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Chapter 11 – My Week in Nueva Suyapa

October 5th, 2017

I was a little nervous about going to Nueva Suyapa. I had just had an amazing week at Los Pinos. In Los Pinos I had English speakers to help me out and I knew some of the children and the facilitators from being there the previous year. The facilitators at Nueva Suyapa only spoke Spanish and I had no idea what to expect.

Preparing the Food and Eating it Too

I arrived at 8 am and met the cooks who helped out every day. I was immediately handed a knife to help prepare the food for lunch. We had to peel all the potatoes, carrots, and every other type of vegetable using the knife. I felt like a spoiled little American because peeling potatoes with a knife and not a potato peeler was really hard. The cooks were going so quickly. They would peel 3 potatoes in the time it took me to peel one. By the end of the week I knew that they appreciated my help and were thankful that I was trying, but the first day I really felt like they were disappointed with my speed and ability. After peeling all the veggies we had to cut them. I’ve never been in a professional kitchen so I don’t really have anything to compare the cooks to but watching them cut the veggies so fast and so small, I felt like I was working with chefs from a TV show or something. I was very impressed that they still had all 10 fingers because I almost cut one off and I was chopping slowly. I was surprised how long it takes to make the food. We started cooking at 8am and served lunch around noon. From 8 until noon we were working hard cooking. The kitchen was very hot because of the oven uses wood set on fire to heat the pot. I was pretty sweaty and I knew I smelt like fire everyday when I went home. 2 of the days I had to go to Spanish at night so I would take a real quick shower because I didn’t want to smell bad. I realized though how blessed I am to have these luxuries of being able to take a shower. These women cook everyday and have the fire smell on them but they can’t take showers every day to wash it off but yet they find joy in carrying the smell around with them because they helped feed children.

Every morning Keren would make us all breakfast. She would always give me more than the other two cooks. I felt bad because she gave me so much food and I couldn’t eat it all. I would try to stuff it down but if I had to continue working and standing up, there was no way I could get it all in. On top of that, I know that she does not have much food, so the fact that she would give me so much was such a kind gesture that I couldn’t just not eat it… but it was so much!! By the time I would finally finish eating my breakfast, it was time to serve lunch and Keren would ask if she could prepare a plate for me. I was grateful that she asked so I could say “no thank you.” Because I did not eat lunch, Keren would take me to a near by restaurant every day after finishing all the work at the care point and buy me a meal. I would take it home and share it with Karen and her family because I was still full from breakfast. Besides filling my stomach with food (and it was good food, just a lot of food) I learned to drink black coffee. I am normally the type of girl who drinks “coffee with my cream” instead of “taking cream in my coffee” but she made me black coffee every morning with no cream and a little bit of sugar. The gesture was nice but it was a different experience. By the end of the week however, I actually really enjoyed it.

We would eat breakfast while we cooked and prepared food but one I got chicken seasoning powder in my coffee cup. I figured that you could see the seasoning floating around so I didn’t need to finish it. But before heading over to the care point, Keren handed it to me so I could finish it. I pretended to take my coffee outside to drink because it was so hot in the kitchen and dumped it in the trees. I really hope no one saw but I could not bring my self to drink chicken flavored coffee.

A Long Journey for a Plate of Food

One day Keren took me around to a few of the children’s houses so I could see where they lived. Thankfully that day she had Google translator on her phone so communication was a little easier. Unfortunately that was the only day we used it. We would go to the house and she would type out some of the information about the family, I would ask some questions and get to know the family and then we would pray for them. I was thankful for Google translator but holding a conversation was still pretty hard. After visiting 3 houses we walked back to her house to help finish preparing lunch. The walk was long and hard, up and down dirt hills, trying to avoid mud piles or poop piles from dogs, cows, or horses, and walking up steep hills. I was out of breath. The reality shock that this is the type of walk some of the children make everyday just to get a plate of food astounds me. Despite being out of breath and feeling very out of shape, I felt like it was worth it to get to go pray for the families. I got to learn about what life was like, the struggles they dealt with and what an amazing difference Children’s Cup was making in their lives.

The Children

One of the differences between Nueva Suyapa and Los Pinos was that the kitchen in Los Pinos was in the same facility as the care point. Because of this there were children at the care point all day in Los Pinos and children could even help cook or serve if they wanted to. They were playing games and hanging out while 4 or 5 mothers help Ely prepare breakfast and lunch. In Nueva Suyapa, the care point does not have a kitchen yet, so they have to make all of the food at Keren’s house (the facilitator of Nueva Suyapa). There are only 2 mothers who help Keren prepare the food. Around noon, they have to carry the heavy and hot pots of food across the street to the care point and after feeding the children, they have to bring everything back to the house. Because the cooking is done at the house, children are not hanging out all day. The children come to eat and then they go to school. It was hard getting to know the children the same way I did in Los Pinos but I had to remember how different the situation was. Nueva Suyapa is a new care point and thanks to Seacoast church they will soon have a kitchen and bigger facility so that children can spend the entire day there.

