Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Day Two of Work

Dear literary travelers, today we saw the second half of our work at Familias de Esperanza/Common Hope.

While half the group went to our construction site, the other half visited FE/CH families who may one day be receiving a house. The web site at Common Hope explains this in more detail, but the short version is families are classified as A, B, or C, with A being the newest and neediest families in the program, B being a step along the way to better education and overall health, and C those who are doing service to earn a house.

Families are chosen depending on need: a few criteria include three or more children and willingness to agree to the following: half of the children are sponsored, and parent(s) must agree to send school age children to school, to submit report cards and educational updates, to visit the clinic for a health check, and basically allow social work supervision along the way.

OK, so Juli and I went with our wonderful worker, Louisa, to visit two C families. We are meant to be observers of the process. We were dropped off in a village outside of Antigua, San Pedro de Obispo, and walked up to a cluster of houses above town.

The first family we visited lives on the end of a road with houses constructed of thin panels of corrugated steel. My first impression was how clean the dirt streets are. There is a gutter dug out for water drainage, and no trash anywhere. At our clients' house, she has a little garden of tropical flowers in the front, and the entrance is decorated with geraniums potted in plastic Pepsi bottles hanging from the wall of steel.

The woman immediately pulled out benches ( wooden boards on iron piping) and plastic chairs, and covered them with a towel for us to sit in her little court yard, which is basically a living area behind two enclosures of steel and corn stalks for sleeping quarters, with blankets for doorways and privacy.

She has one girl, aged 11, who is in school, and was washing dishes in the outdoor kitchen in a bucket of water; and three little boys, ages 2, 4, and 6, who were running about playing with belts as though they were lassos. The father (who wasn't there at that time)suffers from severe headaches of unknown cause, and they make a living by selling goat milk.

In the court yard, we sat with their 3 or 4 dogs (one with puppies nursing), chickens and chicks in a small enclosure, and their two goats, Cenizas and Lodo (?- didn't quite get her name). Cenizas (ashes in Spanish) is a gray goat, and a protagonist in the following story.

After a conversation about general health of the children and the parents, as well as the presentation of a certificate for the daughter to attend a special one week computer class here at FE/CH, the girl wiped spotless three tall glasses. With the help of her little brother, who held Cenizas by the horns, the chica squeezed the goat's teats with one hand, while holding up a back hoof with the other (to prevent the goat from running? kicking?). A short time later, we were presented with three glasses of warm goat's milk, right from the udder.

We had been cautioned about consuming tap water or drinks from opened soda bottles, but none of this was covered...I looked at our social worker, Louisa, who gave me a "what to do?" look - she herself pleaded lactose intolerance, but to no avail, as goats' milk is entirely different, the woman told us, and no one ever get sick, etc.

So we took cautious sips, and I must say I have never tasted anything so rich and delicious that was unadorned with sugar or flavoring. The milk was warm and tasted as though we had stirred spoons of honey inside, and was thick as a milk shake. We drank it down and no one suffered any gastro-related illness...

This visit clarified for me the importance of the cement floor (our work yesterday) - while the woman made every effort to keep the ground swept clean, the family was sharing their dirt floor in their living space with animals' urine and feces from the goats.

This family is due to receive a FE/CH house in about a year:)

It was a eye-opening and touching experience to share the morning with this family...and will write more about it in another venue ~

Ellen

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