Friday, January 23, 2009

Asilo de Ancianos

This past week, I went on a field trip with my 6th graders to an asilo de ancianos- or a nursing home. This is not our typical idea of a nursing home- elderly people wearing a cable knit sweater, sitting in their wheelchairs in the living room knitting or playing checkers, looking at pictures of their grandkids. These people, for the majority, have been dropped off their children or relatives because they could no longer take care of them or afford to feed them. Many of the elderly were barefoot, with deformed feet after years of abuse, and senile. Some of them had wheelchairs that had been donated from the states, others had walkers or canes. Their common areas were outside, with a thatched roof over their heads, and dirt for a floor. Each adult had a twin sized bed and a three drawer nightstand as their only personal space. And these beds and nightstands were in a room with 30 plus other beds and nightstands.

The students were instructed to bring with them a bag of non-perishable food items to give to the elderly people. They were very happy to have it. This center is not a state funded facility, those don't really exist in Honduras, so it mainly runs on donations from the wealthy people in the community or from charities in the U.S. In December, the center has plenty of food, however January and February are lean months there. Some were eating their Pringles and Jello snackpack immediately upon receiving, while others were storing them away. There was one man who had dropped his cookie on the ground and was picking the crumbs off of the floor to eat them. I did hear stories of some of the elderly people stealing food from others that couldn't walk or protect their food supply.

A lot of parents came with us, and they brought with them a chicken rice dinner with dinner rolls for the residents. The children served a plate of food to each resident and then sat down and ate with them. Many of my students were telling me that they couldn't really understand what some of the residents were telling them, because they had problems with their gums, jaws, or teeth. There was a Red Cross station there, but no medical supplies that I could see of, except a makeshift catheter- a gallon jug carried around by the person with the tube coming out of the bottom of their shorts into the jug.

I'm extremely glad that my students were able to have this opportunity and that I was able to come with them. It was the most depressing thing that I think I have seen so far in Honduras. My students behaved very admirably; sitting and chatting with the residents, buying some of the goods that they had made in their spare time. I live in a developping country, but I don't see the true extent of what that means very often. This two hour field trip re-opened my eyes to the circumstances in which many people here have to endure, and I feel incredibly greatful to have the type of life that I am living.


Maggie said...

Wow. Thank you very much for sharing, Jenna. I couldn't imagine actually seeing people in this condition. We should all be grateful for the lives we get to live. It puts things into perspective. Had your students been to a nursing home like this before? I'm curious to know.

Jenna said...

No, they actually haven't. Every year the sixth grade class does this, so they had heard about it from the older students, but they haven't had an experience like this before. It was definitely an eye-opening experience.