Celebrating 26 Years of Los Quinchos

Sara helping the girls from Las Yahoskas to blow up balloons to put around as decorations.

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Along with juggling, hula hoop acrobatics, gymnastics and several other circus tricks, the kids wowed the crowd with a carefully choreographed unicycle performance.

 

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Most of the girls in the center participated in a large traditional dance performed for the crowd.

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Some of the boys also showed off their skills by performing a traditional dance. The boys and girls at the center have weekly dance classes throughout the year as one of their set activities.

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A large crowd gathered around the pool for the swimming and diving competitions.

Everth and Kevin performed a hilarious skit based off of word play jokes.

The 26th Anniversary of Los Quinchos took place on June 19th. Set to start at nine, no actual festivities took place until at least ten or eleven, as was expected for Nicaraguan time. Sara, Rosemary and I arrived early to finish putting up balloons, crepe paper, signs, and any decorations that had been left for the morning. The whole week earlier had been spent cleaning the boys site, where the party took place. The actual event was a whole lot of fun and silliness. The educators helped to lead events such as diving and swimming competitions and soccer games that were played between the different projects and volunteers. The kids showed off their skills through skits, traditional dances and circus tricks that were learned through an organization that passes by every year. The night was topped off with great food, a campesino mass and dancing.

Thoughts on Law and Life

Looking back on this week at the firm, I realize how much I’ve learned in what has felt like such a fast, busy time.  One of the most impactful parts of my week was observing immigration court on Tuesday.  The cases that morning were all on the juvenile docket, so many of the defendants were children and/or unaccompanied minors.  The other interns and I sat in the back of the room watching the proceedings.  Each time a new case was called, a teenager or child took their seat by their lawyer in front of the judge.  If the child was young, the judge would smile and ask them questions about school, or thank them for wearing nice clothing because it showed respect for the court.  Despite this show of affection, the lawyer I work for, Anna, explained that the judge was only continuing or closing their cases, rather than granting them any actual status or citizenship.  At the end of the hearing for each case, the judge explained to the child that he was making their case inactive, but that at any point, should the government choose, their case could be reopened and they could be deported.  Hearing a child receive this mix of immediate relief and fear of the future was overwhelming.  Learning that this is one manifestation of the way that the government treats child immigrants was hard to stomach, and gave me all the more respect for attorneys who pour so much energy into representing children, whose cases are often especially sensitive or difficult to handle.

In addition to observing court, my week included sitting in on consultations, filling out applications with clients (while trying to improve my translation skills!), researching country conditions to support briefs, calling clients about appointments, filing motions in immigration court, and helping transcribe an interview for a client’s affidavit.  During our lunch breaks, Anna gives us time to debrief, ask questions, reflect on how things are going, and hear her perspective on a variety of issues related to her work and immigration.

One of the perks of working by City Hall is getting to walk to Reading Terminal Market and Chinatown for coffee or lunch sometimes during the week!  Having time to reflect as well as time to just laugh and get to know each other has also been one of best parts of my internship so far.  Thinking all of these thoughts as I left the office on Friday and headed to the City Hall trolley station, grateful for a week of good work and excited for the weekend ahead….IMG_1494

English, and Sewing and Hammocks, Oh My!

It has been a busy week here in San Marcos, Nicaragua for Sara, Rosemary and I! Apart from trying to learn the names of over twenty girls and thirty boys, we have been running around getting to know everyone and starting small projects. So far we have done some vocabulary English classes for the younger girls and grammar for the older ones. Rosemary and Sara are planning on starting a running/jogging/walking activity for the girls in order to relieve stress and excess energy in the afternoon. Together we have helped to mentor the kids in science, math and writing classes. Through the making of multiplication, subtraction, addition and division worksheets we are hoping to strengthen their ability and confidence in math. For writing we follow the teaching style of the local schools, where we read aloud simple sentences and then check their spelling when they write them.
The boys at Los Quinchos and the older girls from Las Yahoskas have been mostly working at the boys’ site in order to help clean the area for the 26th anniversary celebration this Sunday. It will be a day full of games, showmanship and fun.

