As soon as I stepped off the bus in El Modelo today, a group of children welcomed me and my group. The little girls grabbed my hands and rubbed up and down my arms. “Hola! Hola!” Grinning ear to ear, they examined my long fingernails and felt my nail polish. I couldn’t understand anything, but we all just smiled.
I knew we would be welcome as soon as our bus drove in. All the people stood out front of their homes and waved. Then everyone followed the bus to the school — a building built by the NGO Hope of Life.
Barbed wire separates each plot of land issued for free by the government. Most of these plots contain homes made of wood, trash bags, cardboard and anything else the people can find.
With 150 families living in poverty, it seemed like Jeremiah and I would have no problem finding an amazing journalistic story that Americans could never imagine. Our program theme this year, however, is malnutrition.
Strangely enough, the children were not visibly malnourished. Without having to pay rent, the families put all their money toward food, so they are eating. The problem is chronic malnutrition — food, but not enough over a long period of time — which causes stunting (a low height for age).
We had a lot to discuss at our group meeting tonight. We are going back to El Modelo tomorrow, and I think my story is about a community squabble over water. It costs 5 quetzales for a drum of water, but only 2 to ride the bus.
I’ve never seen anything as jarring as El Modelo — the model city.