Countless documentaries have been made about the children of La Chureca, Managua’s notorious dump, where children and parents scavenged for scrap metal, cardboard and anything else they can sell or use to build huts to shelter themselves.
Previous Transformational Travel groups have seen it. We didn’t. It’s closed.
Rows of pastel-colored cinderblock houses now line the streets leading up to the hill where the dump has been covered with dirt. In one house, a woman is starting dinner for the children who drop in there. An old Coca-Cola sign forms part of the fence around the corner yard where nothing grows. Inside, two children are coloring while a televangelist preaches in the corner.
We were there to observe, but many groups have come to this part of Managua to run schools and community centers. One such organization, Los Quinchos, has several programs for Managua’s poor children in La Chureca and elsewhere.
We visited Proyecto Filtro, Filter House, one of the other Los Quinchos programs, which helps street children and teen-agers leave street life. Some shined shoes or sold things – or themselves – on the streets. Some were addicted to glue-sniffing.
At Filter House, they can wash up, eat, receive treatment for wounds or illness, play, and sleep. When they move in, the children are signed up for public schools. Some of their mentors are former street children themselves.
During our visit, several drew pictures and wove colorful bracelets, which Los Quinchos sells to help support its programs. As we toured the two-story building, excitement grew and they danced around us and posed for pictures.
A third group that got our attention was Los Pipitos. We spent the first night in Nicaragua in a hostel run for this organization of families with children with physical and developmental disabilities. The Nicaraguan government does not have the programs richer countries have to help the parents and their children, so they’re doing it themselves.
Los Pipitos has branches in many Nicaraguan cities. Besides the hostel and a recycling program, it supports itself with Teletón, Nicaragua’s answer to Jerry’s Kids.