Niños con Valor E-Newsletter - November 2009
We are entering into the Advent season, the few weeks before Christmas, the time of expectant waiting for Christ's arrival. For many it represents our expectance and preparation for his return, when everything is to be made right. We prepare to celebrate the 'good news' Jesus brings to the poor: proclaiming justice, feeding the hungry, healing the sick, standing beside the broken.
Most of what I remember of Advent season growing up was eating a chocolate each day from my Advent calendar, and watching the families at church go up and read a bible verse the few Sundays before Christmas and light a candle. I knew it had to do with the coming of Baby Jesus, in anticipation of Christmas, but I never spent much time reflecting on what Advent means in my day-to-day life, as an individual who is part of a community.
All the way back in Isaiah 7:14, in this famous verse we are told: "Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel."
The name Immanuel, meaning "God with us" is a very powerful concept. Christ is already here. We can find him in the people and situations right in front of us, and in our "waiting" for his return we must remember that in this world, we have not yet arrived at the place where peace, love, and justice are fulfilled. We are implicated in God's being "with us" on Earth, where we must strive to live fully each moment by actively entering into the lives of others.
God is with us so we may experience life in its fullness. Jesus came to preach the 'good news' to the poor, that they may live a life of freedom. Not only freedom from injustice, but freedom to love and live in communion with others.
I hope that this month we can live in the fullness of time, where we receive it as a continual gift and recognize the moments of grace and salvation that happen each day. We are all implicated in the redemption of this world and are constantly pursuing, never arriving. At Niños con Valor, we are faced every day with the fact that we have not yet arrived. Let us experience rest and joy this holiday season, and also experience the freedom that allows us to open our hearts to the world and find our place in helping create God's Kingdom here on earth, where love and justice reign.
We have had many positive changes and very full days this month at CDP. The girls have finished their final exams and presentations and are now in full vacation mode until the end of January. They are enjoying their time free from studies, and have been working on some special projects with the tias and volunteers. We've also celebrated quite a few birthdays, of the girls, tias and volunteers! We have prepared a lot for Christmas and vacation time and it's going to be quite a whirlwind, after November has also been quite a full month.
The general theme of this vacation seems to be "getting to know your community". Despite a tight budget, we've gotten creative and we're doing the best with what we have to help these girls have a rich holiday experience.
Left - Sofía, Evelyn and Vanesa enjoying the outdoors on a cool, rainy day.
Right - Adriana savouring her Coca-Cola after a great photography session.
CDP volunteers Kelley and Jeanette recently started a Photovoice project with the girls, which gives them a chance to see their community and share their experiences in a new, creative way. Photovoice projects have taken place all over the world, and are often used as a tool for social change, to give marginalized populations "the opportunity to record, reflect and critique personal and community issues in creative ways." With this project, what matters most is not the outcome of their photos, but the process as they get out, take ownership of the camera, see things in new ways and work together. Kelley and Jeanette have been taking the girls out in groups of 2 or 3 to places in the city that the girls have chosen themselves. They have been out to the principal plaza downtown, to city parks, to Pedacito de Cielo, and to the Cancha (our giant open-air market). Each outing has been different, and a lot of fun for both the volunteers and the girls. The girls will be choosing some of their favourite photos to describe and put up in the house, and we hope to have a public exhibit here in Cochabamba and in our volunteers' home cities.
Left - Zuleika trying out the camera in the Plaza Colon, a new and exciting experience.
Right - Vanesa posing at the park while Paty is focusing hard on the camera!
We have planned excursions to many of the larger local parks, including the botanical gardens and one with a great waterfall during this time of year. Some of the girls have listed "tourist" as their future profession on their sponsorship and Princess of the Week forms (we've tried to explain that's not an actual profession, but maybe we'll start a travel agency where the girls can work when they're older), so we're heading on the double-decker Cochabamba tour bus around the city.
Left - Cynthia and Angela joking around the outdoor pool at the park during their photo session.
Right - Vanesa, Johana and Paty at the start of their photo session, hanging out in the olympic circles outside the stadium.
