By: Lynn Croneberger
In October, SOS Children’s Villages – USA (SOS-USA) had the pleasure of visiting Nicaragua to connect with our villages and deliver a donation of $13,000 – a gift made possible through an event hosted by our board member Michel Lagarde and generous donors. I traveled to Nicaragua with SOS-USA’s board members Robert Baird, Michel Lagarde, Rose Lynch, David Mitchell and Cameron Schmidt to visit our villages in Managua and Leon. We were also joined by our staff members Viviana Pagan-Muñiz, April Quinlan and Carolyn Schmidt.
In Nicaragua, our team experienced first-hand how the children in SOS villages live and connected with them on a personal level. Board members used this opportunity to bring their families along, allowing for another level of engagement and sharing of culture between different generations. One of the highlights was spending time and playing games and painting with some of the board and staff sponsored children, including three of the four children our board member David has been sponsoring for multiple years.
We began our visit at the national office in Managua, where Virgilio Bravo, National Director of SOS Children’s Villages – Nicaragua, gave an overview of the political and economic climate in Nicaragua and the reasons so many children are in need of care, from children whose parents migrate to other countries for work and leave them behind, to children who are sexually abused, whose parents are in prison or who have substance abuse issues. In each case, these children have no other family member who can care for them. Poverty is a major factor.
When we visited our village in Managua, we were greeted with an enthusiastic marching band of boys and girls followed by performances of traditional Nicaraguan song and dance performed by the children. It was heartwarming to see pride in these children’s faces as they welcomed us to the Village and into their “homes.”
The Village in Managua also has a school, which teaches children from 1st to 12th grade. The SOS Social Center, which functions as a youth stimulation support center, is next to the school. It provides care and support to children still in their developmental pre-school phase, from newborns to 6 year-olds. Members of the community often use the Center as a day-care center as well.
We later traveled an hour outside of Managua, driving past so much poverty, to SOS Leon, where SOS has been present since 1998 – the year after Hurricane Mitch devastated the area. Music and dance were again part of the welcome ceremony, along with signs saying “Bienvenidos Colaboradores y Padrinos” – meaning ‘Welcome, Staff and Sponsors’. The Village Director along with a young man who grew up in the Village and is now in his third year of medical school, provided a formal welcome and introductions.
The children in Leon seemed younger than those in Managua and were so excited to have us visit their homes. On average, six to eight children live in each of the homes.
We also had the opportunity to hear from the SOS Mothers who are providing love and support for Nicaragua’s most vulnerable children. We met two families taking part in our Family Strengthening Programs. Each family shared how much they appreciated being able to leave their children in the care of SOS while they went to work. The women talked about the baking and beautician skills they had learned through the program, and the parental guidance and support they received from staff.
Interested in seeing our SOS villages in Nicaragua? We documented our trip and will be posting photos on our Facebook page. Stay tuned.