Heartfelt Christmas with family

Fourteen-year-old Ruth is looking forward to spending Christmas with her family. Ruth began studying at our NPH school in 2017. She was referred to our community school by the Ministry for Family because her family struggle to make ends meet. Ruth lives with her mum and dad and two siblings. The family have an unstable income, selling milk and eggs at a local market.

NPH Nicaragua has been supporting Ruth and her siblings with full scholarships, including classes, transport, snacks, lunch, stationery, uniforms and medical check-ups. Students like Ruth come from at-risk situations. Without NPH’s support they may be forced to leave school to find work to support their families.

Ruth enjoys going to school at NPH because her teachers motivate her to do her best. While Ruth is not the top student in her class, she completes all tasks to the best of her ability. As well as her academic classes, Ruth enjoys the extra-curricular activities that NPH offers such as as folkloric dancing and marching band.

Fortunately the school year in Nicaragua has had minimal disruptions due to the pandemic. Mask wearing and practising good hygiene is helping prevent the spread of the virus. Like many countries in Central America, Nicaragua is relying on the World Health Organisation’s COVAX scheme to vaccinate its population. The scheme has been slow to deliver, highlighting the vaccine inequities between rich and poor nations.

In spite of the pandemic, our school in Nicaragua has been able to continue with many celebrations such as birthdays and advent traditions. Each year the students and teachers decorate the classrooms and participate in Secret Santa. There are also religious activities leading up to Christmas such as lighting the candles on the advent wreath. On the last day of school year, Ruth will say goodbye to her friends and teachers, wishing everyone a safe and happy Christmas.

In Nicaragua NPH runs ‘The Good Samaritan Project’ which supports children in the community with special needs. Before the holidays, the therapy team puts together a big Christmas party for the families and children. For these families it’s a special moment that they look forward to each year.

For Ruth the Christmas holidays represent a time of rest and relaxation, preparing one’s heart for the birth of Jesus Christ. On Christmas Eve Ruth’s family will gather for Christmas dinner. It’s a long held tradition in her family that that they come to the table in silence, hold hands in prayer. They ask God to help those in need and each family member takes a moment to say what they are grateful for.

Ruth’s mother likes to use this time to ask her children what their goals are for the coming year. The prayer finishes with everyone hugging each other. For Ruth, it’s these heartfelt moments that mean more to her than material gifts. Gift giving is not usually a big affair. The presents they receive are usually practical gifts such as clothes, shoes or books.

In Nicaragua, most families have two dinners on Christmas Eve. The first meal is a normal dinner. The second meal, for those who can afford it, is a special Christmas treat – Nacatamal. This is corn dough filled with meat and vegetables. Nacatamales are wrapped in plantain leaves and boiled for many hours. Everyone pitches in to make this meal and there are never any leftovers on their plates.