The ProNica website paraphrases the missions of the Los Quinchos and Las Yahoskas programs in terms of reaffirming human rights for children: a secure home, food, shelter, an education, and a peaceful childhood. Basic needs denied children all over the world. Simple requirements even small children can understand and appreciate, but we seldom offer them a means to contribute.
When our family decided to visit Nicaragua, we shared our plans with the First Day School class at Annapolis Friends Meeting (AFM), a Quaker monthly meeting in Maryland under the auspices of Baltimore Yearly Meeting. We explained history of military conflicts and political instability that have undermined the economic and social structures of the country. The children were particularly moved by the problems of domestic violence, abuse, and abandonment of children.
In the United States, where the GNP is high, these problems remain common. Economic prosperity makes them less obvious, but no less present. We see far fewer street children, and issues that occur in the confines of a house are much easier to hide and ignore. The visibility of the Nicaraguan social issues inspired the children of AFM and provided a perspective of how similar issues are plaguing many American families.
The children of AFM were anxious to help and offered to donate funds for charitable donations they received in gratitude for their ongoing participation in AFM markets. AFM holds two markets every year, offering donated goods. In exchange, patrons offer whatever they are willing and able to provide as a donation to the selected recipient organizations. The children participate by offering handcrafts and baked goods and providing musical entertainment.
The children’s generous offer inspired individual donations from members of the AFM community. Just weeks before our departure, we found ourselves gathering a wide range of donations. Financial support is always the most fungible form of assistance, but our situation lent itself to a combination of material and financial contributions. We had more luggage capacity than we intended to use, and the children were excited to share items that they thought the children in Nicaragua would enjoy: crayons, stickers, construction paper, origami paper, hair bands… Items offered as sincere gestures that could help them feel personally connected to the children in country.
I admit that I packed many of these items with some concern. I had tried to maximize the financial contributions and limit the material items that tended to be more expensive and lower quality in country. Even so, I worried that many of our items would seem naive or even ridiculous in country. Their true value only became apparent on our visit to Las Yahoskas and Los Quinchos. My 9 year old son Reece, 11 year old daughter Kallan, and I met ProNica director Ramon Sepulveda in Managua and drove to San Marcos where we met about 20 of the Las Yahoskas girls at the Cultural Center. With no common language, we worked on an origami project together. Demonstrating, assisting, laughing, and collaborating, we created origami pigeons, and the girls taught us the Spanish word, paloma (pigeon).
Later, we enjoyed tours of their home, graciously hosted by Belen, a graduate of Yahoskas, and then we drove down the road to see the Los Quinchos farm setting. We were impressed by the care and attention at both facilities, the warm welcome of the children and the staff, the beautiful colorful surroundings, the camaraderie, and exuberance of the children.
We shared all of our experiences with the AFM community when we returned, and ProNica was selected to be a recipient for a share of the proceeds of our Spring Market. The children of meeting were excited by our photos from Los Quinchos and Las Yahoskas, particularly the soccer fields and trophies, farm animals, handcrafts, stage, and musical instruments. But the magic of our visit happened in those first few minutes of origami when we folded the girls into our hearts.