Monday, March 14, 2011

Ah — the children

This week I am hosting a group from St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Ames – three undergraduate women, a high school young woman and her father.

We will be spending much of their ten days in the parish of Dulce Nombre, but I always try to make sure they have a chance to do some activities with children, in Santa Rosa de Copán as well as in the parish of Dulce Nombre.

I usually take the students to three places in Santa Rosa where I have done some volunteering, not as much recently as in the past.

One place that really touches the heart is Hogar San José, run by the Missionaries of Charity, for malnourished children under 5 years of age. We spent two hours here on Saturday afternoon. One of the workers noted that I hadn’t been around for quite some time. I may have to try to get there about once a month.

I also saw a little girl who never had strength in her legs. She seemed to suffer several other afflictions. She was the only child I recognized and she was walking and talking. She was delightful to talk to and play with.

Another place we went is the village of Plan Grande, in the municipality of Concepción, Copán. This is a village that has a special place in my heart – along with at least another ten in the parish of Dulce Nombre. It’s where the first St. Thomas spring break trip helped fill the foundations of their church. It’s also a community whose religious education classes have responded to St. Thomas’ religious ed classes – sending back and forth drawings and greetings.

We arrived on Sunday afternoon and Gloria showed us around the church. We then went into the religious ed class for 5 to 9 year olds, which was ending. I spoke with them and then we went out and played a few games on the grass in front of Gloria’s house. Two of our group taught the kids “Duck, Duck, Goose,” which went over very well. I, of course, made up a few games and exercises for the kids to do, delightfully making a fool of myself.

Monday we were going to the kindergarten in the Colonia Divina Providencia, one of the poorest neighborhoods in Santa Rosa de Copán. It was closed because some of the teachers were on strike and the kindergarten teacher was sick, We ending up visiting a few kids in one of the houses of a group homes project.

We finally went to the Comedor de Niños, the lunch program for kids started by the bishop more than two years ago. The group brought down vitamins collected by children in religious education at St. Thomas. The kids were very happy to see that many of the vitamins were the gummy bear kind!

There were lots of kids today, at times all the tables were filled.

As I walked in one of the kids ran up and hugged me. He’s a very provocative kid, one I thought will probably end up in trouble. But he’s craving affection. Well, I found out that he had spent a night in jail, accused of stealing a bicycle. He says that someone else did it and blamed him, but who knows. But here is a kid, poor, not going to school, but needing love.

I wish I could do more but right now I don’t find it possible, What I can do is continue to be present to him at the comedor and try to encourage him.

There are other kids at the comedor who are very courteous and, as the cooked says, educados – educated. They are a joy to be with. We even spent some time trying to speak some English with three young guys. They seemed quite intelligent. Whether they will have any real opportunities to develop their capabilities is a big question.

And so the children again remind me of the needs of the poor – as well as the richness of this nation. Many kids are welcome, open to new experiences, tolerant of a crazy gringo, and affectionate; others are apt to fall into crime, having nothing, looking for something; and there are those who have great potential but who knows their chances of realizing that potential?

What can we do to help them all?

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