|Francisco Javier Flores Ponce, 4, daydreams near a barbed wire fence in front of his home in Dolores, Nicaragua. [ 1 of 8 ]|
Photos and story by Erica Brough
Inside his family’s shanty home, Francisco Flores dances hand-in-hand with Cheetah, the family dog. The youngest of the four Flores children, from the impoverished town of Dolores, Nicaragua, the 4-year-old boy ignores the argument between his 12-year-old sister, Jamileth, and their mother, Amy. His sister yells at her mother for taking and spending one of her meager collection of two cordobas, about six cents. The mother offers to reimburse her daughter when she can, but, in anger, the girl refuses the offer.
The argument seems to have no effect on young Francisco, who begins to wrestle playfully with two older brothers, Lino, 10, and Jose David, 8, as his sister huffs away from the small shed-like home with earthen floors, single stark bulbs and sparse furnishings.
The Flores family’s impoverished conditions are typical in Nicaragua, the hemisphere’s second poorest country. Decades of conflict have damaged Nicaragua’s economy and living standards.
Lino, the father of the household, has not had steady work in more than a year. At times, he is able to find work two or three days a week doing construction or yard maintenance for 100 cordobas a day, about $6.
To supplement her husband’s income, Amy Flores spends most days patting and rolling corn tortillas to be baked over open flames on a “comal,” or a tortilla pan. She earns little over $1 a day.
The family of six usually eats corn tortillas and drinks water from a garden hose. On a good week they eat tomatoes and rice with chicken bones, along with milk for the children.
All six sleep in the same bedroom, sharing three single beds.
Each of the children has attended school, but only Jamileth continues to go. The three boys had to drop out temporarily, so that the family could pay for their sister’s sixth-grade graduation fees. For now, the parents cannot afford uniforms, supplies or exam fees.
Francisco is too young to comprehend the seriousness of the likelihood he may not be able to receive an education. He says he is glad to have the days to play in the streets with his friends. However, the older children do not take education for granted.
“I am joyful because I go to school,” Jamileth says. “I trust God that I am passing all my classes to graduate from primary school.”
David, 8, already two years behind in school, says, “I want to pass the first grade. I am asking God.”
Lino, the eldest boy, is proud of his ability to read, and watches with sad eyes as his older sister studies in the corner of the room. He is almost as aware of the family’s difficult situation as she is. The difference for him is that he and his brothers must forfeit their educations, at least for now, so that Jamileth can succeed in escaping the poverty consuming them.
The family’s strong faith in God assures them that they will get by, although they are living on just $25 weekly. The family attends an evangelical Protestant church just two buildings away from their home most every night.
“Thanks to the Lord who has blessed us,” says the mother, Amy. “He gave us wisdom, the earth and the air. We live for him.”
“We know it’s hard,” says Lino, the family patriarch. “But Jesus Christ says in the Bible that as long as we are living, we have hope. If we have no shoes, if we have no clothes, then we just have to believe.”