Matagalpa – Elise, Josh S, Seth, Aaron S

Maria visited these four students who work at separate locations but within about one hour of each other.

Elise works outside Matagalpa city at the nutritional clinic that the whole SST group had visited at the end of May.  In the mornings from 8:00 until lunch she works on the ground floor of the building with a doctor, Osman, in a clinic that serves the local population as well as the children at the nutrition center.  Elise helps weigh and measure the patients, as well as take their blood pressure.  She has lunch at the center, and the afternoon she helps with the center’s 13 children, who are on the second floor of the building.  She reads to the children, helps feed them, cleans them, plays with them, and often just holds them if they are crying.  Between the clinic and the nutrition center a total of 21 people work there, providing basic medical attention and around-the-clock care for the children.

What struck Maria the most was to see how some of the most malnourished children we saw a month ago had improved since then.  Whereas before they had been listless or crying continuously, now they were playful and smiling.

Elise’s work supervisor, Nubia, is also her host mother.  After work together they take a bus to their home in Matagalpa city.  On the weekends Elise spends time with one or both of her sisters, who are about the same age as Elise, and they have gone to visit some towns outside of Matagalpa.

After meeting Elise’s family, Maria took Elise and Josh S. out for dinner.  Although they both live in Matagalpa city, they had not seen each other since going to their service assignments.  They both said how they like that mountains surround the city, which makes it feel very different than Jinotepe.

Afterwards they went to visit Josh at his home.   His host mother, Aura Ligia, earns a living making enchiladas and sometimes cakes to sell.  He has a little sister, Belen, and two brothers, although the brothers are older and are often working outside the home.

In the morning Maria walked with Josh to his work, in Matagalpa city, which is all of one block from his house.  He works at Las Hormiguitas (Little Ants), an organization that helps at-risk students with their schoolwork.  The children it serves are typically street kids who also work shining shoes or selling things in the market.  The center supports itself with donations and income from a house it rents, as well as calendars they sell.

Josh works at the center from 9:00 until noon, then he goes home for lunch, and then he returns to work from 1:00-5:00.  At the center he helps kids with their homework, and in the afternoons he often helps with the center’s Mobile School, a truck that goes to the poorest neighborhoods and the garbage dump, to help kids with homework and offer books from their library.

Later that day Maria took a bus from Matagalpa city to an outlying area where Seth lives and works with Vicente Padilla, whom the whole group had visited a month ago on the same trip when they stopped at the nutritional center.  Vicente is the campesino on a small coffee farm who had a prolonged struggle to keep his small coffee farm, which is now a model for organic production.

Seth’s family includes Vicente’s wife and three children living at home.  In the mornings Seth helps Vicente and his two sons with work on their organic coffee farm, clearing weeds and planting new coffee seedlings.  He also helps his little sister sort coffee beans from last year’s harvest.

Seth likes wearing his knee-high rubber boots and getting dirty with the farm work and using a machete (but because of an accident with an earlier guest worker, the machete has had the pointed tip removed).  In the afternoon Seth helps with other chores.

Aaron S. lives about a 45-minute walk away.  He and Seth often go running together.  This evening Maria brought Seth and Aaron into Matagalpa for supper with Josh and Elise, whom they have not seen since they all left for their service assignments.  Afterwards Maria returned with Seth and Aaron to the campo.

Aaron lives and works with a family in a rural community of about 50 houses called San Antonio.  He has a brother and four sisters.  The father has a truck he uses to sell produce in Matagalpa.

In the morning Aaron walks with his brother for about 10-15 minutes until they reach the family farm plot.  They get the tools they need out of a shed on the property, which also has a cow and some horses.  Aaron sometimes helps take the animals to a pasture, and sometimes he helps them pick pipian, a squash-type vegetable, and naranjillos, a fruit related to oranges.

He returns home for lunch, where he later washes his clothes, assists with housework, and sometimes helps his brother with homework for his nursing classes.  Often he swims at a pond close to the house, and on the weekends he plays soccer or baseball with others in the community.

Aaron wins a special award: of all the student rooms Maria has seen visiting service assignments, Aaron’s is the neatest and cleanest.