This is a report to say goodbye to all our supporters of Girls and Moms breaking cycles of Violence Together in Matagalpa. With the COVID problem and the economic situation, the social staff working with affirmation groups had to close the affirmation groups with girls with handicap and their moms. We are all sad but we believe that we did our best to provide affirmation for many mothers and girls. We created safe spaces for girls and moms to explore their relationships discovering their natural support for one another.
We want to thank all our donors for believing in us and really helping us to reach many different goals. The women created new relationships with each other and learned about their girl's handicaps and how to support them better in a society that sees and keeps the girl with a handicap on the bottom of the totem pole.
Most of all we continued to affirm and help the girls and mothers to affirm one another in ways that they had never imagined. We shared with them many different areas of health. relationship building, communication, and inclusion. We have to leave this work now but we want to thank you for helping us develop it. We want to thank you for believing in us and giving us much support and encouragement as these girls and mothers identified cycles of violence and how they were affecting their lives. Thus discovering different ways to identify and break cycles of violence in their families
Thank you again for your support
The relationship of mom and daughter can become one of the most important relationships you can develop. In Magical Shoes affirmation groups, that is the goal. Young girls and adolescents who have different disabilities have to rely on their mothers more than anyone else. The mothers need to receive support to develop this relationship, which has many twists and turns. The connections can be based on complete overprotection or on working for her daughter to find more independence and strength herself. Zenada is the mother of Martita, a young woman who has a severe mental disability and cannot talk, developing other ways to communicate with her mom.
One afternoon Zenada came to talk to me, saying she needed advice. Zenada is now a mother leader and has listened to mothers talk about overprotection. Finally, she said, “Sister, I need a job. I need some space away from my daughter, or I will drive her and myself crazy. “She started working in the evenings from 6 pm to 9 pm in our cafeteria. Later she changed to a part-time day job, sewing.
She is a great seamstress. The job gave her space and time to develop her skills. She became a Madrina or Godmother to other young people with a handicap, teaching them to sew and, in general, just looking out for them in the work environment. Zenada continues with the part-time work and has become an active member of Magical Shoes affirmation groups. For Zenada, it has expanded her influence and awareness of learning the stories of the other mothers in the group. It has also helped her in relating more to other young people with a disability. Each time when things get stressful, she tells me she has found strength in these relationships. “I was losing it by staying at home worrying about Marta’s future; now I can enjoy her for who she is, a beautiful young woman. The daughters of the mothers in Magical Shoes have different disabilities, but the one thing in common is that their mothers are vital in their lives. The idea of Magical Shoes is to walk in each other’s shoes, not just the mother-daughter but also in those other mothers’ shoes or those other daughters’ shoes or that other disability or situation. The mothers experienced tremendous growth by applying their newfound relationship skills and have grown in their self-awareness. It takes a lot of courage to recognize their own daughters’ handicaps and their need to overprotect them. The mothers in Magical Shoes shared that they did not realize that there were alternatives to overprotection; until they had the opportunities to listen to how other mothers accept their daughters’ disability. Zenada says she is now seeing her relationship with her daughter as best friends. It all has to do with receiving community support and the openness to listen to their daughters and one another.
Part of Magical Shoes is to help the mothers and daughters face problems together. The program has worked on trust, support, and understanding each other's ways to face situations. Unfortunately, Familias Especiales is experiencing a dangerous new wave of COVID, which has affected the Magic Shoes Program. As a result, the mothers and their daughters are staying at home. But how are they coping?
Promoters are keeping contact with them by cell phone and special programs, but not all have phones. The Promoters, masked and protected, took food packages directly into the neighborhoods to check on the families in the different programs, including Magical Shoes. They discovered several houses with COVID. They have reported the cases to the health department who sometimes sends nurses into homes to help. Most do not go to the hospital for emergency care because the hospitals are full. There is no formal testing for COVID through the hospital.
Staying at home is not easy as their houses are tiny, sometimes only one-room zinc houses, where everyone shares the same latrine outside. The rainy season has started in Matagalpa, but this is not always a welcome sign for people. Their houses get flooded with whatever rainfalls, and this does not help as people deal with COVID. Staying at home becomes more difficult for their children as they want to go out, but the rains and the COVID restrictions stop them. So far in Nicaragua, only people older than 60 years have received the vaccination, plus health workers, police, and military. There were enough vaccinations for the second shot. Still, the median age in Nicaragua is 26.5, and the population over 60 is only 4% of the people. Only a tenth of the elderly population got their shots so far. Because there is no sound record keeping, it is hard to gauge how people are being affected.
