After entering NPH at age 12 without being able to read or write, Oscar shares his experience and hopes for the future. September 8, 2017 - Nicaragua
Oscar after work
Oscar is a dynamic 22-year-old living at NPH Nicaragua. He loves to spend time with the younger children and he’s excited to continue studying after finishing his year of service in the home. Oscar is very content with his current routine, but his days haven’t always been so fulfilling.
“Before coming to NPH, I had a pretty difficult life,” he said. Oscar’s father separated from his mother during an especially challenging time, and then he went to live with extended family which presented other difficulties. Oscar did not attend school; instead, he worked. He sold firewood, cut grass using machetes, and helped clean up gardens. “The hardest part was that I had to work and couldn’t study, and my friends from a young age were already getting involved with drugs, alcohol and other vices in the streets,” he said.
For some time, Oscar decided that living in the streets was better than his previous situation. “In the streets I could defend myself.” But the influence of drugs, alcohol, and smoking reached Oscar at this time. “I almost lost myself.” he said.
Then, in 2007, Oscar had a stroke of luck. He sold chicharrones for a police officer who noticed Oscar’s work ethic. That same officer asked if Oscar wouldn’t like to go to school, to have plenty of food, clothes, and other children to play with. For Oscar, the answer was simple. “Of course I would like that,” he said, “but I told him it was not possible because I had to work.” In 2008, Oscar was busy selling firewood when he heard that the police were looking for him. The Family Services Department of Nicaragua had come to bring him to NPH.
“I entered NPH when I was twelve years old, and it was a radical change,” said Oscar. “I did not have to work all day, I received clothes, and I had a lot more interaction with kids my age.”
But for Oscar, school did not come so easily. “I couldn’t read or write, and other kids my age were already in sixth grade,” he said. When he arrived, Oscar had to take placement tests in math and Spanish. When the school director came to check on his progress and found Oscar with his head down and the test pages blank, she asked what was going on.
“I told her, ‘Come here, I want to tell you a secret,’” he said. “And then I confessed that I couldn’t read or write. She looked at me, and told me, ‘Don’t you worry about that. Don’t worry, don’t be embarrassed.’”
The school placed Oscar in a class which is a combination of two grades in one school year. Within his first month, he learned to read, write, and do basic mathematics. He often carried his notebook with him just in case he found extra time to study. In just three years, he completed primary school, which generally lasts six years.
Oscar was the best student throughout primary school and the first three years of secondary school. At age 18 he moved to Managua, Nicaragua’s capital city, to finish his secondary school education. Upon graduation in December of 2016, he also received technical certifications in computation and banking.
“In 10 years at NPH I accomplished a lot of things,” said Oscar. “Now when I visit my family they are so surprised and don’t believe that I finished high school and have certifications.”
Currently, Oscar is giving his second year of service to the home in Nicaragua. He has spent both years working on the farm, but has added responsibilities now. He manages production numbers and coordinates the entire area with another worker.
“Sometimes it’s difficult, because I get up early and work late without much rest, so sometimes I wish I had a different job,” said Oscar. “But then I go visit the kids after work, and we talk and do activities. They change my mood, my mindset, they give me energy. I feel better going back to work the next day.”
Visiting the children is Oscar’s favorite daily activity. As for his favorite event of the year, he selected graduation day; he likes to see the pride on the graduates’ faces as they reflect on their accomplishments.
“If NPH had not arrived in my life, if I hadn’t had this opportunity, maybe I still wouldn’t be able to read and write,” said Oscar. “Maybe I would already have a family. I have always been a fighter, so I don’t think things would be so bad, but probably not so good.”
Now, Oscar is hoping to continue his education in Spain with a scholarship. He would like to study photovoltaic system installation and maintenance. He would then like to return to NPH to work and use his expertise with the brand-new solar panels. The first solar panel system was installed at Casa Padre Wasson in August of this year, with hopes to install more on the other NPH Nicaragua properties in the future. If he is not able to go to Spain, he will continue to study and support the home in Nicaragua.
Oscar also hopes to support NPH through literature, by writing a book about his experiences and the life of others. “NPH is one story composed of many,” he said, “and I want to help share it.”
No matter where Oscar’s path takes him in the future, he is sure of one thing: he will always be a part of the NPH family. “I don’t think I can live without some connection to NPH,” he said. “It’s in my blood, my bones, and my heart.”
Emily Doyle Communication Officer
You may be only one person in the world, but you may be all the world to one child.
—Fr. William Wasson