ARGENTINA, Maria Fischer •
Waiting for us at the door of the Casa del Niño “Maria de Nazareth”, this rainy day at the end of November: Tita Rodriguez, Karin Gyukits from the Management Committee, Diana Zdrojewski, Social Worker and since recently Director of the Casa, each of them eager to show us how the Casa works today and the improvements that could be made since my first and last visit in 2015. We go to the kitchen, say hello to the cooks, go to the Montessori Room, and suddenly we are in front of living success stories. One of the cooks and Nazareth Rodriguez’s co-worker in the Montessori Room is an “Ex-Casa del Niño.” —
The “Casa del Niño María de Nazaret” in Villa Ballester, in the metropolitan area of Buenos Aires, is a day home that receives daily about 90 children from 2 to 14 years old, giving them a place to discover their full potential with dignity.
The children come from families living in the 9 de Julio Shantytown, adjacent to the home. Literally: from the windows you can see these typical slum houses and if you were to open the back door of the chapel where catechesis is held week after week, you would immediately enter the neighborhood, where the living conditions of the children are poverty and marginalization, immersed in various addictions and family and neighborhood violence. A house on the periphery, open to the children and their families to strengthen their desire to move forward. Like the cook, who for years received school support, food, medical attention, and most of all, affection in this Casa del Niño. Like the young woman who has already graduated as a teacher and who, if the donations allow it, will soon take her Montessori course, hand in hand with the people of the Casa del Niño who have committed themselves to children like her…
Pandemic, loneliness, danger
The time of the pandemic was difficult – it was only a couple of weeks ago that they were able to fully re-open the house and welcome back all the children. They kept in touch – with bags of food for the families, phone calls, help during the long period of school closures. After almost two years, they again provide breakfast, lunch and a pedagogical and playful space in charge of an interdisciplinary team of teachers, a social worker, an educational psychologist and a psychologist who work individually with each child and his or her family.
We walked, in the pouring rain, from the kitchen to the Montessori Room, a paradise. More than 10 years ago, encouraged by a German volunteer expert in Montessori pedagogy, they implemented the Montessori method in the Casa del Niño. The room – established and equipped with the support of the Argentine Maria Montessori Foundation, is clean, bright and has these corners with many materials that motivate and encourage the children to search, discover and learn while playing. With pride, they show what they have painted and assembled. Faces full of happiness, with smiles that conquer.
These children deserve a place like this. They deserve people like those who work here. They deserve a dignified life, a protected childhood, a future…
It is Mary’s home
“Truly Mary is the one who knows how to transform a cave of animals into the house of Jesus with a few rags and a mountain of tenderness. And she is also capable of making a child leap in his mother’s womb, as we hear in the Gospel. She is able to give us the joy of Jesus. Mary is fundamentally Mother. Well, yes, it seems that Mother is a modest concept, isn’t it? Mary is Queen, she is our Lady. No, let’s stop for a moment: Mary is Mother. Why? Because she brought Jesus to you.” Words of the Holy Father Francis at the special audience for Schoenstatt in 2014. Here at the Casa del Niño, with its renovated Wayside Shrine that was blessed again on December 18, Mary is. Not only in the Wayside Shrine, not only in the pictures on the walls. She is in the teachers, cooks, volunteers, collaborators…
We continue our tour of the rooms where school children do their homework, play and laugh. A shocking moment: in one of the rooms I meet Javier’s wife, the missionary cab driver! She is a teacher, already retired and has found here a new life mission.
Diana shows us everything that is there, without hiding the needs…
The carpentry and computer room
She not only shows us where a new painting job is needed, more light, and all the things that always need to be fixed. She talks about the difference between the bathrooms already fixed and those that are still waiting, or the door of the small office of the director that does not close.
But what worries her the most, you can feel it, are the two rooms that are out of use. With some sadness she shows us, on the second floor, behind the large sports hall, the out-of-use carpentry shop. The carpenter who used to take care of it could not continue and in the meantime he died. There are tools, machines – “But this can’t be done with volunteers, you need a certificate, for safety.” Here, in previous times, benches and chairs of the house were made and repaired, also the Pilgrim MTA’s of the Campaign were restored. It was also a place where the parents of the families found a way to contribute to the house that gives so much to their children. Are there any carpenters who want to offer their services?
There is also a room with computers. It would be so important to help the children with computers, but we need to fix the computers and find a person who can offer classes…
Some are looking for a nicer place. Others create it
Some are looking for a nicer place. Others create it. This is what a chalkboard in the entrance area says. Here they create it.
While we did our tour of the house and talked with Tita, Karin and Diana about how to follow up with real stories from the Casa del Niño, how to help with fundraising from schoenstatt.org, the children have already eaten their lunch and are ready to go home – like every Thursday, with food prepared for their families.
A bag, and a half orange….
And smiles that I will never forget.
Original: Spanish 2021-12-06. Translated by: Maria Aragón, Monterrey, México