Thursday, September 17, 2009

La Chureca and Yamileth

The second half of the first full day in Nicaragua, much like the first half of the day, set the stage for the rest of the trip. We had a fast-as-the-speed-of-lightning history lesson of Nicaragua and then met with Yamileth after lunch. We were told that we were going to head over to La Chureca, a community that has formed on/near the municipal dump of Managua near the Acahualinca neighborhood. The children and families living here rummage through the waste and find articles that are worth something, anything and sell or recycle these items.

We all packed ourselves into the bus and Yamileth began to tell us a little about her life and a little about her community. I feel as though her story is one that I cannot exclude from my re-telling of my time in Nicaragua. She is from a more northern area of Nicaragua and decided to journey to Managua. She moved from her home, along with her four daughters, with the hopes for a more prosperous life in Managua. Unfortunately, she found herself living in La Chureca. Through tears she told us of her struggles, but the tears did not seem as though they were out of sadness or grief or even of self pity. The tears were almost out of relief and maybe a little disbelief of where she is now and where she was then. She explained the fear that she had at the time for her children but never once did she seem to have hopelessness. This was not much different than most of the women we met in Nicaragua. Something I will have to expand on more later.
On our ride over to her neighborhood she shared with us what she has done as a community organizer for Acahualinca. First, she told us how her neighborhood and those surrounding her neighborhood are very poor and consequently have a lot of gang violence. To try and alleviate this violence Yamileth put together a community soccer league and was even able to raise money to give trophies to winning teams. She said that this worked for a long time but because she had so much going on she left it up to the community to keep the league together and it has been slowly falling apart. She even mentioned that some of the gang violence had been seen in these soccer games.
Now, I just said that Yamileth moved away from this project because she was busy. That is an understatement. This woman does more for this community than I could ever imagine one person having enough energy to do. She no longer lives in La Chureca and has moved her family to another part of Acualhinca. From her home she has a health clinic. She receives different medicines (mainly for things like diarrhea) and has been given basic knowledge about first aid from different nonprofit organizations in Nicaragua. On top of carrying this large responsibility, she is also a large advocate and activist for policy and legal changes in Managua for the people of La Chureca. In this same van ride she also told us about the time that she kidnapped a few truck drivers that worked for the city dump. Yes, kidnapped them*. Yamileth explained through giggles that the reasoning for this was quite logical-- the city garbage men were stealing the valuables of the trash and leaving the rest of the waste in the streets. Quickly the neighborhoods became overloaded with the trash and nothing was being done about it. So one day Yamileth and others slashed the tires of the trucks and kidnapped the men. In the end, the neighborhood got the justice they deserved and the unharmed drivers were given back to their families.
Apparently, Yamileth also is the Director of the Artisan Program with Esperanza en Accíon and volunteers with other nonprofit organizations in the area. She also is helping with a radio project focused on speaking with the children of La Chureca. Did I mention that she is also a mother of four?** She is unstoppable and truly an inspiration. Mostly, though, she is a reason for hope in the country of Nicaragua. She is an example of the strength you see among the women in this country. I remember her saying things, like, "I wish there were 48 hours in the day because than I could get all my work done," and "When I come home I feel like I'm wasting time that could be used for so much more than if I'm watching TV or listening to music."

How much more could be done for good if we all had this perspective?
The thing that was amazing is that during that van ride and the little walking tour she took us on, she never complained and never told us that she was exhausted or sick of her job. Yes, it was hard because people often came to her instead of trying to solve the problems themselves, but it was okay because things like electricity and running water are being brought to her family and neighbors.
At this point we left Yamileth and her neighborhood and were given a tour of the old downtown Managua. I think my favorite part of this tour was seeing the old cathedral. There are a few things that I find fascinating about this cathedral. First, it is one of the three major buildings that stayed standing after the 1972 earthquake. Virutally all of Managua was destroyed but the cathedral stood tall. Unfortunately, it has not been restored and another cathedral has been built across town. I, personally, love this one. One of my favorite things is that the clock on the clock tower is stuck at about 12:30-something- the time of the last after shocks. No one has changed it and it has stood as a reminder of the earthquake that hit that December night.

*And when I say kidnapped, I mean that they housed these men in the neighborhood. They were given food and sanitary living situations. Yamileth even shared with us that the police would come by often during the month and a half these men were being held and asked if the men were okay. They would respond with something to the effect of, "Yes, yes we are fine! They are treating us well. Just give the woman what she wants."
** Visit this link to also hear an interview with Yamileth

No comments: