SK-L: For Posoltega's children, school opens wounds from Hurricane Mitch (fwd)

Leslie Schentag (
Tue, 9 Mar 1999 07:21:59 -0800 (PST)

  Leslie Schentag
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---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Mon, 8 Mar 1999 21:04:53 -0800 (PST)
From: Christopher <>
Subject: SK-L: For Posoltega's children, school opens wounds from Hurricane Mitch

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   For Posoltega's children, school opens wounds from Hurricane Mitch
   6.09 p.m. ET (2309 GMT) March 8, 1999

   By Michelle Ray Ortiz, Associated Press

     FOOTNOTE: POSOLTEGA, Nicaragua (AP) Even on the school playground,
     there is no escaping the horror for the children of Posoltega.

     If they look to the north, they can easily see a wide scar across
     the slopes of the Casitas Volcano a constant reminder of the
     mudslide that killed more than 2,000 people, their relatives and
     classmates among the dead.

     "They only have to go outside to see this. It will be very hard for
     them for years to come,'' said Julia Martinez, principal of the
     Jose Dolores Toruno Lopez school that President Clinton visited

     Clinton tried to encourage the children to remain hopeful that
     normalcy will return.

     "A hurricane, a mudslide. They can destroy lives, they can destroy
     homes, they can destroy a life's work,'' Clinton said. "But they
     must not be allowed to destroy hope.''

     The mudslide was the worst single disaster of Hurricane Mitch,
     which killed more than 9,000 people throughout Central America last
     October. The children who survived now struggle with anxiety while
     trying to surmount the loss of their homes, clothes and

     "The parents aren't sending them to school because they don't have
     books, or backpacks or shoes,'' said Lorena Garcia, principal of
     nearby Las Laureles school.

     Some children drop out, ashamed that they have so little to wear.
     On rainy days, some mothers won't send their children to classes
     because they fear flooding as the children head home.

     Teachers at Toruno Lopez encourage their 708 students to talk to
     them about their loss which often brings tears on both sides,
     Martinez said. A psychologist was a great help, but visited only
     once, she said.

     And, many of the students believe Clinton's visit meant he
     personally would help them.

     "They don't call him `the president.' They say `Clinton' as if he
     was their brother,'' Martinez said of her students.

     The crowd at the school cheered and screamed "Viva!'' when Clinton
     spoke of the $956 million aid package he has proposed to Congress.
     What he didn't say was that the aid is tangled in a domestic
     spending dispute.

     Despite some construction in Posoltega the government is building
     100 new homes at a refugee camp to establish a new neighborhood,
     Villa Dolores children attend classes under black plastic tarps,
     their chairs set up in the dirt.

     "They're building a church, a park, but have done nothing for the
     school which is most important,'' said teacher Catalina Flores.

     Clinton brought with him 3,000 pounds of school supplies that he
     said were donated by various groups across the United States and by
     White House workers. He didn't say what they were.

     At last week's inauguration of Villa Dolores named for President
     Arnoldo Aleman's late wife, Maria Dolores Aleman assured the
     children they would have a new school soon, "so that tomorrow you
     can carry your children with heads high toward a brighter future.''

     But for Posoltega's children, thoughts of tomorrow are darkened by
     memories of yesterday.

     Rafael Arnolfo, 12, lost his mother in the mudslide. His father
     left to find work in Costa Rica, leaving the boy to shoulder the
     responsibility of heading his family. Last week, when Aleman handed
     over the ownership certificate for his new house, Rafael burst into

     "It destroyed our neighborhood,'' said the boy's aunt, Bertha
     Sandoval. "It destroyed our family.''

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