Our older girls will be accompanying us to Mizque for the annual Christmas outreach, so they will get to experience the reality of rural life. We're also hoping to be able to head out to the rainforest area of Cochabamba for a few days with all of the girls and have some jungle adventures with the spiders, monkeys, birds, butterflies and fish of the region.
Left - Sofía trying out the model pose with that gorgeous smile.
Right - Zuleika showing us her "glasses" while un-podding some peas at the home.
We will also be hosting a team from Holy Cross church in Georgia. They have been down a few times before so we are eagerly awaiting this visit with them. They're planning to do a mural with the older girls and brighten up some of our outside wall space. The younger girls will get to participate in a Vacation Bible School with the team, something they always look forward to.
Left - Nohemi is thrilled to be on Abigail's shoulders outside of Pedacito de Cielo.
Right - Jhoselin enjoying some free time to play volleyball.
Gracias a Dios, we now have a full set of tias at CDP! We were looking for both a night and day tía, and both have started working this month. Tania is our new daytime tía. She is an educator who has worked with children with special needs in the past and her experience is showing its value each day as she has jumped right into working with our girls. She is a great storyteller, and we are looking forward to her help in improving the educational supports in the home. Cintia is our new night tía, a trained physiotherapist from Sucre. She has integrated herself very well with the girls and the tias, and we are hoping she can support some of the girls who have developmental issues.
Left - Our new Tía Tania playing the Spanish version of “Stella-Ella-Ola” with the younger girls.
Right - Tía Cinthia (right) with Tía Celia, who joined us 2 months back. We've got an awesome team!
Along with these two welcomes, we celebrate a welcome back to Tía Maritza, our fulltime day cook, after recovering from surgery the past couple months. Besides being an incredible cook, she has such a strong relationship with the girls and presence in the home and we are all so glad she has returned.
Left - Tía Mariza, on her healing bed, showing the girls and Tía Noelia some old family photos.
Right - The girls surrounding Mariza with joy during our visit to her home, just before she returned to work at CDP.
As if those aren't enough updates, we have also had a very exciting last week of November. Amanda Gavan is a professional dancer from New York who has dedicated her time to teaching the girls modern dance, which they will perform for the special World AIDS Day event on December 1st in the main plaza of Cochabamba. We have a group of older and younger girls from CDP as well as another children's home in the city who have been practising for 3 hours per day leading up to the performance, in a space that a community-based theatre, Teatro Hecho a Mano, has graciously lent us. This has been a really neat experience for the girls, not only to prepare for a big performance, but to open up to new ideas of dance and build trust amongst eaach other. Amanda really wants the girls' own ideas to be integrated into the dance, and they have been pushed out of their comfort zone a little bit and forced to be creative. Amanda will also be performing solo for the December 1st event. We will let you know how the performance goes in our next newsletter!
Left - Amanda Gavan, our superstar dance teacher, still smiling after a long day of practise.
Right - The older group of dancers working on some creative moves.
Left - The younger group warming up, following Amanda's example.
Right - Amanda teaching some new moves to the girls and our lone boy dancer, working hard on getting the rhythm down.
*All names have been changed to protect the children's privacy.
More photos of all the girls at Corazón del Pastor can be found here.
Anyone who works, volunteers, or visits gets to experience the smiles, the energy, and sometimes the challenges that kids at PDC bring us. Our kids are making leaps and bounds in their development and this month has definitely been one of good news.
Left - Marcos is all smiles while playing in the sand outside.
Right - Lily is beginning to show off her huge, beautiful smile more and more.
Left - Mateo, making incredible eye-contact, is slightly confused after waking up from his nap.
Right - Miguel has acquired a champion moustache from drinking his morning juice.
We recently found out that Lucas, one of our little ones, is HIV- which is incredible news, and he will continue to grow happy and healthy in this loving environment. Manolo, who has only been living at PDC for about 2 months, is laughing a whole lot more and integrating well with the kids. He was quite angry and upset upon his arrival, but he is showing his hilarious, giant smile way more often. He loves going for walks and to the park and is learning to share, as are the others.
Left - Little Lucas figuring out the microphone during playtime.
Right - Manolo is SO happy playing outside. We are lucky to catch these moments on camera!
