Trip Start Jul 12, 2009
Trip End Aug 18, 2010

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Casa Alta

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Friday, June 11, 2010

Viernes 11 Junio

We drove to World Vision and we met Ernesto and Ernesto's mum, little sister and big sister.Ernesto is my penpal and is nine years old and lives in a poor community. They opend their presents then we went into the van and drove to Ernesto’s school and the children clapped and I saw chairs lined up on the stage and we sat on the chairs we first saw the boy and girl dancing. Next we saw a man dressed like a woman and daddy danced with the man and so did mum it was so funny. We went to the garden and we planted a papaya tree. Then we went to lunch by the lake and after we visited the bigger school and that’s were I played instrument and Edie and Fynn played football and Edie fell over and got hurt.  It started to rain so Fynn was muddy and wet.The last place we visited was a house where ladys did cooking and we played piggy in the middle with Ernesto.It was a lovely day.

Today was the one of the most emotional days of our life.  We can honestly list our wedding and the children’s birth as our 'big emotional days’ but today was one which came as a bonus and was not planned.  For today we met the little boy we have been sponsoring for nine years and we had not expected this day to have such an effect on us as it did.  

Nine years ago when Lily was a babe in arms and we were living in Australia we were introduced to World Vision Australia at a shopping mall in Sydney.  They were promoting sponsorship of children around the world and we chose a child who was close in age to Lily at the time and thus Ernesto a child in Nicaragua was selected for our sponsorship.  Since then we have exchanged letters, photos and presents and in return we too have received pictures painted by Ernesto and an update on what he and his community has been doing. 

Meeting Ernesto was a key objective when we were planning this adventure and not only did we want to just stop off in Nicaragua we too wanted to do something for the community whilst we were here.  Unfortunately as we were only here for a month we were unable to assist World Vision as they required a minimum of 3 months but our agents in the UK worked hard and after further investigation we were honoured to be working at a school in Granada.  

Plans for our visit to meet Ernesto started last year when we were advised that we required police clearance from the UK.  Thankfully Ian’s "mint imperial" experience had been erased and we were clean to visit.  After a few more forms were completed, plans then had to be made for a date for our visit which was Friday June 11th.

All our communication was with the Australian World Vision office and Teresa, our contact was brilliant keeping us updated on all the developments on the arrangements and it seemed like she has traveled with us throughout our journey.    

We left early on Friday morning laden with presents for the family and waved down a taxi.   Unfortunately en route his tire burst and we wavered to the side of the road.  Thankfully another taxi driver stopped and we hopped in and rushed off to our rendezvous point where Oscar, our contact in Nicaragua met us and drove us to World Vision ADP office.  It was here that we were going to met Ernesto and his family.  We found out from Oscar and his colleague Odier that they have had one visit from sponsors in the last four years, our’s now being the second.

As much as we were prepared materialistically, emotionally we had no idea of how the day would go and hundreds of questions all of a sudden started to pop up and then totally dissolve when the door opened and in walked Ernesto, his mother and two sisters.  We hugged immediately and the huge volcano of anxiety just shattered and fell. 

We were ushered into a room for us sit down and chat with Odeir and colleagues of the project who work in Ernesto’s community.  It was a stilted start as our Spanish was clumsy but Lily cracked into her Spanish mantra and recited her name, age, where she lived and what she loved followed by Fynn and then Edie.  Ernesto’s mother, Ida Maria, was very warm and full of smiles.  She thinks before she speaks and then is controlled and appears confident.  You can see straight away that this is a very close and warm family.  She pulled from her bag a picture we had sent Ernesto when Fynn was born, Lily with her short hair leaning over Fynn who was staring at the camera.

Our day was discussed and our first visit was to Ernesto’s school in a local community.  World Vision have been here for ten years and have helped the school by buying the land but with the support of the Department of Education the local community they have had to build the school. We learned how World Vision works promoting sustainable development and have a time span of fifteen years at each project.  During this time they assist a community to build up and work together until they no longer need World Vision.  They are all about the children and the area around them concentrating mainly in rural areas.  This includes education, training for parents, members of the community in advocacy, rights and duties and including subjects that are a problem.  They also work on agriculture, techniques that can assist the community being self sufficient down to how to approach government for assistance.  The money to enable them to do this is from child sponsorship.  Hold that thought, because like us you are going to know how grateful these people are.