 

Rosemary and Ana Valeria (age 11) work on some math.

Apart from bringing us the occasional star fruit and mango that grow on the properties, the boys and girls take part in several individual activities and projects. The boys work with carpentry, make hammocks, work on the farm at their site and and bake bread. The girls practice sewing and get beauty salon lessons in which they learn how to paint nails, dye hair, cut hair and style it. Both learn pottery and take dance classes.
Besides us three, there are several other people who frequent the sites. One of them, a friend named Kendel, helps me to take the girls and boys to attend catholic mass on Thursdays and Sundays. The outing is fun and serves as a way to get the kids off site for a bit.
If you would like to learn more about the history and structure of the two sites, check out the blog post Rosemary and Jacob wrote last summer: blogs.haverford.edu/globalcitizen/2015/08/05/los-quinchos-an-organizational-low-down/.

11 year old Pilar’s math worksheet.

This week we will continue to clean the boys’ site in preparation for the anniversary celebration!

Week 1: immigration law intern

Where to begin…..I received CPGC sponsorship this summer to work with Sweet & Paciorek, LLC., an immigration law firm.  I knew that I wanted to work in the realm of immigrant rights in some capacity this summer after going on the CPGC’s Borderlands migration field study over winter break.  On that trip, our group was fortunate to meet a number of incredible individuals and groups working as activists for immigrant rights.  Among these people, we met a couple of women immigrant attorneys who were tirelessly diligent, brilliant, and compassionate.  I remember thinking of these individuals as life forces who dedicated themselves to advocacy alongside a population that the U.S. consistently seeks to delegitimize and invalidate.  They used their power not to speak for the migrants they represented, but to create a platform upon which their clients are more able to voice their own needs.

Fast forward to last Monday, when I gave my best attempt at feeling comfortable in business casual clothing (feeling like a semi-adult after swapping my flip-flops for flats as I neared the office several blocks from Philly City Hall at the end of my walk).  Anna, the lawyer who I work under, quickly swept me into the world of filing I-589s and N-400s and G-28s and myriad other numbered forms I’m constantly trying to remember, along with scheduling appointments for clients, observing court proceedings, and assisting with translation during consultations.

At the heart of this busy and crazy work, though, is listening to the stories of clients and working to bring their needs and desires to fruition – whether they be to remain united with family, to achieve access to economic opportunities, or to escape violence or abuse.  Ironically, many of these problems in Central America stem from actions the U.S. has taken and continues to take that created severe damage in the first place.  After only one week of work, too many stories of domestic violence, rape, molestation, and gang violence in clients’ home countries have grated against my ears.  I’m already worn out by the heaviness of these stories, and by the arbitrariness of the law that tells a couple married for years that one of them must be deported, or that insinuates that a young woman’s asylum claim is not strong enough because she has not been abused enough.

In the midst of this work, Anna explains everything to me and the other interns as she goes.  She is constantly breaking down the law for us or explaining something confusing in court, in addition to offering her sage advice, perspective, and expertise.  She asks us, the interns, how we are doing with our work everyday, and genuinely invests in our growth, learning, and development throughout the summer.  I have already encountered the same seed of reverence for people steadfastly working towards justice and peace for others within this law firm.  In the newness and busyness of this summer, I can trust and fall back on my belief that I am beginning to learn how to do good and meaningful work with good people.

Oh, and I’ll work on taking some pictures to liven up my future posts!

 

 

Delegation Tour Through Nicaragua

Props and figures used in parades that represent myths, legends and folklores seen at a museum in Leon.

One of the many decorated rotundas in Managua. This one features “The Trees of Life” and a portrait of Chávez. Both light up at night.

Mural in the public library of Esteli. Public libraries are a revolutionary idea, considering books are three or more times as expensive in Nicaragua than in the U.S.