It looks like pretty soon pretty much all of our kids, minus baby Mateo, will be walking! Guillermo is already running around, dancing and doing lopsided summersaults on his own. Lily has been crawling since last month and can now stand up with hardly any support, and loves walking around grabbing the hands of a volunteer. Zaquiel is at this stage as well, and we can always count on his winning smile to cheer anyone up. Mateo is looking more and more like a real person, he now makes incredible eye contact and is giving us undeniable smiles.
Left - Guillermo, standing totally on his own, and is cleary excited about something.
Right - Lily supporting herself in an adorable standing pose.
Alexis, our newest daycare attendee who we introduced last month, is doing much better adjusting to this new place and playing with the older kids. We've gotten some real big smiles and laughs out of her, which was quite a challenge at the beginning. This month we also celebrated Raeka's 3rd birthday.
Left - Alexis is very happy to join the kids for a walk outside.
Right - Alexis is finally showing us that magnificent grin she was hiding at first.
Our educator, Evelyn, is organizing some special Christmas activities and we are going to be busy in December making Christmas decorations and prepping the stockings. This will be the first Christmas for PDC as a children's home, and we are looking forward to sharing this joyful time with the kids.
Left - Marcos with his sweet smile, and his buddy Nohemi is apparently too cool for this photo :o)
Right - A full, genuine smile from Raeka, our birthday girl this month at PDC.
*All names have been changed to protect the children's privacy.
More photos of all the kids at Pedacito de Cielo can be found here.
We are in the midst of preparing our big holiday trip out to Mizque on December 18th to 21st. We will be visiting the two communities we traveled to in October, the small village of Patawasi and the mining town Mina Asientos. We have been working with Hilda, the social worker for the Defensoria in Mizque as well as the Mina Asientos community leaders to get everything organized and make sure we have all we need for the visits. It is sure to be an adventure-filled, chaotic time.
We are expecting 250 families and at least 1000 children in Mina Asientos. We will be giving gifts to the children, baskets for the families and sharing a special breakfast. There are about 85 children in Patawasi who will receive gifts and we'll share a meal with them as well, and the adults will help us prepare the food. We don't quite know what to expect but we are excited nonetheless, and it will be a very eye-opening and special experience for those of our girls from CDP who can come.
Lots of our volunteers will also be there, and they are in charge of preparing activities to do with the kids. While we know that this visit is not a solution to the struggles so many of these families face, it is a chance to give them a special day of celebration, to build relationships and let them know we care.
Left - A mother in Patawasi enjoying bread surrounded by her children.
Right - The Patawasi community gathering during our preliminary visit in October.
More photos of One Child at a Time Events events can be found here.
Christmas is in less than a month, and everyone is entering into gift-giving mode. We have a new opportunity for individuals to donate to our foundation in the form of a gift, where you can support our kids in very tangible ways. We are encouraging our supports to donate this way for the 2009 holiday season. To find out more and donate, click on this link:
You can also download our pdf flyer, which you are welcome to forward, or print out and distribute to as many people as you like :o)
World AIDS Day
The theme for this year's World AIDS Day is "Universal Access and Human Rights". AIDS is clearly a global struggle, and Bolivia's situation is often overlooked by international donors and Western countries. Although we have a fairly low prevalence rate, the number of people with HIV has at least doubled every year for the past three years. For those living with HIV/AIDS in Bolivia, life is difficult to say the least. In a recent poll, and according to the Bolivian public defender's office, people with HIV/AIDS are considered to be the most discriminated against group in Cochabamba. Lack of adequate medical services, lack of unity amongst social services, and the enduring marginalization by and ignorance of the general population are constant challenges to the HIV/AIDS community.
Children living with HIV/AIDS face even more difficulties as the concept of pediatric HIV/AIDS care is very new. With that brings many trial and error scenarios, scarcity of proper medications, and very few doctors that are knowledgeable in the treatment of pediatric HIV/AIDS. Schools, general practitioners, and dentists are very wary of treating these children, and will, despite its illegality, refuse treatment.