We left with Ida Maria, Ernesto, his older sister Ester and Belen Sarah who is just two.  On arrival at the school all the children and teachers flooded out and lined the pavement clapping as we walked to the school and it was here that the enormity of our visit registered.  The stage had a gigantic banner with “Bienvenidos” in gold lettering, there was a PA system and chairs all lined up facing the podium.  The Principal invited us to the stage and around us the children were still clapping.  It was here that I cried.

Two of the fifth formers opened the ceremony, which the school had put together for us, welcoming us to the school.  The school then stood up to sing the national anthem and not one of those children failed to know the words.  The Principal followed and stood and faced us to declare how much they valued what we did, not just us but other sponsors.  She started to list the differences it has made to the school and the community, from offering the foundations of an education to starting a school garden producing nutritious food for the children, purchasing school materials, books and computers.

The adulation was immense and sincere.  These people really meant what they were saying, if it was not for the sponsors who pay an annual amount to World Vision, heaven knows how their lives would be.  We know this more so after traveling to some very poor and rural communities where there is not a school and children have to travel miles and when they get there, there are no seats or pencils and books.

The speeches were interrupted with some musical entertainment with two children from year three dancing.  This was followed by the school’s dance teacher dancing an old dance where the men dressed as the old colonial Spanish women. And much to Ian’s horror, this man/woman asked him for a dance and so off Ian went prancing around the stage much to the children’s amusement!!

The speeches continued with the head of the community again thanking us for our help and we were presented with a certificate and the children with Pinatas made by the children. 

We then went to meet the gardener who has taken a part of the land and with the help of the children made a garden the produce of which is used by the cooks for the children’s lunch and anything left goes to the families.  We were, along with Ernesto’s family, asked to plant a Papaya tree. 

The Principal was very proud of their school and showed us the library and computer room which is also used for the adults of the community. 

We eventually left feeling very humbled but proud of being part of this successful project. 

We went to lunch with Ida Maria and the family.  This is the first time they had ever been out to eat and without any shame asked for all the food that was left.  It emphasised how much we take everything for granted and how wasteful we are.  We knew that all this food would be eaten.  During our lunchtime Ida Maria told us that she could not read and write as her parents did not want her to go to school but to help out selling their goods.  She does not want that for her children and is keen on them to study hard and move forward and not get married early.  Her family is also with God and she said she enjoys singing.  We asked her to sing to us and she did and you could see how much joy she got as she closed her eyes and lost herself and sang clearly and emotionally a hymn that obviously means much to her.   It was beautiful.

In the afternoon we went to Ester’s school at Campusano and was presented with a bouquet of flowers made from the corn cob.  We visited the garden, the art and computer class and watched the children playing the marimba.  Fynn’s attention was taken to a group of children playing football and joined in followed by Lily and Edie.  The rain started to fall but that didn’t put off the kids and even when was whacked with a ball the game still went on. 

Our last visit of the afternoon was to a project called the “Cooking Pot Project”.  This usually happens in the morning but as we were coming in the afternoon all the mothers met up to show us what they did.  The objective of this project is to ensure that children who are too small for their age or have development problems are getting the correct nutrition.  With the help of a resident nutritionist the mothers of these children are helped to cook healthy foods within their budget which is usually very low.  They use Soya and the mothers showed us all that could be done with Soya.  A slow and manual process of soaking and cleaning the soya beans before they are made into Soya milk.  Some of the beans are mixed with onion, spices and garlic to make a floury spicy main course or with coconut and sugar to make a sweet dessert.  The soya milk was mixed with a coca powder for chocolate.  All of this was cooked outside with large pans and over open fires in the stifling heat.  

The women were having fun, a communal cook-in which made the whole process far more enjoyable.  You could see the success of the project as the women were a hundred percent behind it. 

Believe it or not the tire on our bus burst on the way home.  The second one today.  By now conversation was far more fluid between Ernesto and the children and Ida, Ian and myself.  Little Belen Sarah was happy to sit on my lap and even Ester was making more conversation. 

We returned back to World Vision office and it was time to say goodbye.  It was a beautiful day and even as I type this memory I can feel the long and loving hug that Ida Maria gave me saying, ‘we are blessed to have you as our friends and know that we are going to be friends for some time’. 

A remarkable day made very special by the people at World Vision, Nicaragua and the communities but most of all giving us the opportunity of meeting Ernesto and his family. 

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