Carvings in the mountainside in Tisey made by local sculpture artist Alberto.

One of the many churches in Leon.

This summer Sara, Rosemary and I will be working in Los Quinchos (boys residential center) and Las Yahoskas (girls residential center) with ProNica in San Marcos, Nicaragua. With the CPGC’s funding, I was able to secure a spot working in solidarity with this amazing NGO that has many projects all around Nicaragua. In my specific placement I will be working with teens and kids in residential centers, helping run and coordinate workshops, mentoring, tutoring and the like until August 10th.

I arrived in Managua, Nicaragua on June 1st and have been touring throughout Nicaragua on a delegation tour since then. We have visited Leon (the city of churches), Estelí (a more rural city with many farms and great hiking) and Managua (the capital, a bustling city). Tomorrow we will embark towards our final destination, San Marcos, where we will finally meet our host families and the people we will be working with this summer. So far I have seen amazing things (including a carved mountain side), met great people (such as a professional guitarist) and learned so much (like the fact that you can’t flush toilet paper in the toilets here). Nicaragua is a beautiful country with rich history and beautiful, meaningful cultural practices that I am excited to learn more about as I continue on this journey. As we approach tomorrow, I find myself looking forward more and more to seeing the project site and meeting everyone there.

Arriving in Windhoek, Namibia

This summer, I received funding from the CPGC to work with an organization called the Museums Association of Namibia. They are an NGO who work to preserve and strengthen Namibian cultural and historical heritage by organizing for, coordinating, and providing resources for museums across all of Namibia. This is a particularly important project in Namibia, a country that only gained its independence in 1990 after over 100 years of German colonization, British control, and South African apartheid. Reminders of Namibia’s constant and ongoing efforts to define itself as a nation are everywhere in Windhoek.

My journey started the last Friday of finals week, with a 10 pm flight. After nearly 36 hours of traveling spanning three continents and four countries, I arrived in Namibia’s capital city, Windhoek, last Sunday afternoon at Hosea Kutako International Airport. For those of you unfamiliar with Namibia, it is a large country situated on Africa’s southwestern coast, just north of South Africa. The Namib Desert and the Kalahari Desert cover much of Namibia, and the country’s climate is quite hot and dry for the most part. Luckily for me, it’s winter in the southern hemisphere, so I won’t have to face the daily 110 degree temperatures which are common in the summer.

The desert terrain on the descent into Windhoek

The desert terrain on the descent into Windhoek’s airport

Touching down at Windhoek's international airport

Touching down at Windhoek’s international airport

The airport is about 40 km outside of the city center, so my guesthouse arranged for a shuttle driver to pick me up. We drove back along a two-lane road through wide-open desert, with towering mountains looming large on both sides.

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My backpacking house, Paradise Gardens, is located in a residential neighborhood called Windhoek West, about a 10 minute walk from Windhoek’s city center.

Windhoek West

Windhoek West

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Windhoek West

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Paradise Gardens – home for the next 8 weeks

I am staying in a room with three other travelers. They are from Ireland, Germany, and Austria, all of them here long-term. About 15 total travelers live in the house as well. The long-term travelers are mostly European college-aged students doing internships with NGO’s or studying abroad at Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST). The owner of the house is a Namibian German woman, and about 6 of the guests are from Germany or speak German – so German is constantly being spoken in the house. The house features a communal kitchen, replete with storage closets, refrigerator space, and freezers, for all guests to cook their meals.

My room

My room

As I explore the city more and delve more deeply into my work with MAN, which will be centered on preparing a traveling museum exhibition on the 1904-1907 Herero-Nama genocide which took place at the hands of German colonists, I will post more pictures, observations, and experiences about Windhoek and my research into Namibia’s colonial past.

 

 

 

 

 

Flagstaff, Arizona–Native American Resilience & Navajo Culture

We woke up early in the morning to start our drive from Phoenix, AZ to Flagstaff Medical Center located in a mountainous area of northern Arizona. At Flagstaff, we were privileged to have lunch with Dr. Neff, the chief medical officer there. We also met with individuals from the Center for American Indian Resilience from Northern Arizona University, and a Navajo interpreter who told us many things about Navajo culture, and gave all of us traditional navajo tea!