One looks for some hidden funeral expresses in the evening and other signs that there are COVID problems. However, in the neighborhoods where the mothers live, there is no outward sign that people have COVID. Still, if you visit, they will say someone in this house has COVID, and it is better that you don't come inside. In these houses, if one person has COVID soon, everyone else has it too. We are keeping tabs on everyone the best that we can to help them out in some way notifying the health department with hopes that they will come to visit. We will continue sending food baskets monthly. There are many factors that Special Families have to think through for reopening direct service to the children and young people with disabilities. They will do that also from the information that promoters, who are well protected, will share. We are hopeful that things will get better. There is no communication about what people are receiving to change the situation with so few vaccinations. Mothers are with their daughters in their homes and find ways to keep active and share with us if they have a phone. The best we can do is to let them know that they are not alone.
"Overprotection. What does that really mean? And how do you know you are overprotecting your daughter?" asks one of the mothers in the affirmation group, Magic Shoes. When she asks the question, the other mothers in the group stop for a few minutes and then start talking all at once. Overprotection is the core issue for most mothers with girls with disabilities. It is a question the group of mothers who have daughters with disabilities is grappling with together. One mother asks, " How does my past affect my daughter? I was abused when I was a little girl, and I don't want my daughter to be abused. So I overprotect." It is a difficult cycle. The mothers share, and they all agree that overprotection is very hard to understand and identify. The mothers decide to talk more about overprotection but not directly with each other, but with some dolls. One way for them to do this is to go back to the beginning when their daughters were born. How did they feel with their newborn daughter? Sometimes, it helps the mothers to talk to the dolls instead of each other. Each one goes to a different spot to begin their conversation with the dolls. This conversation helps them to understand why they feel that they need to overprotect their daughters.
In some cases, they feel guilty for their girl's disability or only see their daughter's vulnerability with no strengths or abilities. These conversations with the dolls help them face various aspects of their lives more objectively because the dolls are non-judgmental. Sometimes, the mothers are judgmental of themselves. So they practice what it is like to be non-judgmental with the dolls.
"We learn so much when we suspend judgment and really explore our daughters' actions by sharing with the dolls." Many of these women did not have dolls to play with when they were young, so now it is helpful for them to use the doll as a little friend helping clarify their feelings and understandings.
Each mother gains more insight when she is not judged, and this is the point of the affirmation groups. Most of the mothers share with their daughters using dolls. They also enjoy playing with dolls with their daughters. Reflecting in the affirmation groups, they learn to identify when they judge themselves and others and perhaps begin to trust their daughters more and let go of a bit of overprotection.
Shut-down, shut-out, shut-up, follow these directions if you want to lower your self-esteem. The mothers and daughters in Magical Shoes Affirmation Group are exploring what affects their self-esteem. What conscious or unconscious demands limit their lives? What brings life to their self-esteem? The mothers and daughters are wise, but that wisdom is shut-down, shut-out, and shut-up by their lived experience. What if instead, they heard: relax-down, build-up, speak-out? The team created various activities to first guide them with relaxing activities. After the first relaxing activity, the mothers reacted, saying that relaxation is not part of our lives. They have always lived vigilant of their daughters' disabilities, so they could not afford to relax. If a mother never learned how to relax, she would not have permitted her daughter to relax either. What happens when mothers and daughters relax together? It takes time to understand and to relax. Sometimes, it is tough, but they are learning techniques relaxing little by little. According to team members, doing these exercises together reinforces the positive benefits of relaxation.
At the end of the activity, they are asked how these ideas and activities can be integrated into their everyday lives. The mothers need to identify any feelings such as guilt over relaxation or sources of stress. Stress is the number one enemy of peace and self-esteem. They talk about ways to incorporate these ideas at home and report on them in the next session. The women are grateful for a program that does not put extra burdens on them, create guilt, or keep them silent. They don't have to shut-down, shut-out, and shut-up. These mothers and daughters have started a long journey to improve their self-esteem together. The problems that the mothers face in their lives are many times passed on to their daughters.
They end the session by sharing gratitude, creating an encouraging and constructive path home. The affirmations groups are grateful to you for all your support. It means a lot to the mothers to know that others are willing to support a program that helps them reflect with their daughters and build their relationships. Their daughters' well-being is vital as they recognize that a girl with a disability has to face many social problems. Still, their daughters are number one in their eyes, and they know that they can assist them in integrating more successfully if they understand and believe in them.
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