La Carpio is the location of the Humanitarian Foundation of Costa Rica, started by a woman from New Jersey named Gail. She first came here in the Peace Corps, went back to the US for about a year, and then returned here for good. Her life’s work is to eradicate poverty. From what I saw of La Carpio, the are we visited, she has a huge job just there in that community.
La Carpio is a Nicaraguan refuge community, a shantytown. The pictures are mostly from the bus, but you’ll get the idea. People who live here do not have many material things, but they have huge hearts and the capacity to find happiness with that they have. La Carpio has one way in and one way out. A road runs down the middle of the community. There is a river on each side as you enter. The poorer houses are located nearer the river.
Gail not only works in this community daily, but also with the Cabecares, who we met last week. They came to her about 15 years ago and said she was the chosen one who was to help them modernize their living while still holding on to their traditions and customs. Thanks to Gail, they have access to medical care, yet it still honors their time held beliefs and traditions. She doesn’t force anything on them; everything they do is because they have asked for help in that area. When the clinic was built, she asked them if they wanted the traditional type of structure that they have or a modern one made from concrete. They chose the latter because they recognized the need to have a sanitary, dry place for medicines to be stored and for them to be treated. I wish we could have visited where they actually live vs. their meeting place. Maybe next time?
As for La Carpio, we just stayed in the facility and helped out. Some people held babies, others played with toddlers. I painted a child sized chair yellow, blue, and purple in about 25 minutes with paint that was as thin as water and brushes that have seen better days. I don’t think the kids in the school will care about that.
I wished I had the words to convey what I felt when seeing the conditions, when learning about the people in La Carpio. I have often heard that what we consider poverty in the US would not be poverty in many other places. I have seen this first hand. I don’t mean to diminish poverty in the US, as I know that is real and there and far too many kids go hungry there. However, this was an entirely different level of poverty.
Gail also shared with us her explanation, based on her observations over 30+ years living in this country. I’ll include a picture and explanation below, as best I can.
Where we visited
A boy in the nursery. Most of the children here have mothers who work there or are involved in some capacity
The chair I painted. The professional painters in my family would probably be appalled. :)
A quilt made by some of the women who work here. Each has a square that tells her story. A teenager has one that shows her choices between bad-alcohol, drugs, no school, and good--church, school, work. Another has a story about how she was sexually abused by her father. Of the 27 women who work with Gail in the foundation, 27 of them were sexually abused as children.
The children's area
Homes of La Carpio from the bus
Most start with some tin and add on as they can
What you see as you drive into La Carpio (this was as we were leaving, looking back)
Gail's explanation of the extreme poverty of many Nicaraguans. Basically, the circle represents a system where everyone is equal, contributes equally, etc. The pyramid describes systems of the middle ages starting with the king, the arm, the church, and the serfs/peasants. That was similar to how Nicaragua was. The economy was built around coffee. The landowners controlled the shelter, money, food, education, etc. Education and heath care was limited so that only the basics were provided--enough to have able, if not completely healthy, workers. They didn't provide any health education--they preferred young girls to have children, many times by men much older, as this ensured the continuity of the working class. Fear was used as a motivator to keep the workers working. So, the massive earthquake of 1972 near the capital of Nicaragua changed things. Over 10,000 died. Conditions became worse. Five years later, there was a revolution and economic collapse. Many people escaped to Costa Rica--expressed by the rectangle. Farmers had blocks of land, became business owners, hired many of the refugees, and built a solid middle class.
I found all of this very interesting and someday when I have free time (ha), maybe I will try to learn more on my own.