FL169's Vision For Change Impacts Nicaragua

Ken Cushman's picture

Over a year ago FL169 took a stand for children in an orphanage in Nicaragua. The kids in the orphanage are rescued from a garbage landfill in Managua.

The organization is called Los Quinchos and was started to rescue children both from this landfill and from the streets who are given glue to huff in order to stave off hunger. Glue is cheaper than food. And while the children are high on the glue they sleep for 18 hours and therefore do not complain of hunger. Sometimes during this state the most horrible things imaginable happen to these innocent children.

Los Quinchos provides both temporary safe houses as well as a permanent solution for children who are willing to give up the glue and choose a new way of life. There are so many children that the organization no longer has the means to transport the kids from safe house to safe house. While this legacy project started with FL169 several graduates from a variety of LP groups have committed to standing for these children.

Here is a pictorial video of Los Quinchos

Below find a detailed account of the initial trip to Nicaragua.

Our group arrived in Managua, the capital of Nicaragua, at around 1:30 am on Tuesday March 15, 2011. Upon arriving we made the short trip across the street to the Best Western where we had reservations for the night. After resting for about 5 hours, we awoke still completely unaware of the lasting impact this trip would have on our lives. First thing Tuesday morning we went to pick up the 15 passenger van that we had rented for the trip and made arrangements for our driver, Mario, to meet us in the hotel lobby. After filling our bellies at the Best Western’s breakfast buffet, we got in touch with our contact in Los Quinchos, Mr. Carlos Vidal. He sent over a driver, Juan, with a pick-up truck to transport the donations. When Juan arrived we loaded up in the van and headed out to Sabana Grande to pick up some of the donations we had shipped over a month ago.

After a short drive, we arrived in the main intersection and only traffic light of Sabana Grande where we were met by Cristobal, who for a minimal fee had been storing the boxes full of clothes and toys. Cristobal led us down a narrow dirt alley to the back of a house where the donations were being stored. We loaded the pickup truck with as many boxes as we could, still leaving about two-thirds of them to be picked up the following day. With a truck full of boxes and the nine of us packed in a van we set out for San Marcos, the hub of the Los Quinchos association.

We traveled for about an hour through little towns and neighborhoods to arrive in San Marcos at the Cultural Center of Los Quinchos, where we were met and greeted warmly by Carlos Vidal. He gave us a tour of his facilities. He showed us his very modest office “which was more than enough’” he explained, because he spent most of his time in the field visiting the various projects. There was also a small classroom for various activities, a hostel with four rooms, and a small gathering room with a stage. Carlos led us into the gathering room and we all sat down around a large picnic table with Carlos at the head of the table. Alejandra translated for our group as Carlos began to explain the history of Nicaragua and with it the history and purpose of Los Quinchos.

Nicaragua is a country that through much political, social, and economic turmoil has an astounding number of people living in poverty. This poverty is so prevalent that many children end up in the streets where an industrial glue is an inhalant of choice to stave off hunger and to black out the harsh reality in which they live. These children are victims of extreme poverty, violence, rape, abuse, homelessness, hunger, and drug addiction. They are constantly high and pass out for up to 18 hours at a time. While they are unconscious in the street, people kick them, push them, hit them, and rape them. Los Quinchos is an association dedicated to getting these children off the streets. Los Quinchos works to bring the children to a center in which they have a home, food, clothing and most of all LOVE. Los Quinchos also provides education and specialized therapy for the specific needs of individual children. There is one single condition to be able walk through the door of Los Quinchos. The child must shatter the glass container of glue against a wall and declare “No More Glue” before being allowed to enter.

Los Quinchos has five projects: La Chureca Landfill, the Filter House, Yahoska Project for Girls, San Marcos Farm for Boys, Granada Project for Boys (ages 13-18) and the Posoltega Project.

After a thorough history lesson and explanation of Los Quinchos and a short stop to eat, we set out for the Yahoska Project for Girls, home to girls older than six years old. As we arrived with the pickup truck full of boxes, we were greeted by several young girls. They came and hugged us with such affection, grabbing us by the hand to show us around their home. These young girls were full of life and love and, to think that not that long ago they were living in the street, starving, and addicted to glue. Here we distributed clothes and toys to the girls. The excitement over the things we had brought couldn’t compare to the love and affection these young girls showed us. The girls danced and sang for us and one of the girls recited a poem. After spending some time dancing and playing with the girls we said our goodbyes and left for the San Marcos Farm Project (boys ages 6-13).

