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Belgian internship in Nicaragua

Sarah Segers, a Belgian student anthropology at the University of Leuven, followed an internship in two centres of the Brothers of Charity in Nicaragua. Read her interesting story here.

My name is Sarah Segers and I’m a second year anthropology student at the university of Leuven (Belgium). For my master thesis, I initially wanted to study the different rehabilitation strategies that are used to help the street children in Granada, Nicaragua. Through the help of Mr. Prakash Goossens, my father Paul Segers and Bro. Jos Mathijssen, I had the permission to stay in the brother house in Granada where I could work on my master thesis and help as a volunteer in the two centres of the Brothers of Charity. Here is my story…

After a really tiring flight with an unplanned overnight stay in Miami, I arrived at the airport of Managua, Nicaragua, where I was welcomed by Bro. Jimi and the overwhelming tropical heat. In the first couple of days, Bro. Jimi introduced me to the children and teachers in the two centres in Granada: Centro Jesus Amigo Casa Santa Teresita Del Niño Jesus for the rehabilitation of addicted street children in the heart of the city centre and Casa Hogar Amenecer, a centre outside Granada that focuses on the protection of boys with social risks.

During my daily trips to the centre in Granada - the bus ride itself was always an adventure - I got to know the city better and very soon I felt like a local. Through the help of the teachers, I found out where it was safe to go and where not to go, where it was nice to have a drink, but through them I also met the families of the street children and got the opportunity to ask them some questions and observe their (poor) living situations in mostly dangerous neighbourhoods.

I was confronted with the harsh reality of the street children during a nightly visit in the streets where we talked to some children about their experiences and reasons for living on the street. The reasons are very broad and ranging between avoiding parental abuse, violence, poverty to working on the street to buy things they want for themselves. A lot of these children still go to their homes at night. Others sleep in the streets or sell their bodies to tourists in exchange for food and shelter…

After 3-4 weeks of helping in Centro Jesus Amigo, I realized that I was unable to get enough information for my master thesis: I didn’t speak or understand Spanish well enough, the amount of street children in the centre varied and the frequency of their visits was unpredictable. Sometimes there where 7 children, sometimes only 1 or 2. They would come one day and then return only one week later. So it was quite impossible for me to build a strong relationship and that’s why I decided to focus more on the other centre: Casa Hogar Amenecer.

In Casa Hogar Amenecer, I really felt like home. The teachers and children were so nice to me and helped me in the best way they could. They had a lot of patience with me because of my poor Spanish and I’m very grateful for that. Because I received a lot of respect, hugs, kisses, understanding and amusement, I was even more determined to support and help them in the best way I could. So I tried to listen when they were sad, I helped them with their homework, I taught English to the 5 oldest boys, we played soccer, we all went to church, we walked in the ‘marchas’ and we did a lot of other things.

In this centre, the children are taught to have respect for each other and their possessions, they are taught order and discipline, they are given free time to enjoy themselves and they get all their basic needs (food, clothing, sleeping place, care and school opportunities). During the interviews that I had with the families, the teachers and the children themselves, it’s very clear that they see this centre as a good place to be prepared for the future.

From my point of view as an anthropologist, the only thing that was missing in Casa Hogar was a mother figure. I understood the practical reasons why there are only male teachers (only 2 female cooks and 1 female psychologist) but I hope that they can work something out in the future. Most of these children lack a mother figure in their own family, so that’s why I think it is important for the future that they understand what a real mother figure should be like. And what enrichment this mother figure could be for their personal development.

I conclude my story with a big thank you to the teachers and children of the two centres for their support and the unforgettable time I had with them, to the Brothers of Charity who made this experience possible, to Bro. Richard for the support and shelter in Nicaragua, to Bro. Jimi for his help with my introduction in the first couple of days and the big amount of information and opportunities he gave me in Nicaragua, to Bro. Jos and Prakash Goossens for giving me the firm building blocks to begin this journey, and last but certainly not least to my parents who supported me all the way, financially and emotionally.

Muchas Gracias a todo!

Sarah Segers


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