Volunteer resource teacher, Beatriz, looks back over what she experienced at NPH Nicaragua
April 12, 2016 - Nicaragua
I read one time, I don’t remember where, that you need sixteen hugs a day to be happy. That is exactly what I found at NPH Nicaragua, hugs--lots of hugs—and happiness—lots of happiness.
It has been almost a year and a half since I became a part of this wonderful family and every day I love it more, and have learned through my experiences there to take in the good things and the not so good things. Also each one of the pequeños is unique and special and with the passing of time each one, in their own way and time, has won a very special place in my heart.
I arrived at NPH to fill the role of a resource teacher. I worked with the children at school that had some time of learning difficulty and for whatever reason needed more individualized and personal attention. This was an important part of what I did as a volunteer, but in no way was it everything. The volunteers are also ‘godparents’ of one of the homes that they are assigned to upon arrival at Casa Padre Wasson. My home was and will always be Maria Inmaculada (Immaculate Mary), and the girls that live there are between eleven and fourteen years old. I spent the majority of my free time with them. We ate together, I helped them with their homework, we played, we went on walks in search of delicious fruit, we celebrated our birthdays together, and when it was possible, we enjoyed a good movie together.
Beyond that, there are always other things to help with or new projects to get going on. For example, when I had been at NPH for a little less than six months I began a new project to encourage reading with the youngest children. We called it “El Club de la Lectura” (Reading Club). I was so impressed with the success and the impact that this program has had. It was rare that a day would go by without someone asking me, ‘When is the club?’, ‘Is there club today?’, ‘Are you going to come read today at club?’ We truly enjoyed those nights of adventure.
Another big project that I was involved in was “El Proyecto de Arte” (Art Project). Every other weekend a painting teacher visited us at Casa Padre Wasson, or we went to the art studio in the neighboring city of Granada. Our little artists found time to distract themselves, forget about their problems for a while, and develop their imaginations. When they finished their paintings we created post cards to sell in order to raise funds to continue the classes.
Surprisingly, after all of this, there was ever a little bit of time left for me. Starting on my first day at NPH I heard our youngest musicians here playing the marimba, the traditional instrument of Nicaragua. I wanted to learn to play and that is what I tried to do. Whenever I could I escaped to practice.
One of the best experiences I had with my kids at NPH, one that I keep as a beautiful memory, was the day that I went out to perform with the band in the school parade for Independence Day. It was such an emotional day. We all marched in our new uniforms, our intricate hairdos, our clean instruments recently polished and our repertoire of music that we had practiced and worked so hard on. We felt proud. Everything went as planned and we were the pride of the home.
It is on days like the parade, days like the anniversary of the home, the celebrations of the quinceañeras, and Christmas that we can really perceive our family spirit. This is our unitfication of all being together, working and living together, and heading in the same direction with our only goal being the wellbeing and future of our children.
A volunteer should open their mind and heart. They should open their mind and understand that they are in a different country where things just work in a different way and to a different rhythm. They should arm themselves with an extra dose of patience and accept that plans can change from one minute to the next without warning. And they should learn to be very independent. Above of all, a good volunteer should open their heart to these children that are capable of giving back so much love. They should accept the children unconditionally and always keep in mind that each one of them comes from a difficult past and they have suffered so much we couldn’t imagine it if we tried.
It is now when I realize that the ‘difficult’ decision to extend my time here as a volunteer was the best thing I could have done. Now, from my room in my home in Spain, I look back and my eyes tear up very easily when I think about how hard it was to say goodbye to my life at NPH, to my lovely Nicaragua, and to all the children and wonderful people that are now, and will always be, a part of my family.
Even a book with hundreds of pages or a very fat spine would not be enough to explain everything that I experienced there, all the anecdotes or little stories that happen from day to day, or the mix of feelings and emotions on important days.
Being part of NPH is something that cannot be explained. It is something that needs to be lived to be understood.