At San Marcos Farm we were welcomed by a pack of rambunctious young boys, who eagerly helped us unload the remaining boxes. They did this not to be impatient but to show us their appreciation and gratitude. The boys guided us around the farm and gave us a tour of their sleeping quarters. They showed us the rabbits, and chickens, and goats that they raise. The boys are responsible for caring for and feeding the animals and thus they learn responsibility. Following the tour of the farm we sat with the boys in an outdoor pavilion and opened the boxes we had brought. We distributed toys and clothes and school supplies; making sure that each child received something. We left most of the boxes for the staff there to distribute at their own discretion. We left the farm and drove back to the hostel at the cultural center where we rested for the night.

We awoke early the following day and had breakfast in the small restaurant ran by Los Quinchos. After breakfast, we set out for Sabana Grande to load up the pick-up truck once again. With the pick-up truck and the van packed with boxes we headed for La Chureca Landfill. Two blocks before arriving at the landfill a representative of Los Quinchos got out and rode on the back of the truck with the boxes. This was done to protect the boxes from being stolen. Even with someone from Los Quinchos riding on the back with the boxes, there was a man who attempted to jump on the back of the truck to knock one of the boxes off. As we entered the landfill we saw the piles and piles of trash burning. A little ways down the dirt path we began to see shanty houses where families were living. We witnessed mothers with their babies picking through garbage to find food to eat. Soon we arrived at what seemed to be a village of shanty houses in this landfill. This, we were told, is where the Los Quinchos Center was.

We exited the van. The air was full of smoke and dust making it very difficult to breathe. It wasn’t long before the pick-up truck was surrounded by people young and old, men, women, and children. They were all covered in dirt with filthy tattered clothes and no shoes. Some of them were sniffing glue and barely conscious, others aggressively wanted to know what was in the boxes. We unloaded the boxes carrying them one by one into the Los Quinchos center while some of us stayed watching vigil over the boxes remaining in the truck. We quickly distributed the boxes taking very little time to say hello to the children. This drop was deliberately organized and efficient to ensure our own safety. La Chureca is an extremely dangerous place where violence is prevalent and we were visibly carrying boxes full clothes and other things that these people are in desperate need of or could use to barter for food.

From La Chureca, we drove to the Filter House which is the first center where they take the children that they rescue from La Chureca. This is where the children are detoxed. For most of them this is the first real home they’ve had with a roof over their head, a bed to sleep in, and food on a consistent basis. We were greeted excitedly with hugs and smiles by several young boys. They were full of joy and happiness wanting to give us the grand tour of their modest dwelling. Most of them had very recently been rescued from La Chureca and brought here. There was one young boy who had been rescued the day before we arrived. We distributed toys and clothing to the children. We stayed with the boys while they ate and played with them after lunch, getting to know them and their stories. We reluctantly said goodbye to the kids and left the Filter House, headed for the Granada Project.

The Granada Project is for teenage boys. Once the boys on the farm in San Marcos turn 13 they go to Granada. We drove for about one hour to arrive at the Granada Project. These boys live on a beautiful piece of property on the banks of Lake Nicaragua, one of the largest lakes in the world. As we arrived at the ranch we were welcomed by many young men who carried the boxes one by one into the project. We left the boxes full of clothes with the caretakers there at the project to distribute as they saw fit. We spent some time with the boys as they showed us the cabins where they sleep. We sat and talked with the boys and played some basketball with them before leaving. We left Granada and traveled back to San Marcos to sleep in the hostel.

Following an early breakfast on Thursday we made our 3rd and final trip to Sabana Grande to pick up the remaining donations. We drove for about 3 hours to reach the Posoltega Project. In 1998 Hurricane Mitch tore through this area creating massive mudslides as the Posoltega Crater Lake overflowed. Thousands of people died and many people were displaced from their homes. The resulting poverty and devastation in this rural area of Nicaragua caught the attention of Los Quinchos. Los Quinchos constructed and maintains a school in Posoltega. The school has over 100 students from kindergarten to fifth grade and supports approximately 60 families. Some children walk up to six miles to get this school because it is the only school that also offers food to the children.

When we arrived in Posoltega we were met by over a hundred excited kids. They were all laughing and playing. We met with the Coordinator of the school and decided to leave all the boxes of donations in the office so that she could distribute them later. The Coordinator gave us a brief history of the area and the school. Among the donations were many school supplies. The Coordinator decided to pass out the notebooks to the older children so that they would have notebooks for that day. We were there to witness the Coordinator giving them to children who were so excited to have a notebook to write in and to do their homework in.

We left Posoltega using the same dirt road that we came in on. We left knowing that we came to Nicaragua and accomplished what we set out to do. We made a difference for hundreds of impoverished children. And more lasting and important than the clothes, toys, and school supplies that we left with these kids is all love in our hearts that we gave freely and unconditionally to these beautiful children.