When the children came to the care point for food, I made an attempt to learn their names. While they waited in line for us to start serving food I would walk down the line and try to memorize names. It was hard to memorize their names because first, many of them had Honduran names that I have not heard before and couldn’t pronounce correctly. Second, the kids were there for such a short period of time that I didn’t really get to play with them and engage with them unless I was handing them food or sitting with them while they were eating. And finally, there was very little light in the care point, only sunlight from a few open windows. I was trying to put names with faces but it was so dark that by the next day, when they were wearing different clothes or they were not sitting in the same place, I wasn’t sure if I was mixing up faces.

Once all the food was set to serve, we would pray, hand out the plates of food, and the children would take their food to a seat. Some of the children would eat in 5 minutes and leave right away and others took their time eating their food, talking with friends, or helping their younger siblings eat. Some children would eat and hang out longer to play around and help Keren bring everything back to her house and lock up. On my last day, Keren brought a jump rope for the kids to play with after they finished eating. Many of the kids stayed to play even after they were done eating. I was in change of holding one side of the jump rope and swinging it around faster and slower to try to trick the children until there was only one child left to win the game. The little kids would come and stand with me because they were too young to play so I got to talk to them and know them better. I would let them help me swing the jump rope … but that made the older kids mad.

The facilitators at Los Pinos bought parasite medication for all the care points and put me in charge of administering it. I was in charge of deciding how much medication each child needed and keeping track of who received medication. I had to cut it based on their weight and make sure they actually took it. The medicine didn’t taste great so I also had to make sure they were not spitting it out.  I did a lot of research on the medication first and talked to my mom because I am definitely not a doctor and was slightly afraid that I was going to kill a child. (Thankfully I did not!) Some of the children wanted to help me cut the medicine, which was sweet, but I couldn’t let them do it. The knife was very sharp, the medicine was difficult to cut, and I needed to make sure it was being cut to the correct size. I also didn’t think it was a great idea to hand a huge sharp knife to an 8 year old child.

Se Amable

The biggest thing that I did while I was in Nueva Suyapa (in my opinion) was teach the children about how to treat animals. There were quite a few kittens around the house and care point and the children would grab them by their arms and legs and pretend they were machine guns shaking them as they shot with them or they would hold them upside down, or kick them if they were in the way. Me being an animal lover, I was totally freaked out seeing this and no longer cared if it was a cultural difference in the way we perceive animals and treat them, I couldn’t watch this any longer. I couldn’t have a huge impact with the children who just came and ate than left but I got to know Keren’s son, niece and nephew pretty well because they were around the house in the morning and helped us wash dishes at the end of the day. Because of this I could teach them and I watched as they shared my lessons with the other children as they ate. I found out how to say, “be nice” in Spanish and “se amable” became the most popular phrase out of my mouth. I showed them by example how to treat the kittens, to cuddle them and pet them. The kittens slept on my shoulder or in my lap. As I pet them, I would pick fleas off of them and flick them away. I did end up getting a few fleabites but it was worth it because by the end of the day, the children were being nice to the cats and getting angry with anyone who wasn’t being. Half way through the week, some of the children who helped us wash dishes got the idea that before we washed the dishes, we should scrape the plates and put any left over food onto one plate to give to the kittens. I was so happy and proud of them. I wish all care points would do that, give the extra food that the kids don’t eat to the dogs and cats who are starving instead of mixing it with soap before dumping it on the ground. Oh well… future project for me right?!

Teaching the children how to hold the kittens

Ending the Day and the Week

At the end of the day, after all the children had left, we would take everything back to the house to wash. 200 plates, bowls, spoons, glasses, and all of the pots, pans, mixing spoons and other cookware had to be washed so they could be used again the next day. I had to learn a new washing system because they have limited clean water, and they do not have a sink. The washing station had two side tables and a big hole in the middle with the clean water. We had to rinse all the dishes on the table and then using a bowl we would get clean water and pour it over the soapy dishes to rinse them. It was much harder than using a dishwasher or even washing dishes by hand using unlimited running water. I am not sure I described that well or if it made sense but it is hard to describe if you have not seen the set up. Once we washed everything I would take the tub of clean dishes and organize them into cups, bowls, plates, silverware, etc. And then put them away to stay safe until the next day.

Between smelling like fire, being really sweaty, having my ankles covered in red mud and dirt from the ground, picking fleas off cats, and braiding hair that was covered in lice, I was so tired by the end of the day. All I wanted to do was go home take a shower and sleep, but I never could. I either had Spanish, church, a Skype meeting, or something else going on. Despite being dirty and exhausted, I had tons of fun in Nueva Suyapa. I have so much respect for the Keren and her cooks and what they do every day. I love those children and can’t wait to see them again. I am excited to watch Nueva Suyapa develop as a care point as the facility is built, more children are sponsored, and they begin developing programs and devotionals to enrich children’s life. My experience in Nueva Suyapa was very different from my experience in Los Pinos but I loved it and had tons of fun. Despite only seeing the kids for a short period of time, I am so in love with them. I am amazed by the way God is using this care point to change lives and to spread His word and His love to the widows, the hopeless, and to all of His children.

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