In the Homes!
While we tend to bring cameras to the big events of the months, there are many scenes from everyday life that fill in all the elements of the atmosphere and loving care that the boys and girls are a part of. First of all, activities like doing chores around meals, preparing food, clearing dishes, and sweeping the floors after the meals comes to mind.
There are also moments of shared learning and fun, even if the learning is only card games. There must be many chances for each child to practice critical thinking, to make choices and see the consequences of what they have chosen, as they learn to think well for themselves.
Every day calls upon the children to exercise skills around their bodies, their self esteem, their relationships, the good of the home, and of course their spiritual lives. It is moving to hear the boys say grace before meals, acknowledging the source of what they are receiving and the thoughtfulness and care of those who plan and prepare their food. They live within an atmosphere of "Gracias!" and in the way they participate in everyday life this is more visible.
Everyday Photo Gallery
Above Left: A little bit of the boys' laundry hanging out to dry.
Above Right: Cucumbers growing in the Pedacito garden.
Above Left: Helping prepare meals in the kitchen of Corazón del Pastor.
Above Right: Sifting out the rice for dinner
Above Left: Learning to play "Go, fish"
Above Right: Kattia excels at the card game.
Above Left: Snack time!
Above Right: And some play time at Pedacito.
One of the principal ministries for the children of Niños con Valor is accompaniment, which brings with it the complicated notion of solidarity. We try to be with the children at all the steps along the journey of growing up, helping them to chart a course following God's individual call to each child, seeing this as being a part of God's continuing faithfulness to his children here in Bolivia.
One very concrete moment in which we can make visible our "being with" and accompaniment comes every year when we celebrate a child's birthday. Many times every day, we look for opportunities to celebrate the accomplishments we observe in a child's growing up, taking advantage of the moment to say "At-a boy" or "Muy Bien". Believing that it is a rare thing for a child to hear praise too often, how can we incarnate for each child the words Jesus heard at his baptism: "This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased"… or "absolutely delighted." Birthdays give us this moment, and there have been a number of birthdays and children to celebrate in the month of February.
In a very physical way we can say "You are special"! There is but one cake, and it is placed in front of the birthday child. The voices of all are raised with wishes for the present and the future ("We wish for you" is a part of the Spanish "Happy Birthday" song). In a very real way, all come around the birthday girl or boy to say: we are delighted, not only in what you have done, but that you are here. Your presence alone delights us. For each boy or girl, the delight of this celebration must be balanced against all the moments of corrective criticism a child hears while growing up, and the focus of adults on their behavior. This month we can share with you pictures of some of these celebrations, where we are in solidarity about our delight that THIS child has joined us, and that we will continue to be faithful to this gift.
Birthday Photo Gallery
Above: Eneas taking the traditional first bite of his birthday cake.
Above Left: Wrapped in the arms of love.
Above Right: Cedro wonders "How long do I have to wait for my birthday?"
Above Left: Alarico, let your little light shine.
Above Right: When you are three some things are more interesting that cake.
Above Left: Everyone sings for the birthday boy.
Above Right: Everyone celebrates with cake!
Back to School!
One of the biggest transitions for kids in Bolivia every year during the month of February is the return of the school year. This year that day fell on the 4th. Many of our kids were in new schools, making new friends, and negotiating the adjustments to new teachers and their expectations. The home schedule changes from play and dance or football classes to learning more academic subjects, which usually carry the burden of homework.
So, with the start of school this month, one activity is much more visible in our homes – homework! As you might expect, the chance to complete homework is not often the first desire of fun-loving kids, particularly since in Bolivian schools this activity requires a fair amount of repetition, e.g. copying letters of the alphabet carefully, working on sums and subtractions, etc. When kids return from school, after they have time to eat, more time is carefully set aside for them to work in a quiet room on the assignments that they brought home with them. One of the major efforts for the tias during this period is coming alongside boys and girls one-on-one to help them stay on task and successfully complete their work.
A child uses the support of the adult who sits beside him or her to give attention to the task and to listen well. The presence of the helper says: "You are important (that's why I am here), and this work, while it can seem to lack a fun factor, is also something we value very much for you. Unfortunately, due to the widespread poverty in Bolivia, there are many homes where it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, for adults to sit with children and support them in this way. There is a lot of research to show that this sort of family valuing and support is a major ingredient in the learning journey throughout the school years. At CDP, the older girls show evidence of catching this spirit when they spend time helping the younger girls with their lessons. The presence of volunteers can also assist girls of every age to take on the hard work of homework.
Back to School Photo Gallery
Above Left: Diego and Bemabe ready to go.
Above Right: Zaquiel in a pre-school moment of meditation.
Above Left: February 4th: All dressed up and ready to go.
Above Right: A moment's pause for big smiles at front of the door.
Above Left: Marcos receives a last second hug before the school day begins.
Above Right: Seven of our boys are ready for the first day of school, here with one of the teachers.
Above Left: Tía Andrea reading along with Cedro.
Above Right: At CDP many students work simultaneously with the help of tias and volunteers.
Above Left: Tía Kathy and Bemabe devouring a book.
Above Right: Often one girl helps another with homework. In this photo are Kattia & Nohemi.
Good nutrition is one of the reasons that the kids at NCV stay so healthy, and look so well. These are beautiful children, inside and out, and they are healthy and vibrant. They eat a balanced diet, and an above-average amount of fruits and vegetables, especially for Bolivia. When they first arrive at the homes, our kids don't like the amount of fruits and vegetables on their plates, but they adjust after a few days, and enjoy the food very much.
Tía Carolina puts together weekly menus for both houses. As volunteers, we have had the opportunity of sharing in meals and snacks at both houses, and are impressed by the delicious and creative food the children enjoy, and at how well they clean their plates :). We were recently at CDP when the weekly vegetable delivery arrived, and were astounded by the quantity and variety of vegetable the girls go through in a week. It is also lovely to see the girls help with cooking (as they do with all the household chores); they are learning a lot which will be transferred to their own homes.
Good Eats Photo Gallery
Above Left: Bemabe enjoying some rice with vegetables and garbanzo beans for lunch.
Above Right: Alarico has learned to like his vegetables.
Above Left: Abran's nourishment is improving and he is getting so much stronger.
Above Right: Not everyone, however, can stay awake for lunch after an energetic morning.
Above Left: Sometimes a tía sitting with you helps you to focus on eating.
Above Right: Food is a part of each of life's celebrations in Bolivia.
Ok, well this isn't part of our daily routine, but we couldn't talk about February with talking about Carnaval :) Carnaval began as a religious ritual first practiced by pre-Incan indigenous groups, later incorporating Christian symbolism. Dances portray the struggle between good and evil, and the faithful seek to right themselves with God, ushering in the season of Lent. Many enjoy getting dressed up, dancing, and dousing each other with water from squirt guns or balloons. Our boys are no exception!
Carnaval Photo Gallery
Above: The boys coming downstairs,
Above Left: One picture is worth a thousand words.
Above Right: There were celebrations at schools as well. Everyone gets into the spirit of things!
Tinku at Hotel Aranjuez!
The Bolivian board of directors hosted another tea this month to create awareness of our programs, and the boys were invited to show their Tinku dance at the hotel run by one of the board members. Children in Bolivia practice these folk dances for many years in schools, and the many parades and festivals, such as Carnaval, give them a chance to show their stuff. For example, in Oruro this month, there were 28,000 participating in a 24 hour long parade of dancers.
Tinku Photo Gallery
Above Left: Lucas all smiles getting ready before the performance.
Above Right: The boys taking a break after a spectacular show.