Some time ago the Maryknoll Institute (where I study Spanish) decided that it should facilitate more student interaction with the people here in Cochabamba. So today, instead of class, we went on field trips in small groups. I was in a group with Roy and three professors, Oscar, Karla, and Teresita. We took a bus downtown to visit Hogar Nuestra Casa. It is a new foster home for girls who have been raped or sexually abused by their families. Right now there are nine girls who live there. Their ages range from about four to fourteen.
I was impressed by their house when we arrived. In contrast with Salomón Klein, it was neat and clear orderly. The girls had small shared rooms with well-made beds, each topped with a stuffed animal. The girls were helping with house chores and playing in the courtyard. After making introductions, some of the girls performed some charming dance routines. Then they invited us (read: demanded) to join them. One girl asked us, “How do you dance in your country?” Unsure what to say, Roy and I demonstrated such classics as the Saturday Night Fever disco point, the Shopping Cart, the Truck Driver, and The Fish. They were unimpressed. They were similarly unimpressed with swing dancing.
We also played some party games, including the worst possible game for Roy and me: Telephone. In this game people sit in a circle, whispering in each others’ ears and trying not to change a phrased passed around the circle. Needless to say, I knew where the weak link in the telephone chain was each round. Afterwards we ate lunch with the girls. Before we left, we gave them each a box of colored pencils as a thank you gift for having us visit.
The reason the girls are living in Hogar Nuestra Casa is heartrending, but it seems like a good place for them. The name, Nuestra Casa (“Our House”), is also their philosophy: the hogar is a new home for the girls, and the residents like a family. The help with cooking, play with each other, and learn in class together. Edwardo lives with them all the time and is the father figure for the girls. And from what we saw in one morning, it looks like the mission is succeeding.