Michael's Managua, Nicaragua Blog
In Michael's words:
"For two years I will live in Nicaragua. My title: Jesuit Volunteer. Am I a Jesuit? No. But I am a volunteer. My work will be with youth in Managua, and my life is to be centered on community, social justice, faith, and simplicity. This blog is intended to keep those who are interested well informed of what I'm doing in Nicaragua, so enjoy!
Here's an example entry:
Friday, January 16, 2009
My thoughts on the phrase ‘social justice’
When I came to Nicaragua over 13 months ago I believed strongly in fighting and overcoming some of the structures that oppress and dehumanize people here. When I started teaching and tutoring I felt I was in the position of educator and motivator, one who would not only help students pass their classes but also help them swim against the currents of anger and violence that are so ferocious in the neighborhood of El Recreo. As a teacher and tutor I learned many lessons that reformed my notion of social justice in El Recreo, and working in the microlending banks with the women of El Recreo has further transformed that notion. I must admit that as a North American who never in 2 years of JVI will become completely fluent and culturally competent, there is a limit to the tangible effects that I can have in my work. As a foreigner, there are still things that I don’t get about how or why locals do things and what they are saying to me sometimes. That lack of understanding makes it harder for me to be the teacher that steers students toward nonviolence and success or the microlending bank worker that empowers women and lifts them out of poverty.
So if I’m not shaking things up in El Recreo’s social or economic structure, what am I doing? I still believe that social justice is a pivotal piece of what I do here in Nicaragua. But for me, in these 2 years here, social justice is quickly becoming an issue of my relationships with my coworkers and the individual residents of El Recreo. The scope of issues that concern me has steadily narrowed from international to national Nicaraguan issues down to Managua city issues to El Recreo neighborhood issues and finally all the way down to the issues of the bank woman that stays late to confide in me, the former student who I run into in the street, or the family of a coworker. If I do work for social justice (and I believe I do), it is now at the personal level more than anything. In my context right now, social justice is being someone who the bank women can trust in a neighborhood of untrustworthy men. It is being a consistent friend and encourager to former students, a friend and motivator to coworkers, and a humble student of Nicaraguan lifestyle. With this new, micro-level approach to social justice, I am using my talents. I am not an accountant, teacher, or social worker by trade, nor do I posess native spanish fluency. So I offer what I can to the women and children of El Recreo and to the workers of Proyecto Generando Vida; I listen to them, feel for them, encourage them, and accompany them as they carry out their vision of social justice for their own homes and community.