Located southwest of the capital of Nicaragua is Boaco, a town that was built on such a steep hill that it is described by locals as having two floors – a first floor with homes and businesses, and then another tier of houses and shops high above the first, considered the second floor. It was fitting to hear that the city is referred to as having two floors because part of our visit to the Casa Betania Welfare Center was to visit the completed two floors of the clinic that are a part of the Sisters’ home and our affiliate project, which supports 86 sponsored children in our program.
SAVING CHILDREN AND SAVING MONEY
When we arrived at Casa Betania, we were warmly greeted by the children and our volunteer coordinator, Sister Cristina. Casa Betania itself has been in Boaco for more than thirty years, and Children Incorporated has been affiliated with it for almost as long as it has been in existence. The children had taken the time to come to the home on a Saturday, a day they wouldn’t normally be there, to meet with us.
Of the more than eighty children in our program, 63 of them attend a local primary school, seven are in university, and the rest are in high school. The Sisters at Casa Betania – five in all – provide support for the children in shifts by days of the week. Since there is only one Sister that works with the students as an afterschool tutor, and the others help with cooking meals for the children, the students take turns coming to the home once a week after school, Monday through Thursday, to receive help with their homework and have a meal.
Like so many of our projects, not only do the Sisters support the children in the community – their parents also go to the home to discuss business and finances, and the Sisters encourage them to work together to earn an income. Some women get together to make tamales to sell on the street, and then they share in the profits; others clean houses or work as cooks in wealthier families’ homes. The fathers tend to work in carpentry or help the women sell food – but jobs are limited in Boaco. The Sisters also help the families save money; they offer to act as a bank, so the families are able to put funds aside throughout the year.
THE POWER OF PADRINOS
On top of receiving food and tutoring, children also receive clothes and shoes, thanks to their padrinos, the name they call their sponsors – which literally translates to “godparents” in English. All of the support is really important for the children, but the Sisters feel that the homework and tutoring help is the most crucial part of the program. Classrooms in local public schools are overcrowded, so teachers can’t give children the attention they need. The Sisters at Casa Betania would like to hire an additional tutor, but paying a salary is a concern, since they don’t get funding for educational support from the government or other organizations that offer aid.
A DOCTOR AMONG THE SISTERS
After visiting with the children, Sister Cristina showed us the clinic. Three years ago, thanks to our gracious donors, Children Incorporated provide $7,000 in funding to help complete the clinic after a local woman who was providing the financial support for the large addition was suddenly unable to help anymore. Now that the clinic is complete, what used to be a very small dispensary with just one room is a large clinic with multiple examining rooms and a full pharmacy.
One of the Sisters completed medical training, and is now a doctor, seeing upwards of forty patients a day, four days a week at the clinic. A Canadian health organization provides medications free of charge, and anyone in the community with an illness or wound is welcome to visit for treatments and care. Another staff member at Casa Betania is working on getting her nursing degree so that the clinic will be able to see even more patients.
The Sisters have their hands full between supporting the children four days a week and running a clinic during the week as well; but as Sister Cristina told us, there are so many kids in need in the community, and they would gladly bring more children and families into the home. With more padrinos, the Sisters could support more children, and the community would continue to benefit with both education and health and well-being.