Thursday, June 30, 2011

Play With Purpose

This summer the Back2Back Child Development Team rolled out a new program for groups from the States to participate in.  We spent the year studying child development in institutions like Casa Hogar's, looking at what the Bible says our response to the poor and orphan should be, and how we can make a deeper and lasting impact in the lives of the kids we serve.  We did a lot of staff training's and read a lot of books, and are finally ready for some action steps!  

The first thing we're doing is to have groups stop bringing candy and dollar store presents (like silly bands or little trinkets) to hand out to the kids.  Most people do this because they want to connect with a kid and make a difference in their lives but don't always know how or don't know Spanish.  So instead of candy and gifts we're doing Play With Purpose!  These are planned out activities and games that bring the group members and children together and develop a variety of skills.  Some are just physical because our kids need regular exercise.  Some are to work on social skills, some are educational, and some are Bible lessons.  After 4 weeks we've seen some great success!  Yesterday a group took nail polish and all the goodies to do a big spa day for the girls in a children's home.  They got the royal treatment soaking their feet in warm soapy water, foot and hand massages, and pretty nail polish.  Those girls felt like princesses, which is exactly who God says they are.  Beautiful and valuable princesses of His kingdom.  
Alonna playing jump rope with some boys at Manantial de Amor, physical exercise is a huge piece of child development that our kids are often missing.
The human knot game at Del Norte is a big hit.  It teaches teamwork and communication skills.
 The knot starting to unravel
 Group members take the younger kids up to the library to read.  Little kids are supposed to have one book a day read to them, but I bet it's more like one a week with our kids.
Since the kids don't get to read a lot, they think reading is awesome and a special treat!
Working on puzzles teaches all kinds of spacial awareness and problem solving skills.
Hacky sack is an easy way to hang out with the kids without having to use much language.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Del Norte Musical

This is a month late, but it's about a night that completely rocked my world and changed my preconceived ideas about my babies at Del Norte.  It's corny to blame the lateness on bad internet connections, but that's the honest truth.  Anyways, there's a local church who comes to do music classes for the kids at Del Norte, and at the end of the year they do a big "musical".  Any parent with elementary school aged kids knows that the word musical is a loose translation of what really happens.  This musical was especially for any family members that the children had.  I was pumped up to go to see my kids perform, and to meet their family members who've left them in a children's home.  To say that I was angry with some of those parents is a major understatement.  Alexis's mom has 6 other kids also living at Del Norte, angry does not begin to describe what I was feeling towards her.  Angel's mom doesn't visit him but does visit his 4 year old brother, Ramiro.  Edgar's mom hasn't been to visit him or his 2 brothers in a really long time.  Talk about frustration.  

Well, Alexis's mom was up there in the front row taking pictures and making a big deal out of all her kids.  After the show she hugged and kissed each of her 7 kids, took pictures with them, got them dinner, and was an all-around great mom that night.  Her kids were thrilled, and I learned that she's lived a super hard life and putting her kids in Del Norte was the best decision she could make.  I've since seen her again when she brought her kids to the Back2Back property for a big party.  She wanted to spend time with her kids but didn't want them to miss a party, so she just came along.  It was fun to shower her with a little extra attention and talk about how sweet her kids are.  All that anger has been replaced with some deep compassion for what this 27 year old mom has experienced in her life.

Angel's mom was there too, sitting next to Alexis's mom.  She talked a little with Ramiro and held Angel, but didn't really acknowledge him.  Watching the two of them, they seemed so disinterested in each other.  No words, no smiles, no nothing.  She's probably 20 years old and looked so sad and so lost.  Even just simple introductions were hard.  I've also seen her again when she came to visit Ramiro at the children's home, but never came inside to see Angel or even ask about him.  It broke my heart, and that day I broke a children's home rule and held Angel while he slept.  We sat there, sweaty and snuggled up together in the office, and while he slept I cried and prayed for that sweet little boy.  At one point Mama Martha came in and rubbed my back for a minute, and then left.  She understood and let me break the rules about holding the babies while they sleep. 

