The community in Siuna is much more supportive than I had ever imagined. Before arriving, I only thought that Salud Sin Límites, the Women’s Commission, and the Mayor were involved. I wasn’t expecting any other help from other organizations, other parts of the government, nor from most of the community members. Matter of fact, I thought the GROW team and I were going to have trouble fitting into the community and making friends because our work was related to what I thought was a very uncomfortable topic. However, the reality is completely different from what I once pictured. I think the rest of the GROW team would agree with me on this. Literally everyone is talking about domestic violence (DV) and everyone has at least heard of the future shelter. There was one moment in our first week onsite that really surprised me in how wrong my perception was of the community concern for DV. The team and I were walking down the street with the president of the Women’s Commission, Reina Flores, and then boom! Right in front of us was a mass of children painting a beautifully meaningful DV mural. The first thing I said was, “I didn’t even know the definition of domestic violence when I was the age of these kids.” The kids were middle school aged, and yet they were already engaged in the stand against DV. Coincidently, just yesterday the same kids showed up to the shelter to help us in our work to build a new fence.
Everyday the GROW team and I pass by the mural. Everyday we see the community concern for DV. When we visited the old police station, a poster hung on the wall about DV, last weekend when we visited a school to teach english, the class suddenly engaged in a conversation about DV in english, the other day the local news did a story on DV.
Last week there was a peace parade and festival for DV, and just today we saw a woman wearing a t-shirt with that read, “Law 779: Comprehensive law against violence towards women.” It is crazy how many ways, big and small, we see community acts against violence. The Siuna community REALLY cares about women, and they understand the magnitude of the problem.
Arriving in Siuna, I had low expectations of community support. Everyday I am pleasantly surprised at how wrong I was. I am so glad we have the people of Siuna backing us up on our project. If the community keeps up the awareness and energy, these women will continue to be empowered within Siuna. Knowing that this community is so wholeheartedly behind these women and efforts to support them has given us an unprecedented confidence in the community’s support for our project and its empowerment of women in the community.