When meeting with the Center for American Indian Resilience (CAIR), we were introduced to a new model of looking at American Indian Health: through resilience. Dr. Anderson put it best when she said something along these lines: throughout history, in literature, American Indian deficits have been focused on–they have a problem with alcoholism, trauma, etc. However, despite this, we have people in our community who have overcome these obstacles and achieved great things–they have become doctors and researchers. We would like to showcase this model and our resilience through CAIR.

The talk was quite inspiring, making our minds shift from the deficit model to a strength-based model for health–focusing on the strengths of culture and community rather than what they do not have, and drawing from that strength to fill in what may be lacking. I encourage everyone to go to their website: http://nau.edu/cair/ and explore the strengths and resilience of the Native American community.

After our meeting with CAIR, we also met with a Navajo interpreter who told us about Navajo culture. We were introduced to the idea that Navajo start their day facing east (sunrise), as they believe that is healthy for them. They are also a matriarchy, and focus on where people come from–we all introduced ourselves as not only individuals, but also talking about where our family and ancestors came from. Navajo describe their first clan as their mother’s clan, then their second clan is their father’s clan, third clan is mother’s mother’s clan and fourth clan is father’s mother’s clan. The interpreter also told us that one of the biggest challenges that the Navajo are facing is diabetes: also know as the “sugar disease.” Coke, Pepsi, and other soda brands distribute the most in Arizona and New Mexico reservations! Additionally, other challenges surrounding the disease is based on access: many individuals live on reservations 3-4 hours away with no running water and power. Simple things like storing insulin is a problem for them!

We had a wonderful visit in Flagstaff and were able to learn so much more about Navajo culture. It was an extremely memorable trip and an experience of a lifetime!

Sign on the vending machine in Flagstaff

Sign on the vending machine in Flagstaff

Traditional Navajo Tea given by Flagstaff Medical Center

Traditional Navajo Tea given by Flagstaff Medical Center

Running Medicine and Heading Home

The last day of our Arizona/New Mexico trip!! The days truly flew by and I can certainly say that this was a fantastic, heart-warming and meaning full experience. Our last day was spent in Albuquerque, New Mexico with Dr. Anthony Fleg, a Haverford grad of 2000 who is currently a Family and Community Medicine physician and co-coordinator of the Native Health Initiative. It was a day filled with reflection upon our experience, as well as looking forward towards our future. I think it was the perfect way to end our trip.

The morning started with the Kickoff of “Running Medicine”, a wellness program rolled out by the Native Health Initiative that focuses on strengthening connection, community, as well as our bodies. We were then able to meet with the high school students from the Healers of Tomorrow Program, with whom we were able to share our personal hopes and dreams for becoming Healers. Next, we joined the healer of tomorrow program to meet Dr. Ruben, who worked for the local VA hospital, who shared some of the ins and outs of surgery. Finally, we traveled back to the NHI office space where Anthony asked us to share the part of the trip that we found the most valuable and we would not have been able to learn in a textbook. I shared that although I knew that the Navajo had a rich culture, I gained a much stronger appreciation for how unique, robust and beautiful this culture was and how the strengths of this culture could be used to make the necessary connection with the community and further one’s mission and goals. This played directly Anthony’s explanation of Loving Service, which uses a decolonized structure, and strengths based model. I hope to carry this with me and utilize these model’s in the way I practice in the future.

Finally, we got some great pizza and enjoyed some yummy milkshakes in the airport!! Enjoy some fun pictures of us on our last day.

Last group dinner

Last group dinner

Beautiful sunset on the plane from NM to TX

Beautiful sunset on the plane from NM to TX

Well deserved treat at the end of our trip

Well deserved treat at the end of our trip.

By: Yanira Santos ’16