that spend their days helping these children and their families. This afternoon we will go to the ending of the summerschool, where the Nam Jai donation will also be officially handed over. Then tonight, we´ll tag along to the Zocalo where Canica holds a gamenight every Friday. A lot of small streetvendors come up to play; this gives Canica a chance to get to know them (and often their parents) and to see if they could include them in their program.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Nuestros pequenos hermanos

After reading and hearing many stories about Casa San Salvador, the orphanage of Nuestro Pequenos Hermanos, we finally visited their grounds last Thursday. It was, as we had expected, huge. We were welcomed by one of their 15 volunteers, Drew, who gave us the full tour. We walked through the kitchen where tortillas were being baked, continued towards the pigstalls and the greenhouse in the field. The greenhouse was donated by a Spanish couple that build it and explain to the locals how to use and maintain it. We were later told the story that the children had done a contest for who could grow the biggest cucumber. A group of children ended up with a three kilo cucumber, of which they ate half and sols half. The profit was used to thow a party.

The tour eventually led us to the dorms, where we were hugged by two little boys. One almost didn´t want to let go. The all sleep in triple bunkbeds, in a dorm where on of the former ´pequenos´ takes care of them. The children all stay to work for two years of service at the house, to return a favor basically. Since they know what the children need, better than anyone, they support the smaller kids.

Everyone was busy preparing for the day after, which was graduation day. We were invited to come back and so we did. We arrived around nine on the big basketball field, which was transformed into a big stage. For almost two hours, the children danced and received their diplomas. It was great to be there. It was especially nice to see the faces of the teens that did not seem to be all too happy dancing... Picturs will follow soon!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Nam Jai @ Mexico City

After a somewhat smelly flight (There were 23 horses in the trunk of the plane), we arrived safely on Mexican grounds yesterday night. Our conclusion after day One is that it isn´t all that bad with pollution and chaos. We were not once harrased and could easily go about our business. And so we did.. we strutted around half the town, from Zocalo to the Basilica de Nuestra Signora de Guadalupe to Coyoacan. We took the Metro several times, which was quite an experience as each stop presented a new salesperson for CD´s and DVD´s. Carrying a discman or mini DVD player in the hand and a speaker in a backpack, the men and women tried hard to sell their salsa, tearjerkers or salsa dance lessons to the board Metro crowd.

The Basilica was just as ugly as seen on television. The beauty of it was nevertheless that it is actually being used as a church by its faithfull followers. While we were hiding out for the rain, a man came crawling on his knees with his daughter. Apparently, facing the virgin of Guadelupe on your knees, is the highest form of respect for her. Well, the picture was beautifull: pooring rain, a man holding a candle (which was constantly blown out by the wind) underneath an umbrella held up by his eight year old daughter. That is true faith.

Well, these are the first impressions of Mexico. Tomorrow we´ll go on our way to Miacatlan to visit Casa San Salvador. Friday, the kindergarten celebrates a graduation party to which we are invited. I was told Mariachis would be present, so I can´t wait. Now, we´re off for another tortilla. Adios!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Publicity for Nam Jai

Last wednesday we were on TV! The children's news program Jeugdjournaal came to Michael's school to interview him and the children about a paperclip. Inspired by a man who had traded a paperclip for a house, the children also started trading paperclips. In no time, they had collected the most wonderful items. And all these items are to be sold for the good cause: children in Mexico! It's a great success and were of course thrilled that Michael was on the news. What better advertising can you get?!

If you'd like to watch the clip, click here >>
After 7 min 28 the item on the paperclips starts.

Canica de Oaxaca

Canica de Oaxaca, A.C is a Mexican NGO, which supports children and their families that are living on the street in Oaxaca. The organisation has three projects:

1. `Niño(a) del Mercado` (children of the market);
2. `Niña(o)s Trabajadores en la Calle` (children that work on the streets);
3. `Violencia Intrafamiliar` (domestic violence).

"CANICA de Oaxaca" tries to place the children in a shelter and help the families. In Casa Canica the children get to be 'children' again. They are taught to go to school each day, to pay, to eat healthy and so on.

We are very happy to have found a good organisation to cooperate with. The first contact we had was through the Dutch organisation Amigos de Canica; a foundation set up solely to support the work of Canica de Oaxaca. In the coming months we will discuss with them what kind of support we could possibly offer.

