Update from the Field: Board Member Gretchen Lands in Tipitapa

Children receive school supplies at Rosa's Biblioteca
Children receive school supplies at Rosa's Biblioteca

In April, after visiting Tipitapa twice as a board member of Dos Pueblos, I made the somewhat spontaneous decision to live here for six months.

Both of my previous trips had given me a fascinating insight into how our local volunteers run our projects on the ground, and as a former student of international development I really wanted to take a closer look and support the communities in making them happen. Having new friends here made the idea of gaining further field experience more appealing, while the low cost of living and some frequent flyer miles made an extended stint as a volunteer possible. All that was left was to get down here and get to work.

After arriving on June 14, my first order of business was to deliver some of the school supplies donated by families at Brooklyn’s Poly Prep Country Day School. Luke Asente, a 13-year-old student who had traveled with Dos Pueblos to Tipitapa, had collected a whopping 300 pounds of donations from fellow students.

I brought down the first installment of supplies, to be shared between the libraries in Oronte Centeno and Ciudadela. While some materials such as air-drying clay were tucked away to be used for group projects, other smaller pieces were handed out as part of a raffle for the children who came to the libraries to borrow books.

Being able to attend the raffle in my Tipitapa neighborhood was a great experience, as it gave me a chance not only to see the fruits of Luke’s labor, but also to meet some of my younger neighbors. There was Moises, a 4-year-old boy who loves to sing, Marcia, a little girl who wants to be both a pastor and a ballet dancer, and several children who wanted to hear all about flying in an airplane. I’m hoping that in the coming months, just like my little neighbors, I’ll be able to visit my local library on Fridays to borrow books (there are plenty for adults) and chat for a while.

My next priority is helping Rosa, our local coordinator and community leader, to prepare for the arrival of Dr. Andrew Suseno, a physical therapist who recently contacted Dos Pueblos to volunteer his skills and time. Andrew will be providing a series of workshops in Tipitapa to train and assist caregivers of children with various mobility disabilities, sharing basic skills in rehabilitation and cardboard construction techniques to address the children’s adaptive equipment needs. Everyone will have the chance to participate, and we are excited to be working with Andrew on such a sustainable model, one which can be shared among the communities and which uses equipment which is locally available. Stay tuned for updates and photos from the workshops!