In the Hogar de Niñas in Granada, Nicaragua, 54 girls are growing up in a safe and caring environment.
This is a home for girls who have been mistreated, abused, raped, or their carers struggle to provide for them as they themselves may have been affected by a life of drug addiction or prostitution. It is run by an order of nuns called Madre Albertina. The girls are brought to the home by the social services or by the nuns themselves. Some girls attend the home on a daily basis and some return to family members at the weekend. The home teaches not only the girls how to strive for a better future but holds workshops with the parents to help them with better childcare. Their home life is mainly chores/poor food & unfair treatment. It is lacking in stimuli. No wonder when asked the girls say they ALL prefer the home to their own homes!
Madre Albertina was the niece of the 1st constitutional president in Nicaragua and the order has been running for nearly 20 years. She was an inspiration in her approach and unfaltering desire to help the poor. The order has set up projects all over Nicaragua, El Salvador and Costa Rica.
Rachel Collingwood is a Director of a photographic studio in London and Madrid. She first learned of the home for girls in 2003 whilst reading a travel guide. She spent two years trying to locate them as they were not on the map and finally made contact and visited them in 2005.
Then followed yearly trips of volunteering and helping the nuns; which led to officially setting up the charity in 2010. Rachel is now the Director, Trustee and close friend to the home, visiting annually.
The other trustees are Andrew Sutton, Ian Benson and Trevor Lake.
WHAT WE DO
The girls enter the home from any age from 4 – 14 and can stay up until 18 then their schooling is completed. There are grants available to attend university after leaving school and accommodation can still be offered in the home for these students.
The girls follow a definite structure to the day, cleaning and washing clothes early in the morning and then off to school. The schooling is outside the home, which means the girls do not become institutionalised. The nuns teach them how to fend for themselves with basic life skills ranging from sewing to washing their clothes to cooking. The nuns treat them firmly but kindly and the girls enjoy the security the Home offers.
There are many opportunities for the girls to explore their interests, including music lessons, dancing, computer tuition, & yoga amongst many other activities provided by the employees or my volunteers.
The psychologist works alongside each girl individually, to assess their situation and help with any trauma issues, using a series of age-relevant therapies ranging from massage to nursery rhymes.
A social worker is present to record and mediate between the girls and their families.
We have 3 full time teachers who live in during the week, one for the teenagers and two for the younger girls. Their bedrooms are adjoined to the girl’s dorms.
There is little government funding for the Hogar and it survives with donations from USA, Germany and UK. The home has now grown and offers more facilities for the girls, so more funding is required.
The nuns are not just religious figures; they are teachers, diplomats, mother figures and housekeepers. The purpose of this home is to protect and educate these girls in order for them to have a chance of a better life in the years ahead of them.