Monday, January 19, 2009

Programa Amor

Homework at a New Home
Approximately 50 kids visited the property for a few days. Here they are completing homework at one of the tables in the living room.

A little over two years ago, Daniel Ortega was elected president and brought with him the FSLN party. Some things have changed, some have not.

Medical care is now free to all, including most medicines. This is a huge gain for the very poor and the very sick who couldn't afford the attention they needed before. Small wounds no longer necesarily become amputations. Less women will die of cervical cancer because of late diagnosis.

On the other hand, I have a friend who broke his leg badly almost a year ago. The surgeries were free, but the doctors didn't install the screws very well. He is 24 years old an will walk with a cane for the rest of his life.

School is and always has been technically free to all. But with the new Sandinista government, school supplies, uniforms and other costs that had previously kept the poorest children from attending are free.

However, schools still lack quality teachers. Teachers who not only show up every day, but also understand their subject matter enough to teach it. Nicaragua has won a great battle against basic illiteracy, but do the people have enough knowledge to leverage themselves out of poverty?

The government started a program last October called "Programa Amor", the Love Program. One of it's aim is to get more children living in families, off the streets and out of orphanages.

It's a wonderful idea that children who are not able to be raised by their own parents due to death, addictions, abuse, mental illness and extreme poverty can be raised by others who can give them the love, attention, education and support they would otherwise be lacking.

The New Home
Girls hanging out on the porch of their home.

However, in returning 17 children from Casa Asis in December to their original families that had been previously deemed incapable, and the lacking evidence that other substitute families (more or less foster families) who are paid to take in the children are really providing for the children better than NPH, I question if in the reality of Nicaragua, this program of love is really more loving.

In the meantime, rumors have been running rampant since October when this portion of the program was initiated that NPH Nicaragua would be shut down. While the national director has been assured by the Family Services department (Mi Familia) that this is not the case, the rumor still persists in the community the house is based in.

And due to the particular interest the program has in children 15 and under, when the new school year starts in February, the new property will have approximately 50 kids 16 and over living in the first four homes.

Card Shark
The kids keeping occupied in one of the new homes.

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