Hola a todos
I couple of weeks ago, when thinking about some of the interviews I have conducted with Catrachos, I realised there was a bit of an imbalance of opinion. Not in terms of social class or political opinion, but in a sector a bit more obvious. GENDER! I hadn’t, as of yet, interviewed any women. Maybe through living in Honduras has made me more “machista”, but if it has, it is purely subconscious, or more so, done without thought. In many ways, women still do not have the same level of power as men in Honduras. I will try to level it out in my blog a little bit more.
I will start by presenting Nelly, who I worked with at Casa Alianza, a member of staff who I have a lot of time and respect for. When I was having problems with, let’s say, some difficult people in Casa Alianza, she did comprehend what I was going through and understood why volunteers didn’t feel valued by certain people in Casa Alianza. She is also fantastic with the kids. Absolutely brilliant. She’s not one for just sitting down and doing nothing with the kids, but she gets them involved in art, activities, games, talking to them on a level ground, which I could see made the kids respect her more than some of the other workers. She had a good therapeutic way of chatting and reasoning with them, understanding where they were coming from, but what ways they can progress in a positive way. It was very encouraging to see, and to me she symbolised someone who had vast experience and knowledge of how to work with street kids and disadvantaged youths. In many ways, she was an inspiration for me, not just a friend. During the writing of the book, she told me techniques of asking them questions on very sensitive subjects, and ways in which they might try to manipulate answers and lie. We also speak a few words of Italian to each other every time we meet. It very rarely gets past, “Como stai?” and “Monte bene” or “Bonjourno”, but it’s fun to do, especially to see the kids’ confused faces. So, I decided she would be perfect for an interview. She agreed to it, we met in the food hall above a bizarre little shopping centre in the centre of Tegucigalpa, and this is what we talked about. Just to let all you know, she was also rewarded with a bar of Cadbury’s Chocolate.
Name: Nelly Nuñez
From: San Jose, Choluteca
Lives: Kenedy, Tegucigalpa
Works at: Casa Alianza
When did you move to Tegucigalpa? And why?
In 1992. I was 15 years old. It was through my cousin, who knew of a project set up by Canadians, called Jovenes en Frontera, which is through the local Catholic Church. I was leading one of the teams, and we would go to different places around Honduras, meeting children who needed help. It was excellent experience for me and lead me into this line of work. I did that until I was 23, when the leaders of the project decided to return to Canada. They were getting older and felt it was time to close the project. It eight years I worked with them. It was very good for me.
What do you go on to do?
I wanted to get my Bachelor qualification (a bit like a secondary school/university college qualification) I studied and worked. I worked for an events company, and I also sold countryside-based products at the market. That lasted two or three years.
What inspired you to work at Casa Alianza?
Two or three things really. First of all, part of my qualification meant I had to do some work experience in a place to do work social work. I worked for three months in Querebines, which works with exploited girls. Then a few weeks later, there was an opportunity to work and they called me to offer me the job, which I of course accepted, and I am still there now.
When was this?
In 2004, nine years ago.
Wow, a long time.
Yes. But I like it.
The other reasons I was inspired to work there was my experience working with disadvantaged youths with the Catholic Church. I knew what I was doing. I had the know-how, and that inspired me to continue working in this sector.
Another reason, which is more about me and who I am, is through my parents. I am from a town where my parents take on the role of community leaders. They help out in any way they can. If someone is ill in the town, they make sure that they are there right away and that a doctor is called. If there is a problem, they try to solve it. I grew seeing this, observing them, so I guess this quality was passed on to me. It definitely inspired me to work with people less fortunate than myself. But in a more profound way.
What impresses you most about the kids in Casa Alianza?
Their speed and ability to adapt from one extreme situation to another. They come off the street or from a difficult situation in their home, where they have seen things, been abused or taken drugs, then they come to Casa Alianza, which is loud, exciting, but can be quite daunting, and start making friends and getting involved with activities straight away. This always impresses me. Then, despite their problems, they have their goals, they build on their hope to succeed, they do their best to change their situation, they are generous, kind, and good people. Sometimes they seem, or are, badly behaved. But deep down they are nice human beings, and people don’t always see that. They see them as poor people, or people connected with gangs. But they are good people. And that is often forgotten. They are also very intelligent. When they have their goals, they just go for it. It’s incredible to see, and a very proud moment, as well.
One of the great things about Casa Alianza is that it gives children the chance to succeed. It provides them with the basic things to succeed and claim their goals, such as the opportunity to go to school or college, the things they will need and the support.
I remember one boy who came to Casa Alianza. He was there because his family were very poor and couldn’t look after him. He came in malnourished. After a while, he started at school, completed his secondary studies. Then he went on to study accounting while working, which he completed at university. He is now has his own organisation, and has worked in banks. I sometimes see him. An incredible story of success.
There was a girl, who also came to Casa Alianza because she was from a poor family and was finding it hard to settle into things in Casa Alianza. As soon as she was, she did a course to work in a salon. She worked really hard, and then managed to find a job which moved her to Spain.
There are other stories, who have learned to play musical instruments and have been to Germany to meet important politicians, or kids who are in dancing groups who have done events in Copan Ruinas and projects all over the country. It’s so good to see, especially seeing what they come from and where they go to. Sometimes, there is no stopping them!
Now I have asked that, you can imagine what I am going to ask next.
What least impresses me about the kids?
Yeah, more or less, what frustrates you most?
Some times, you can get a kid who has done well for weeks or months, to come off drugs, to behave well, to start school or college, and then they blow it all by taking a drugs one day or doing some thing daft. That really frustrates me. It’s sad to see, because you can see so much potential in the kids, but they don’t.
Another thing is that the kids don’t always help themselves to opportunities that present themselves. It’s because they have had an unstable time and they fear change. By trying out new things, they feel they may be let down again or it will all go all wrong. Again, it’s a shame, because they had built a negative mentality through bad things happening to them, and it is so hard to break that negative mentality. The system can’t change that. The individual has to. The individual has to learn that there is an opportunity to take advantage of, but they are just to afraid to take it. They need to learn how to push on forwards.
TO BE CONTINUED . . . . .