Friday, February 08, 2008

We're going to Mexico!

It took a while to decide where we would be heading to next, but the choice has been made. Mexico it is! This means exciting times for Nam Jai have begun again. We are planning several fun(d)raisers, including a big sale on Queensday. Friends have started gathering things for us to sell (thanks, Marise) and one of Michael's colleagues has committed to selling items created in her sowing club. We have even received some anonimous donations! Thank you!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

NGO - the magic word

Since a couple of days, we're staying in Siem Reap. It's a nice little town, which is going through rapid tourism boom. Everywhere, just an in Sihanoukville, hotels pop out of the ground. The usual techniques to attract the attention of passing tourists are also applied here: yelling at you from a distance "Mister-wan-collldrink?!" or continuously repeating the offer of "five-for-only-one-dollar".

The biggest boom here is not tourism though, it's the NGO "business". Everyone who ownes a guesthouse or knows a bit of English seems to have their own private initiative to help a family, village or school. Makes sence, because poverty is all around you. Also the big organisations are present; Plan, UNICEF, we've even seen a building of SOS Children's villages (also sponsored by Dutch organisations). We talk a lot about this; what do the people here actually want and which type of aid is most effective?

We have a lot of good examples from practise around us. At the moment we are staying at Baca Villa ( which is also run by a Dutch man named Jan, same as Orchidee guesthouse in Sihanoukville (It's not that we're chauvinist, we just heard this is a nice place). This Jan is supporting the entire Baca family and currently employs twenty-three people - all brother, sisters, nieces and nephews. He has also just set up a school in the countryside, where children can take English lessons. The classes are very popular; the only teacher had some two-hundred students! Many come from surrounding villages.

Tuesday Jan took us to visit a school to which we donated a part of the Nam Jai moneyt to; the Wat Prenn School of the Salariin Kampuchea foundation. Jan knows Saskia, one of the founders and a good friend of mine, and the other that run the foundation, very well. It was busy, because there was a documentary showed of the Tonle lake. Whether the kids understood everything, I strongly doubt. Fortunately they get to visit the `Wildlifecentre` in Siem Reap to study the snakes and other wild creatures from up close; then they'll definately grasp it all!

A lot more to tell; we've seen many pagoda's and still enjoy ourselves here.
More will follow soon.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Greetings from Kleng Leu

After a long journey and a few days in Phnom Penh, we hopped on the Mekong Express Limousine Bus to Sihanoukvelle. Being experienced travellers, we hadn't arranged for a pick-up from the busstop, which caused us to be surrounded with motodop (motorbike) drivers offering us rides. After looking around, we found the man in charge - he was carrying a notebook and a megaphone. He arranged two motorbikes (3 USD) to take us (bagage in front) to Orchidee guesthouse, where we met Cees.

Sihanoukville is still relatively new to tourism, but big real estate contractors are buying every piece of land they can find. This will undoubtedly turn this place into a beachcity like Kuta in Bali in a few years.

Kleng Leu, the village where Cees set up the Mondol Op'thom school, is a victim to this trend. Yesterday we drove to the village near the quarry. Several years a go the village only consisted of a few shacks, now concrete houses pop up everywhere. The villagers are selling their land - walls, fences and barbed wire is put up on the strangest places.

Cees takes us to the school and we peek into the classrooms where the children are taught Khmer language and mathematics. They have only two more days of school before summerholidays begin and many have already started their vacations early. No one who can do anything about it..

Opposite the school is a small house on poles, which has been bought by Cees to make into a computerroom. First the house is sealed so that it stays free of rain and thieves, then a teacher for computerlessons can be sought and computers bought. Our donation (and yours!) will be used for this project.

Much of what we've seen is hard to grasp. Houses are made of wood and are not well taken care of. The village is confronted with dengue - the mosquitos sting during the day, the mosquito nets are thus of no use. While we use 'deet' as moisturiser, this is too expensive for the villagers. A little boy has died some months ago.

The government denies all claims that not enough is being done to prevent dengue. In adverstisments in the paper, they explain what they do to keep the people save. Just this morning (Cees told us) a man with a megaphone drove by on a bicycle to inform us of the dangers of dengue. You see, the government does care!

Well, that's it for now.
The pictures will be uploaded later.