Comedores – Bomberos

At precisely 11am on Tuesdays and Thursdays I leave La Estacion and hop on the ruta (oh how I hate the ruta) and head to my second comedor of the day: Bomberos. The part of Bomberos where the comedor is located is also an area where the train used to run through, but now it is hidden behind a Sam’s Club and Nissan dealer. You would have no idea that this area existed if you hadn’t been there. The streets aren’t even marked on maps. Which at first that kinda sounds like Harry Potter going to Diagon Alley for the first time, but Bomberos is far from magical.  

Much like La Estacion the kids in Bomberos have very little supervision and it’s up to the older kids to help the younger ones out. Shoes are a rarity to find in this comedor. About 75% of the kids show up with no shoes and the streets are absolutely disgusting. Sludge from the surrounding companies is dumped directly into the neighborhood, often leaving a nasty odor, and all kinds of animals use the street as their toilet. On a normal weekday, about 12 kids come to eat, but on Saturdays the number is around 40. 

All the kids I’ve met there have been super charming. I have had races with matchbox cars, played rock, paper, scissors, and played guessing games with some of the kids. On my way to the comedor I am usually greeted and accompanied by one or multiple kids, who will then walk me there so I’m not alone. It’s strange, but I feel much safer walking through the community with a 4-year-old then I do alone. It makes me feel like I’ve been accepted and that the kids want me there. There is an adorable 3-year-old named Gwendolyn who comes to the comedor every Tuesday and Thursday and she is my little buddy. It took her a while to warm up to me, but this past week she introduced me to her 3 baby dolls, who all are blonde and blue-eyed and remind me of Big Baby from Toy Story 3, and that really made me feel like I belonged.

It is truly amazing to me how warm and trusting the kids are to adults, when many of the adults they know are treating them poorly. I have seen kids as young as 5 selling roses or gum on the street while their parents are at home drinking, doing drugs, or sleeping. I recently found out that many of the kids in the comedor have been abused physically and sexually since the time they were young. For me rape had always seemed like an abstract concept. I didn’t know of anyone personally who had been raped and I just always felt like it was something you read about. Hearing about kids that I personally know that have been raped breaks my heart. I don’t understand how these kids can still be so happy and nice to adults. Why aren’t they bitter and angry and resentful?   And there is nothing that the government can do because many of these kids are unregistered. 

The comedor in Bomberos is struggling right now to stay open. There are limited funds and volunteers, but these kids are in desperate need. If the comedor wasn’t there, days could go by where these kids would not eat a proper meal. It’s a difficult time, and a hard decision. I hope that it is able to stay open, and help put an end to the cycle of machismo and poverty, and help to show the kids that there are other things out there for them. 

I am still trying to process everything that I am experiencing at the comedores but I feel like I may never be able too, and that’s okay.

Comedores- La Estacion

           So, I have been putting off writing about the comedores (soup kitchens) that I work at for some time now. I kept thinking that I would write about them after I had processed all my emotions and thoughts about them, but honestly I don’t know when that will be. I have been working at the comedores for 6 weeks now, and I still can’t process them. On Tuesdays and Thursdays are when I work at the comedores, the other days I am teaching English in Colegio Berea, and I go to one in the morning to serve breakfast, then I leave to go help at another one to serve lunch.

         The comedor I work at in the mornings is very close to an area called “La Estacion.” This area used to be home to a beautiful train station,but once the trains stopped running the whole area suffered. Now the area behind the train station is home to many families, who are living on land that is technically owned by the government, but no taxes are enforced, and the people living there have no rights to their property. There are remains of the track, and parts of the cars that are used as walls, or even rooms. The living conditions are less than ideal, and usually cramped with kids running around everywhere. Many kids that live in La Estacion don’t go to school and they just lie around all day, because they have no supervision. There are many parents that spend the little money that they have on alcohol and the kids are not getting properly fed. So on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays the soup kitchen is opened for kids of all ages to come and eat breakfast, and also get lessons from the bible. On an average weekday there are about 20 kids that come for breakfast and they range in age from 2 months to 20 years old. I have yet to see a parent walk their child to the soup kitchen. They come in small groups with the older kids being responsible for their younger siblings or friends. In some cases the older kid is 6, taking care of a 3 year old. But the kids aren’t bitter or resentful, they are so unbelievably welcoming and kind to everyone they meet. As I walked through La Estacion with my director, Jacinto, I felt overwhelmed with emotions. I felt sad and mad and guilty and spoiled and way out of place, wondering what I was doing there. But while we were walking through the neighborhood I had a little girl, Lizette, run up and take my hand to show me around and go to the comedor with me. After that moment I felt much more comfortable about where I was. My first day in La Estacion I was greeted by every kid individually and I received so many hugs and welcomes it was great.  Everyday that I’m there I learn new things about the kids and I love listening to their stories and having them teach me games (which they are shocked that I don’t know, because obviously everyone learns these games when they’re kids.) I would like to say that it is getting easier for me to process my emotions being there, and that the shock is gone, but I can’t. It is just as hard as the first day for me, but in a different way. The more I learn about the kids and their living conditions the harder it gets. There are times when I wish that I could just give them all the money they need to live better, and attend school, but I can’t and i’m not sure that would help anyways. For now though I am just going to try and be the happy, positive person that I normally am, and hope that I am helping them in some way. 

 

here is a picture of the train station now. The kids live in houses directly behind it.

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Festival de la Cosecha

Instead of celebrating Halloween in my school we had a Festival de la Cosecha where all the kids dressed up like farmers and sang and performed skits for their parents. It was really cool to finally meet the parents of my students and see the kids perform. Here are some pics from the festival:

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here is one of my adorable preschoolers, Manolo, dressed as a cat for his skit

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Here are some of the students in the primaria chica class singing and dancing to “Old McDonald had a Farm.”

And of course no festival would be complete without a piñata.

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Newsletters

I am not very good with computer type stuff, so I don’t know how to post my newsletters here, but if you would like to receive it send an email to meghanbryte@gmail.com and i will add you to my mailing list. thank you