Yesterday a forest fire broke out in the woods very close to the school. It was a large fire with flames jumping as high as some of the trees. It was also quite windy and really hot out, and the thick ground scrub was very dry. When someone first spotted the fire, all of the third and fourth graders happened to be outside for gym. The children immediately ran up into the woods to see it, even though the poor volunteer who happened to be watching them at the time was screaming for them to come back. Finally, some young men at the school rounded most of them up and got them back to school. Meanwhile, the older boys were called in to put out the fire. They carried these poles with big rubber flaps at the end to stamp out the flames. School continued on. The boys battled the fire all day in the 95 degree heat until it started to rain at the end of the day.
I can’t help think about how this occasion would have been treated in the
US. First of all, the school would have been immediately evacuated, the fire departments of the surrounding towns would have been called in, perhaps even a helicopter. It would have been a major news story on the local news. Here, we send our students up to put it out and continue on with school! No big deal.
Henry had his first life experience getting into a fight. He was playing tag with his friends when an older boy he did not know came and asked to use his soccer ball. Henry thought he asked to play tag with them and he said no. The boy pushed him to the ground and kicked and punched him. Henry got up and his friends told him to run, so Henry ran and mistakenly called the boy a “punta” (whore). The boy chased him down and threw him into a pricker bush and kicked him again. Henry came home crying, and he was really shaken up. I felt so badly for him. Carl spoke to the boy and the boy’s Tia (dorm head). Henry seems to have recovered now. I’m not sure whether the other boy was punished in anyway or not.
The bullying that goes on here is a bit disturbing. There is really a hierarchy among the boys. The staff here spends an inordinate amount of time trying to teach the boys to keep their uniform cleaned and pressed, their nails cut, and their hair short. I wish they would spend more time trying to teach them how to treat each other nicely rather than on appearence. These kids have been through so much already. It’s a shame that they have to spend their time here always looking over their shoulders.
I have been hearing a lot more sad stories lately. The worst is about this family of five children who arrived here about a year ago. Apparently, their father had long left or died and they were being raised by their mother. One day the mother was offered the opportunity by someone to go to the
US. So, what did she do? She left her five children in their house with nothing, never to be heard from again. The youngest child was seven months old! The oldest was 8. One of the toddlers also had spina bifida, so he cannot walk and must have been confined to a bed or the floor. No one found them until 20 days later. At that point they had been eating their own excrement and urine. I get teary every time I see them. You’ll be happy to know that they are doing fine here at the ranch. Four of them including the youngest and oldest are pictured above.
Yesterday was family visit day. This is when any remaining relatives of he children may come to the ranch for the day. They enter at a small bridge down near the school. Some of the children wait all day on the little bridge. They get all dressed up and bring pictures they have drawn for their relatives. The sad part is sometimes relatives say they are going to come and then, for whatever reason, they don’t show up. The children are crushed once again. It’s painful to watch.
We took a trip to the North Coast last weekend. We saw some monkeys in the wild and a lot of nice scenery. It was hot!
So I brought out the microscopes to use with the 6th graders today(they are 14 or so). We were looking at various things that were remotely interesting. Pretty soon one girl starts brushing her hair, and I’m thinking “Why is she brushing her hair now?” I said to myself, “This is annoying, but I’m not going to make an issue of it.” Then a few minutes later she yells “Elic-a-bet, Elic-a-bet, Venga! (come).” She had put a lice bug on her slide. It was way cooler than the slides I had prepared (blood and thread). Pretty soon all of the girls were making their own lice slides….I wonder if I have lice yet…ughhh!
Did you ever wonder how the orphans are disciplined here? NPH claims to be a very loving place and any staff member that commits corporal punishment is fired. Also there is a rule that withholding food may never be used as a punishment. Well, without these two possibilities you would think the kids are pretty safe. Unfortunately, the children have very little that can be taken away, but the tias (dorm heads) find ways. For example, the little boy Marcos, whom I mentioned earlier, seems to get himself in a lot of trouble. Besides extra chores, he has lost both his cup and spoon. Therefore, he never gets anything to drink at mealtime(he has to drink water with his hands from a faucet) and has to eat with his hands. This kind of punishment makes me very uncomfortable, so when the tia is not looking I give him whatever I have to drink(milk is one of the best protein sources they get), and I give him my spoon when I’m finished.
Another regular punishment is being sent out to chop with a machete. An area is marked off and the child must machete the whole thing. It takes about an hour. ( By the way, they start having the kids use machetes at 5 or 6). Some of the kids who have gotten into trouble at school get taken out of school for a week at a time and are forced to work in the fields. Personally, I would rather have corporal punishment than have to work in the blazing hot sun with a machete all day. At least the pain is over with quickly. One 8 year old boy has been taken out of school for several months. Each day he is sent to the farm to work. I wonder if he’ll be coming back to school.
Carl and Lucas in parade
waiting to start the parade
Today was the Honduran Independence day (9/15), so all 600 of us went out to make a parade. We were all bused to the local army battalion, and we marched back on the road. Every year I guess they pull out the drums for this occasion, so during the last three weeks the “marching band (consisting soley of drums)” has been practicing for hours everyday on the ranch. The funny thing is that we marched on the highway and only passed a few houses. Mostly people driving by in buses were the only ones to see us. Here we are out in the middle of nowhere, its hot and dusty, and occasional buses and trucks come riding by...the perfect place for a parade! It didn’t matter though…what kid doesn’t like to be in a parade!
I bet you would expect the medical care in a developing country to be terrible, right? Wrong! When I broke my arm a former NPH pequeño brought me to his medical school professor´s private practice in Teguc. I walked in and the doc was examining me within 5 minutes. I immediately received an X-Ray. The doc read the x-ray with me there, and then brought me to another room to set it. We were completely finished there after one hour including paying the bill. The doc was with me the entire time and even hugged me when I left. The total bill??? $150 including the x-rays. Just a little reminder how bad health care is in the US.
I broke my arm playing soccer with the chicos on the cement court! What an idiot!
Marcos is a boy in our Hogar who is 10 and in second grade. He is younger than the other boys who are mostly 12-15 and in fifth or sixth grade. I’m not sure why he was placed in our Hogar other than that he may have been having some difficulty with the kids his age. Marcos’s mother died 3 years ago, and his father died last spring. Yesterday, all of the boys Hogars hiked 45 minutes to the Ranch cemetary to machete the grass and care for the graves. For some reason, Marcos’s dad is buried there. Marcos brought flowers and spent the entire time tending to his dad’s grave. We all helped put rocks around the grave and straighten it up. Other children tended to their parent’s graves as well. It was clearly a hard day for Marcos, although I think he felt good about fixing his dad’s grave up. Later on in the day we had Mass there, with all of the children, and then we hiked back home. Marcos was one of the last to leave. I don’t think he wanted to leave his dad.
Marcos’ dad’s grave