We woke up on Tuesday feeling a little apprehensive about the day ahead. The bus ride the day before had disheartened everyone a bit, especially Eliza who unfortunately had been sick for the whole ride. We got up around 8 and went to a place called April’s where we were served much the same as in Siuna: plantains, rice, beans and some chicken for a meal. It was interesting that it seemed this was the staple meal for pretty much all of la RAAN. I definitely couldn’t complain though; it was delicious!
From breakfast we split up into two groups for the morning. Juan and Eliza went to the UN Program Development meeting while Phil, Annie, and I went to check out the domestic violence shelter in Bilwi. Eliza and Juan had a decent time at the meeting; Eliza met a person from Finland who could speak both English and Spanish perfectly, which she found to be very impressive. Unfortunately they went back to the hotel early because she was still feeling a bit under the weather. Our time with the shelter though was very productive! We talked with Shira, the programs director at the shelter about the basic function of the shelter, the problems they’ve encountered, and how they have dealt with it all over the years. This sort of feedback helped us develop a comprehensive plan for our own shelter and some basic preparations for its inauguration, which made the shelter tour invaluable.
After meeting with Shira we took Karen Thompson out to lunch! She is the director of Salud Sin Limites in all of Nicaragua and she works in partnership with the Movement for Women, which operates the shelter directly. We talked about the domestic violence in Bilwi and how it related to domestic violence in the U.S. Afterwards, we met up with Juan and Eliza and decided to go to the beach for a while in the afternoon. There are several pictures of our handiwork on the blog, but for those of you who haven’t checked them we made a giant GlobeMed banner in the sand!
Juan then led us the Casa Museo, which was really cool because we got to learn all about all the different customs in Bilwi. For example, the Garifonas were originally slaves from Africa, eventually they became to be freed peoples. However most of them either continue to speak their language or a form of it as well as celebrate religions that originate from Africa. So it’s almost like Nicaragua has a little piece of Africa in its own backyard!
However the best part of the day was yet to come for me at least. We got the chance to go back to the shelter and play with the children staying there. It was tons of fun to get to interact with the children and to see that despite all that they had been through and their current situation, they still could laugh and play just the same as any other child! It was an impressive display of resilience from these victims, and it made me reconsider the way I viewed children who were victims of such abuse.
Finally we went out to dinner with Karen Thompson again, and she regaled us with how she came to work for SSL and what her plans were for the future. Altogether it was a great day, and going to the shelter, finding out information about it, and playing with the kids there made the trip completely worth it. Meeting Karen was amazing; she had so much advice and it was tremendously reassuring to know the head of SSL in Nicaragua was so competent and involved with the community! Though the trip there was hard on all of us, the information we gleaned from everything was absolutely essential and provided a unique perspective on the project we ourselves were undertaking.