It took until my boss Ximena came to my site for a visit for me to realize that my next door neighbor was Los Pipitos. The conversation went a little something like this:
Ximena: So have you thought about working with Los Pipitos?
Lauren: I have Los Pipitos in my site?
[Ximena motions to the sign reading “Los Pipitos” on the house next to mine]
I clearly know my site very well.
Los Pipitos is a non-profit organization based in Nicaraguan that brings services to children with disabilities. The organization emphasizes the importance of working with the parents of children with disabilities, and offers educational training sessions on a number of themes.
After talking with my Spanish tutor (hi William!) about my intentions to introduce myself to Los Pipitos, he offered to go with me as he already knew Juana Lydia, the lady in charge, and could introduce us. As it turns out, I met Juana Lydia exactly one day before the National and Regional technical staff from Los Pipitos were coming for a meeting, and they invited me to join. How exciting.
At the meeting the next morning, we discussed a two-day event involving a medical brigade, the old health center, all the children with disabilities in the municipality, and coordination with all major governmental offices in La Dalia, including MINSA (hospital), Alcaldia (mayor’s office), and MINED (schools). I spent the rest of the morning with Los Pipitos in meetings with the director of the hospital and the vice mayor of La Dalia, soliciting support for the event. We also determined that I would be in charge of providing educational charlas about nutrition. This was at the beginning of June.
Let’s flash forward to June 28-29, the days of the medical brigade.
Here is the Mayor of La Dalia during the opening ceremony:
Two of the kids performed a typical Nicaraguan dance:
As part of the brigade, there were doctors, psychologists, physical therapists (below), and of course, yours truly, the nutritionist. I shared a room with the physical therapists and learned a lot from them about their work with Los Pipitos in Managua, early stimulation, and how to interact with the kids.
Here’s my lovely set-up! Unbeknowest to me at the time, I would never give my planned nutrition charla. Instead, I met one-on-one with parents to consult with them about how to improve their childrens’ diets. This was an emotionally trying couple days for me as some of the children were extremely malnourished. It was hard to hold myself together enough to give nutritional suggestions to parents when at the same time, I was staring into the eyes of a five-year-old that looked no older than one-and-a-half, that was completely emaciated due to the fact that she had only consumed milk for the last five years of her life. Milk. For five years.
Overall, the two-day event was a success and I had a wonderful time getting to know the doctors on the medical brigade, especially the physical therapists with whom I shared a room.
Well, a week or two later, I recieved my very first formal invitation* in Nicaragua from Los Pipitos. During this important event, the Los Pipitos community (parents of children with disabilities in the municipality) would choose the first Board of Directors for the Los Pipitos chapter in La Dalia, as the chapter just opened for business one year ago, and opened officially during this event.
*Written invitations are extremely important here. It is common etiquette to invite all of your intended guests to a party/event with a formal invitation. If you do not have an invitation, you should assume you are not invited. Look at that beauty:
The invitation told me to show up at 8:00 am. This is what it looks like when you show up on time:
About 3 hours later, we began the meeting. Number two on the agenda was to enjoy a cultural number by one of the kids. I was very surprised when he broke out into a rap:
Denis, a coworker at the hospital, and I recieved awards for our help during the brigade:
The new Board of Directors of the newest Los Pipitos chapter in Nicaragua!