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!