“I learnt so much within the Child to Child programme!”
Norvis Vásquez Vásquez used to be part of a Child to Child programme in his hometown in Nicaragua in the 1990s. Regularly meeting with boys and girls about his age to discuss various topics, from human rights to health to music, his experience with the Niño a Niño club is filled with good memories.
Can you please tell us about your experience of Child to Child (Niño a Niño) clubs?
I started in 1991, when I was 12 years old, and I stayed with the group until 1994-1995. The programme took place in my community in Estelí, a rural area where I was born. We were boys and girls discussing different topics; it was great, I learnt so many things. For instance, we talked about human rights, HIV/AIDS, respiratory diseases, and we learnt handicrafts.
We also had regional meetings three times a year; and once a year we all met at the capital of Nicaragua. These meetings were generally three days long. It went like this for the first three years, and in 1994 we had an international meeting in Canada. I was chosen to represent one region of Nicaragua; there were five children in total from the whole country who travelled to Canada for two weeks to exchange our experiences about what we did in our programme in Nicaragua. It was an amazing time.
What was the purpose of these meetings?
The objective of these meetings was for us to share information about the activities we were involved in in our communities. So, we had many different discussions. Sometimes we discussed health-related topics related to the prevention of illness like diarrhoea and respiratory diseases. Also, if we learnt about new methods to treat or prevent illness, we were expected to take this information home and share it with all the children in our community and also with the parents and the whole community. In a way, we were spokespeople.
We also did cultural activities during these meetings. One time I remember, we learnt how to write poems and songs. And when somebody played the guitar then that was a chance to learn for everyone. We learnt to do things with our hands, for example how to paint or to make puppets. The idea was to learn things that we didn’t learn at school, and to share experiences with children from other communities. We were there to have fun too!
What impact did it have on your life?
The Niño a Niño programme had a great impact on my life; thanks to it I learnt things that we normally don’t learn at school. Also, the programme gave us a lot of encouragement, improved our self-esteem and confidence – especially we became more communicative and lost our fear of talking with adults. It also improved our knowledge of our rights as children and how to defend them.
One very personal impact the programme had on me is that it increased my interest in learning languages. Indeed, when we went to Canada, it was a little bit difficult – actually, really difficult – to understand people. We wanted to communicate and tell our story but that was complicated. So when we came back to Nicaragua, I was very enthusiastic about and interested in learning languages – mostly English but also other languages.
Are you still in touch with people who were in the Niño a Niño club with you?
Yes, I created kind of a network and I remain in contact with a lot of people from the programme coordination teams, at national and regional levels. For example in 2004 I met one regional coordinator when she was in Rome, Italy.
Is your life today related in some way to your Niño a Niño experience?
Definitely. I am currently improving my language skills as I am learning French. After my studies in agricultural engineering in Nicaragua, I did my Master’s in sustainable agriculture in Switzerland so I can more or less speak German. I can also communicate in Italian, English, now French, and of course Spanish.
Also, when I started with the Niño a Niño programme, I had the opportunity to play the guitar and I took it. Thus at many meetings I played during the cultural nights; I even improvised and wrote new songs. Recently I contributed to a video made in Nicaragua about cholera: I wrote one song talking about what measures we could take for that. Now I continue playing guitar, not as a job but for pleasure. I published one album, which you can find on the Internet.
Lastly, I now intend on writing something; maybe not a book but I want to write about my childhood. I think it would be interesting for children today to see how their life is so different.