Thursday, January 14, 2010

Los Quinchos Day!

Hey Everyone! Megan and Paul speaking:

Throughout the course of preparation for this project, we have learned a lot of information. However, the most prominent part of our learning, the part that stuck out the most, was a project called "Los Qunichos," which is an independent organization without government funds. We learned that this is a project who's goal is rehabilitating and counseling children of the street. This basic description of Los Qunichos revealed an excitement within all of us to be a part of these children's lives. We woke up yesterday morning, ready to go!

Upon our arrival at Los Qunichos in San Marcos, we were able to be guests at an Italian restaurant that is a part of the project. Carlos, the director of the project, greeted us with open arms and enthusiasm. He was eager to share his story, as well as the history of Los Quinchos so that we could better understand the children's issues and histories. We were informed that, not only is this a project to help children of the streets, but it is much more. These children have a plethora of tragedies that they have been forced to endure at such young ages. These children have been victims of domestic assault, sexual assault, child sex trafficking and drug abuse. Some of these children are being effected by these things at ages as young as four years old. The three stages of the program are as follows: Filter House- the detoxification center for children of all ages, La Finca (Farm)- a place where children up to the age of thirteen are housed, educated, active, and counseled professionally, and Granada- where teens over the age of thirteen learn life skills and plan their re-entrance into society. The process of recruiting these children is grueling and dangerous. They go into dangerous areas, looking for boys who are huffing glue. This is glue that is used to make shoes, similar to the rubber cement we see in the states. This might seem strange to some people, but they rely on the effects of this drug. "La Pega," as they call it, curbs hunger and reduces hunger pains, as well as giving a high that can cause hallucinations. To these kids, this is their savior, but they have to know that the glue is hurting them in the long run. It effects their brains, their respiratory systems and they digestive system. By gaining their trust and by them agreeing to be a part of the project, the process can begin. The female cases are a bit different. Carlos made it clear that the staff at Los Quinchos have risked their lives a number of times in order to save these girls from back alleys and brothels where they were being taken advantage of. Not only are they saving victims of prostitution, but they also rescue victims of abuse from their families due to lack of income and assistance in the household. Through learning the truths about these children, we did not know how to react. These are unbelievable concepts for us to grasp and we instantly had a responsibility to help these children and make them happy.

We had the pleasure of visiting La Finca, the second stage of Los Quinchos. Before we even reached the building we were going to, kids were jumping on the back of the bus, waving, laughing, and cheering for us. All of the history washed away. We saw children who needed us, who just wanted to be kids and play. And we did just that! After learning the names and ages of all of the children, we started a tour of the farm and living quarters. The fun began when we were attacked by water balloons! It continued with us climbing trees and picking/eating fruit from the trees that these children help grow. After the eventful tour, we went on to swim, play soccer, play "Gallo Gallo Pinto" (Duck Duck Goose) and really get to know the kids. It was an incredible experience. These children just wanted love, just wanted to be held and laugh. They effected us personally in a way that we can never fully explain. It reminded us why we are here and why we want to become educators; so that we can make an impact. So that we can help children in need. So that we can help any child succeed in life.

Although this may seem a bit selfish upon hearing all of these stories, these children made us truly grateful for the love we have received from our parents throughout our lives. We were all blessed to live lives in which we were always loved and treated well, no matter how much we needed to be reprimanded! These kids deserve that chance. No one should have to live through the experiences that these children have already had, in their young, innocent lives. 

As we started to say our goodbyes to the children, we realized how hard goodbye would be. Jhon looked at his watch and realized that no one was moving any time soon. Our goodbye process took about an hour and a half in which we laughed and were silly, the way all children should be. We finally got on the bus, followed by tears and silence. We learned the personal stories of some of these children. To share these stories now is too difficult, but we will eventually try to explain the hurt that we felt for these children. We hope to, one day, have the opportunity to come back and work as a volunteer for this amazing project.

On a personal note:

Meg- Hey everyone! This past week has been incredibly difficult. I am emotionally exhausted, and should be because of all the things I have seen. I cannot wait to share everything with all of you at home! I miss everyone and although I am loving my time here, I am excited to come home. I am sooooo looking forward to seeing you all! Madre, Daddy, Nikki, Tay, John, and everyone else following... I love you and can't wait to see you in a couple days! See you soon!

Paul- Well this is my first blog for this trip. I'm not much of a writer, but this trip has made me learn so much about my self. And after being with the kids I just had to tell you all about it. I realized how much my family means to me. Everything I see, I imagine them by my side. I am a new person. Playing soccer with the kids reminded me of the times I played with my brother growing up. Joking with the kids, rough housing, not caring about anything made me realize how great of a childhood I had. And Mikey it wouldn't have been the same without you in my life. I love you Broseph. Elf your always on my mind !! lol Mom every powerful woman i have met here i compare to you. You and DAD have done a great job according to most of the speakers I talked to :) . I love you soon and see you this weekend. I love you all see you all soon.


Serving lunch to the kids of La Chureca

otro video de La Chureca

fotos y video de La Chureca

La Chureca

By Danae Ioannidis

Today an incredible man named Carlos Vidal took us to La Churreca to see where many of the children from Los Quinchos live. La Churreca is the largest dump in Central America. Nearly 200 families live inside La Curreca, and another estimated 1,200 families live on the outskirts of the dump. All of these people survive on the garbage that others throw away. Never will I be able to erase from memory the sights, sounds and smells of this place. Hundreds of men, women, and children were sifting through mounds of trash to find a bit of plastic to sell or food to eat.
Carlos shared with us a tragedy that happened in La Churreca not too long ago. A group of three boys found a box of chocolates. Unsure exactly what it was but only knowing the box contained a sweet treat they many never taste again the boys hungrily devoured the chocolate. Within 30 minutes the boys began foaming at the mouth. What they had actually digested was chocolate rat poison that someone had casually tossed into the garbage without a passing thought. Whoever threw that poison away probably has no idea of the death of those three boys who believed in the good fortune of finding chocolate within the heaps of waste at La Churreca. Unfortunately, these are the realities that the people who live in and around La Churreca face daily. Malaria, dengue, parasites, respiratory and skin infections are only some of the diseases prevalent among the community. Violence, sexual abuse, and incest are some of the physical dangers of this nightmarish place…

Walking through La Churreca was the most difficult experience of my life. Seeing small children pick through waste not only like vultures, but literally along side vultures, was more than my senses could bear. The smoke, dust, and soot permeated the air so much that it was suffocating. After walking through the dump for an hour our skin and clothes were covered in a brown film. Imagine this being your life – spending every hour of every day in this nightmare. It's too much. It is a place I never thought I would see, and am still grappling with. It is a place no one should have to live, especially children. Yet, even with all these horrors the children we met today that Carlos tries to recruit for Los Quinchos were still smiling. As children all over the world do, these kids still found ways to laugh and play and regardless of their struggles, still find ways to be children.

I have not wanted to blog much since we have been here. In fact, I have done my best to avoid it. It is difficult for me to find words to accurately describe the things I have seen, the knowledge I have gained, and the emotions I have felt throughout this experience. There are so many more things I would like to share about today, but instead I will end this post with the smile of a child who, like all the others we have met over the past week, find ways to keep smiling.