I sat next to a man on the plane ride from Atlanta to Managua. He was an Italian school teacher from New York, and what he said will stay with me forever. He told me he was going to Nicaragua because his friends who had been there told him what a beautiful country it was. He wanted to hike the volcanoes around Leon, and plus, the prostitution is really good there. Yeah, that’s right, good prostitution.
I wonder if the guy knew or even cared that prostitution in Nicaragua is legal at age 14. I wonder if he knew that the government is pulling beautiful teenage girls out of child protection centers and putting them on the streets often times forcing them into prostitution just so they can survive.
We went to visit a child protection center called the Sacred Heart of Mary. It is run by a nun named Sister Paula. I met Mother Theresa that day. This incredible woman has dedicated her life to the girls and single mothers of this beautiful yet ravaged country. The government is taking her children away from her. And there’s nothing she can do. She told us how she saw two of her young girls on the streets of Leon in horrible situations with two people she did not know.
My heart is truly broken for these children and girls here, and as I’ve talked to the people here I’ve come to realize just how tragic the situation is. There is such a lack of respect for women and children in this country. According to the State Department website 80% of reported rapes are of young girls under the age of 17. Yet prostitution is legal if you are 14. Violence against women has increased in this country dramatically as well.
El Ayudante fights so hard for the women and girls of Nicaragua. The people here refuse to let the government win. Of the children who the ministry of family is forcing out of the center and into their homes, El Ayudante is building them homes. They are helping those families establish businesses. They are providing them with food. El Ayudante refuses to let one of their girls end up on the streets as a prositute. The work they are doing for this country amazes me, and I am leaving this week encouraged knowing there are at least some people in Nicaragua who care and are making a difference. I know the work they do here may seem small and perhaps insignificant, but those small things add up. And I’ve been lucky enough to witnessed that first hand. El Ayudante and other protection centers like Sacred Heart give the children of this country hope, and that gives me hope too.
PS: My friend Kara Salyers took these photos.