One of the programs that Anker Christensen Charitable Fund (ACCF) supports in Nicaragua is the equine therapy program for children with disabilities. Each month ACCF sends funds to its program manager, Marta Zelaya, to enable the group of children with special needs from the local government school to picnic in a local park. All children are accompanied by family members and teachers. Martha arranges for horses from a local rancher and those children who wish are able to mount horses and ride at a walking pace around the park. These horses are led by local ranchers.
In addition, the site contains the old city swimming pool and a large empty well built house. The house and the pool are used for additional activities.
I visited this site on my recent trip to Nicaragua. Martha and I spent the day before shopping for groceries to provide a picnic for about 70 people. We bought 40 pounds of chicken, several pounds of vegetables, six loaves of bread, 100 paper plates and napkins, four cases of orange drink, 80 cupcakes, and 20 gallons of water. That night we cooked and deboned the chicken and made sandwiches, wrapped them in napkins, and packed supplies for the next day’s picnic.
The sun was shining brightly on the large house as I drove up. Children, who could, ran to greet me with hugs. Some limped. Some had twisted limbs, some were deaf, and greeted me with sign language. I met and hugged the blind kids on the porch of the house. The teachers smiled and arranged the chairs on the porch. They had planned a fiesta program and had recorded music and speakers. They had a special place for me. I didn’t know I was to be the honored guest.
A few minutes after I arrived, two ranchers drove up with horse trailers and unloaded their horses under a shade tree. The leader of the school, a middle aged woman, with a beautiful smile, made a welcoming speech. Some boys and girls quickly went into the house and in a few moments three girls appeared dressed in national costumes. The music began and they strutted and twirled with beauty and grace. After their act, a tall boy and a young girl performed a costumed duet dance. I didn’t realize they were deaf until I saw the teacher standing by the wall keeping time to the music and giving them sign language directions for their moves. The audience raised their hands, applauding in sign language.
After the dancing, the women served lunches to everyone. Some children needed help eating. I sat next to a ten year old girl who limbs and face were twisted so she needed help. She came to me to examine the elastic supports I had on my knees and tried to word questions about them. I didn’t understand but I told her they were for “fuerza para mis rodillas” (strength for my knees). She gave me crooked smile. Somehow, I had become one of them.
It was time to ride the horses. About thirty to forty kids gathered under the shade tree. Some were a little nervous as the rancher gently lifted them up on the horse and the slowly walked them around the site. All came back with big smiles. My friend, the crippled girl, took a tall teen aged blind boy by the hand and led him over to the horses. The rancher helped the blind boy mount and put the crippled girl up behind him. She hugged his waist. As they began to walk, I saw the most beautiful smiles on two kids. That experience paid for my whole trip.
Later, after all had ridden, the group of kids danced to music and played games. I took pictures and visited with one of the ranchers. He told me it was not always possible for him to bring the horses when needed because of his work. He offered to sell one horse for $300. Martha said she had a relative who would keep and feed it. In that way we could better control the program each month. We haven’t made that decision yet.
It costs about $200 per month to transport and feed the kids in this program. We need help funding this activity. If you want to contribute, send your donations to Anker Christensen Charitable Fund, 48 South Evanston Way Aurora, Colorado 80012. Or go to our website, ankerchristensen.org, and click on the donation button and PayPal will charge a donation to your credit card.
I’m attaching some pictures. I’m not a good photographer. I got more pictures of the horse than I did of the kids on the horse. Kids Dancing. The little boy sat through all the activities just staring straight ahead. Parents and classmates watched the activities. The little girl was a star! Girls danced in their native costumes. The blind boy on a horse.
I learned much from this class. All communicated in sign language so the deaf kids knew what was going on. I saw the care and concern of a little twisted girl leading a blind kid to a horse. I was reminded that the outward appearance doesn’t really matter, it’s what is in the heart that does. God bless the teachers of these kids.
Take care and God bless you all.
One of the activities the Anker Christensen Charitable Fund (ACCF) supports in Somoto, Nicaragua, is a Bible Study for the class of battered and abused women. When I was there in January of 2009, I discussed some of the needs of this class with Johanna Zelaya. She is the government appointed leader for these women. She has a degree in clinical psychology and is a devout Christian. She said to me,” One of the important things for these women to learn is that someone cares about them. By knowing that, we help them grow in self esteem and find a new meaning for their lives.”
When I returned to Denver, I talked this over with my friend, Professor emeritus, Dr. Don Smith. He is a retired staff member of the Moody Bible Institute, Chicago, Illinois, and also an author and retired pastor. Dr. Don has accumulated 91 years of wisdom. He decided to prepare a Bible study on the Gospel of John, for it reminds us many times of the love of God for His creatures.
He has been preparing detailed lessons on every chapter and I prepare a work book with questions leading to discussion of the application of these lessons in our daily lives. Once a month these lessons are being taught to the women by Johanna and others. The folks at Irving Bible Church, Irving Texas, graciously donated 100 New Testaments for members of this class.
In addition to this work, the Women’s Bible study group of Bethany Lutheran Church, Denver, lead by Darla Reeves, is planning to have joint studies with the Nicaraguan group sometime in 2011, studying “Healing the Heart” by James Dobson, both in Spanish and English versions.
The four men on the mission trip visited this class in July. I think we were the first men ever in this class. We were the “baseball guys.” We had to sign in and get permission to attend. It was a most miserable day. Rain came down in sheets. As water rose in the open courtyard adjacent to the classroom, the children attending the class, kept mopping the tile floor to keep it away from the room. While we listened to the stories told by these women, the thunder and water didn’t seem to matter.
One young woman nursed an infant only a few weeks old as she told of her beatings. Her other daughter, about two years old, stood by her side. She told of asking the police many times to protect her. Then she sobbed. Tears welled in the eyes of the baseball guys. Frank reached over and hugged the woman sitting next to him as she began to cry and tell her story. Steve sat very silent. Otis took pictures. I couldn’t see for the tears in my own eyes.
At the closing of the session, in my broken Spanish, I told of the love and care we had for this group. “We” is being defined as the guys there and the folks in our churches, (las mujeres de Betania) and our ACCF group. I closed with prayer.
I enclose a couple of pictures. I enticed the group to look at the camera and smile before class began.
Part of the class for battered women. The young woman in blue tells her story.
Please remember these women in your prayers. If you’d like to support this work, send your gifts to Anker Christensen Charitable Fund, 48 South Evanston Way, Aurora, Colorado, 80012, or go to our website, ankerchristensen.org and use the PayPal button to have a donation charged to your credit card.
God bless you
On Wednesday morning , July 4, we scheduled a baseball meeting at the school building with the coaches and physical education teachers. Before our meeting, we visited with the children in the preschool held in the next room. The scheduled posted on the wall stated that school day ran from 7:30 Am to 4:00 PM. The walls contained posters and pictures of activities pertaining to good health habits and common courtesy.
Two young women teachers are supplied by the national government. Food is prepared in a make-shift kitchen. The children babbled happily to see visitors and greet us. I was surprise to see how small some of these were. Most barely were as tall as the top of my knees. This school is an important part of the local community for it is a safe place for children to be while mothers are working. The local not- for- profit corporation, Ninos y Ninas del Futuro, oversees the operation of this school.
There are plans to add an additional building to the site to accommodate classes for older children, who have been displaced by the growth of classes for these little ones.