Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Mornings in the Nutrition Center

Greetings! My name is Alissa and I am the newest OYE volunteer. I am from Kansas and attend American University in Washington, D.C. I arrived last week and will be here until the end of July. While I am here, I will be working Mondays through Fridays for a few hours in the morning and a few hours in the afternoon in a number of different locations. Today I want to write about the Nutrition Center where I am currently working in the mornings.

The Nutrition Center is a place where they take in severely malnourished children and help them to recuperate. The children are usually there for three to six months, although it varies for each child. It is only a program of recuperation, so after the children are better they go home to their families. While they are in the center, their caretakers (usually mothers) must come periodically to see them and also to learn how better to take care of them so that they do not fall into malnutrition again immediately upon returning home. Also, the children come back periodically after they have completed the program for check-ups.

On a regular day at the center, I arrive with Reto around 9:00. For the first hour we just play with the children. There are about 25 kids there, so there is never a shortage of kids to give attention to. Most of the kids are 4 or younger, but there are a couple of special cases who are older. They are all adorable and a joy to play with. After playing, they eat lunch, so my job is feed some of the ones who need help. Then they all go to the bathroom and have a bath before taking a nap. Usually Reto and I stay for awhile longer after they go to sleep and chat with the women who work there before we head back home for lunch.
The truly difficult part about the work of this center is that it is not permanent. While the lives of children are being saved as they are nourished in body and in spirit at the Nutrition Center, they ultimately must leave -- either back to a life of poverty or to an orphanage -- and there is no guarantee that they will remain healthy and happy.

Yesterday I went with a group from the Nutrition Center to visit the homes of some children who were there in the past. The homes were in two communities outside of El Progreso -- Flores de mayo and Siete de abril. In both places, we saw houses constructed out of corrugated tin and in some cases cardboard. The poverty there was truly astonishing, although I am told there are places outside of Tegucigalpa that are even worse. The hardest part for me, however, was when I returned to the Nutrition Center after the visits. I looked at a serious-faced little boy I am getting to know at the center and I pictured him as one of the children in one of those communities. I imagined him standing sadly at the door, not recognizing the people who had loved him for many months at the center, just staring blankly at the people visiting as some of the children had done yesterday. For me, returning to the center after visiting these communities emphasized the faith one must have for this type of work. In the end, we must send the children back to their homes and have faith that our work is not in vain and that the love we give them at the Nutrition Center will positively impact their lives.

Our job is to plant seeds. After that, it is not up to us. We must plant so that others may water and that eventually the seeds will grow. I love this idea, and think it is very important to remind us that while what we do here is not everything, it is something.

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