Edgar's parents didn't come to the musical.  After the show the kids were supposed to go find their parents and then get dinner that was being served.  Edgar, and his older brothers David and Elvis, were sitting by themselves in the corner.  I sat with them and Elvis explained that their family doesn't come to visit.  Edgar, who is the smallest 2 year old I've ever met, was shoveling so much food into his mouth that I thought he'd get sick.  He just kept eating and eating and eating.  Huge handfuls of chips, hamburger, and watermelon.  I couldn't help but wonder if that was how his little 2 year old brain was coping with no one coming to see him.  

For a post about a kids musical, that felt pretty intense.  So here's a few pictures of their show.  Sorry about the poor quality, the auditorium was dusty and we were a few rows back.  And you can read Kelly's blog about that night, it made a major impact on us both.  
Mama Martha introducing the program
All the preschool kids
Sarahi and Juanita got to play the tambourine
The older kids played recorders.  Really just one note at varying rhythms, but still cute

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Another quick update

We're in week 4 of our summer, so almost half way there!  Here's another brief update on what I've been doing.  I promise some day this week a longer post with pictures will go up.
-poured concrete and cut down lots of dead trees at Del Norte
-filled up a dump truck in the pouring rain with above dead trees, I felt pretty hard core that day
-spent 4 days in a row being able to invest in a few kids at Del Norte
-did Play With Purpose activities that were a huge success and some that were a huge failure
-reorganized the paperwork side of the Shelter Child Sponsorship program.  It's now color coded by home and in numerical order.  Mom would be so proud.  
-got 15 kids a Shelter sponsor last week, the kids are super pumped
-took a few hours off to watch a mindless movie and crochet a baby blanket for one of the 5 staff babies that will be born on our campus in the next 3 months.  
-got my favorite smoothie at my favorite coffee shop.  Mango, vanilla, strawberry, and banana.  Yum.  

Friday, June 17, 2011

Summer Madness

Sorry for dropping off the blogosphere and leaving you all hanging!  Back2Back summer is in full swing which means interns, summer staff, and 50-100 mission trip guests every week.  It's a blast, and I'm exhausted after just the 2nd week.  Besides just being busy, our internet connection here has been really bad lately, so in my defense I've written several blogs but haven't been able to post them.  Here's a few bullet points of what I've been up.  I'll try to be more consistent in blogging, but for the next few weeks I think they'll be pretty short and sweet.  So here it is:
-had a great birthday
-moved to a new house on campus
-trained summer staff and interns
-started a new program called Play With Purpose (more to come on that soon!)
-pulled toilet paper out of a clogged toilet with my hands
-saw a musical by my kids at Del Norte
-met a few of the moms who have kids living at Del Norte
-poured concrete for a septic tank
-supervised field trips to Plaza Sesamo (water/theme park) and Chipinque (park on top of a mountain) with my Del Norte kids
-learned how to map out and run pipes and wire for lights and electric outlets
-taken groups to La Tierra Prometida (future B2B children's home), El Retiro Juvenile, and Del Norte for work days
-debriefed a great church group
-taught an optional Bible study for mission trip guests on poverty and helping without hurting
-given a few swim lessons to staff kids

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Imperio de Amor play day

After I finished my Shelter letters at Imperio de Amor last week I spent the afternoon playing with the younger girls.  It was 113 degrees so we didn't last long outside, even in the shade.  They took me up to their dorm where their caregiver had put on Tinkerbell so they could rest inside.  When I walked in their caregiver paused the movie and said, "Girls, we have a special American guest.  What do we do?"  The girls scurried to turn on an extra fan and point it at me, offered me the nice chair, got me a cold soda, and brought out a snack for everyone.  I started laughing and told their caregiver that I had understood what she said and appreciated it, and then made a big fuss over the girls and how polite and kind they were.  We spent the afternoon watching Tinkerbell, coloring, and making Play-Doh animals.  I love days like that!