Niños con Valor has an integral role, not only in providing treatment but also advocating for children in this country who have HIV. Therefore, we are very excited about our organization's role this coming week in Cochabamba's World AIDS Day presentation, which takes place on December 1st. As you know, Amanda Gavan from New York has been working hard with the girls and they will be performing dances right in the center of the city. It is really important to us that children be represented, and that their voice advances along with the others in this issue of human rights.
Left - Lourdes's current sponsorship photo.
Right - Working hard and with a smile at one of our recent dance practices.
Lourdes is 12 years old and was one of the first girls to move into CDP after the home she previously lived in was forced to close. She grew up in a very poor setting, living with her mothers and three sisters, and her mother brought her to to a home for abandoned and orphaned children when she was 7 years old.
She is very mature for her age, and has grown into a confident, intelligent young woman. Lourdes helps out a lot in the kitchen and enjoys spending time chatting and joking with the tias. She has quite the sense of humour, and is also a talented athlete, though it can be hard to encourage her to pursue her talents. Lourdes can often be found listening to music and drawing in her notebook, which she is shy to show to anyone although she is a very talented artist. When Lourdes grows up she would like to be a doctor or a teacher, and dreams of being able to help her grandmother, mother and sisters live a better life.
*Her name has been changed to protect her privacy.
If you would like to sponsor a child like Lourdes, please go to our website, www.ninosconvalor.org, and click on Sponsor a Child, where you'll learn more about the sponsorship program and have the opportunity to sign up for sponsorship.
If you do not have internet access, or would prefer to send a check, please write our US sponsorship coordinator, Leslie Cooke, at the address given below, and she will send you the sponsorship form (please be sure to include all of your contact information).
Ninos con Valor, Attn: Leslie Cooke
208 Melrose St.
Melrose, MA 02176
Don't forget - every time you shop this Christmas online using GoodShop - Niños con Valor gets a donation!
Above - Almost all of our volunteers with Amanda, taken the Wednesday in November.
We've been introducing new volunteers, saying goodbye to those departing, and asking for more, but it's been a while since we've let you know how our current volunteers are doing. Here is a little update from each of our volunteers, who have a very busy December ahead of them.
Barbara McVean (PDC) - I am adoring my new post a Pedacito de Cielo. Watching the children growing and seeing so many 'firsts' is such a priveledge as are the gummy smiles and massive hugs that I receive all day long!
Jeanette Eby (CDP/PDC) - I am finding myself falling more in love with this community, trying to value the simple, everyday moments with the kids amidst the craze of Christmas preparation. I am also trying to avoid the thought of leaving in January, which will not be easy.
Nic Johnson (PDC) - The past few months that I've been working at NCV have been some of the best that I've had in a ronnily long time. It's a wonder what feeling welcome and useful will do for you.
Amber Raya (PDC) - With my first Christmas away from home rapidly approaching, I am so thankful to be able to spend it with these beautiful, amazing kids.
Kim Leardi (PDC) - I would just like to say that it brings me such joy to see such great big smiles on the faces of the little ones at Pedacito de Cielo.
Kelley Journey (CDP/PDC)- I'm enjoying the girls' dance practices in preparation for World AIDS day, and I'm excited for more time to do special activities with the girls now that vacation time is here.
Kimberly Setzer (CDP) - I'm looking forward to all that this coming year holds for the foundation- so many exciting things in the wings! I'm also praying for the good health and stamina to be fully involved in all that's going on, and to be a worker that's ready to help with the harvest.
You can also hear from our volunteers every week on our blog. Remember, there are endless ways to use your skills and passions here with Niños con Valor, and if you are interested in volunteering send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are called to be people of hope. Together, we can face our despairs - personal, global, or ecclesiastic. Together, too, can we find the risen Lord, emerged from his tomb of despair, ready once again to love us first. In embracing us, Jesus gives us the hope we need to find and live the life he has hidden in us and in the world. - Henri Nouwen
Christmas is indeed a time of hope, hope that is a gift to us as we move forward in an afflicted world. May we look out for the lonely this Christmas, for those who feel like they have no one who loves them unconditionally. May we share the gift of love and hope with those we come across. Bless you this Christmas, and we look forward to sharing more with you as 2009 ends and a new year begins.
Previous NCV newsletters can be found online at http://www.ninosconvalor.org/updates.html