We had just returned to El Coco Loco after a great morning of surf. Lunch was going to be served in awhile but because I am an impatient and bottomless pit of hunger, I brought my chocolate covered almonds with me to snack on (or gorge, rather).
When I sat down and began my feast, I found my eyes met by those of a very curious little boy sitting across the table.
His name was Christian. He was one of the local villagers who lived not far from El Coco Loco.
I was surprised and intrigued by him. Underweight and bearing the brunt of many scars, he had an air of optimism and happiness. He seemed at ease around Holly and the El Coco Loco staff but he eyed me with skepticism. I felt like an animal at a zoo and as he determined whether I was friend or foe. I decided not to make any sudden movements and smiled at him. I said hello and he looked pensive. I wasn’t helping the situation so I decided to act natural (which ended up being unbelievably unnatural) and went back to eating my chocolate covered almonds.
Lindsay sat down next to him, handing him a plate of food. She seemed perplexed, but calmly explained to me that Christian participates in the non-profit Waves of Hope program run out of El Coco Loco.
I nodded, remembering back to what Holly had told us about Jamie and Lindsay’s passion project. Waves of Hope provides volunteers to help teach English and other subjects in the local school, provides school supplies, facilitates after school activities, and creates reward systems for class attendance (i.e. if the children go to school for an entire week, they get to go surfing on the weekend). Attendance in particular is a big issue in Nicaragua, as most children worked in the fields and would discontinue their education after second grade. They would choose not go to school if it even looked like rain; education just wasn’t high on the priority list out here.
El Coco Loco and their Waves of Hope program works tirelessly to provide motivation for children to obtain their education, as well as provide vocational training to adults. Waves of Hope also works with local families to help teach them about sustainable gardening (so that they have a more varied and nutritional diet). They also have a sea turtle preservation project to help save turtle eggs from poachers. They pay the poachers for the eggs so that they don’t take away those villagers’ jobs, but then incubate, hatch, and release those turtles back into the ocean.
Most of Holly’s retreats include volunteer work with Waves of Hope. However, we had been told that the volunteers who worked with the kids had this particular week off (it was their ‘spring break’) so we weren’t really going to get a chance to interact with the children. And yet, here I sat across from Christian, watching him gulp down his rice plate barely stopping to drink or even breathe. Not that I minded his presence, but I was curious so I asked Lindsay why he was here.
She sighed. That morning Jamie had found Christian out in the trees eating grass. He apparently had not had a meal in two days so Jamie had brought him back to the restaurant to feed him. While she talked Christian rapidly spooned rice into his mouth, fearful the food was going to be taken away at any moment. Lindsay would interject from time to time telling him to slow down. “Mas espacio.”
I watched the boy from across the table as Lindsay explained to me his home situation and about how most of the local families could not afford to feed their children. My heart ached for him and his siblings, and I wondered what he would think of my world with fast food restaurants and constant concerns over childhood obesity.
I didn’t have long to mull over the differences of our worlds because Christian was fixated on my almonds. He kept looking eagerly at Lindsay, asking her if he could have some. She told him that he had to finish his meal first and then ask me permission. He reluctantly agreed and approached me after he handed Lindsay his plate. His voice was soft and nervous but I answered, “Claro que si,” and handed him his coveted prize. I managed to whip out my camera fast enough to catch his reaction.
And while I may not have made the impact that Lindsay and Jamie had on this boy’s life, it felt good to be able to make him smile. It certainly didn’t repay him for the gift of gratitude he gave me, but something told me this wouldn’t be the last time I would be part of the Waves of Hope community.
Please visit Waves of Hope’s facebook page for more information on their current initiatives and to donate to their cause.