Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Call Me Tía Carrie

It's December at NPH Guatemala, which means: it's tía time.

Due to recent rulings by the Guatemalan government, every December, all of our kids who have biological family members they are allowed to visit must leave the NPHG home and spend three weeks of the Christmas season outside with their families. Approximately two-thirds of our 350 kids leave every December.

Employees also get nearly a month of vacation during December, so that's when we volunteers step in for tío and tía (caretaker) duty. We all stop our normal jobs this month (so no more going into the office for Home Correspondent work, although I still have to keep up with things via email) and work as full-time caretakers for the kids who stay behind.

This year's tía schedule is that we work two full days on (which includes vela -- sleeping in the section with the kids -- from time to time) and then get two full days off. Not actually that bad. I've been assigned to work as a tía with my section of girls (Yay! Although only 2 girls from my section stayed for December this year.) combined with the girls just younger than my section and those just older than my section. A total of about 30 girls from Girls' House are staying this month, so my December section will have about 15 girls in it.

Working as a tía in December can be pretty tough. Tía duty in itself takes a ton of work, but in December the kids you are caring for are ones that have had to stay behind at NPH for the holidays. It means they either have no family to speak of outside the home, or something has happened that caused a judge to rule that they are not allowed to spend time with their biological families. It can be really depressing for the kids, so they might not exactly be on their happiest or best behavior.

Yet despite that, December's tía duty is supposed to be a really great experience. An exhausting, difficult one, but a great time hanging out with a small group of kids and enjoying all kinds of house activities with them. We might be a bunch of kids, volunteers, and adults thrown together, thinking we're having to spend the holiday season away from family, but that's not accurate. We are spending it with one. 

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