Casa de Esperanza: Week 1

We just finished our first week of the program and it definitely feels like a success! Monday we got right to work on the community garden in the backyard and it looks great. With the amazing help of Hispanic Studies professor Teresa Mesa and all of the kids, we created the foundation of three small plots and planted tons of vegetables and herbs – tomatillos, tomatoes, sweet red peppers, jalapeño peppers, habanero peppers, basil, pumpkin, cilantro, parsley, and mint. The kids had a blast planting everything and still get excited to water the garden everyday!

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Because all of the residents have their own schedules, I decided to make a big calendar of the month’s activities to post a communal area and print copies to distribute to everyone. That way, residents and their kids can drop in and participate in the activities when they are available. This week, the school-aged children were finishing up school, so I most mostly working with three of the little ones. Next week will be very busy though! Right now there are nine kids at the Refugio, seven of which are between the ages of four and eight!

On Tuesday, our main activity was apron decorating in preparation for the cooking lesson on Friday and on Wednesday we did jewelry making and decorated jewelry boxes. We also did a lot of outdoor games and running around. On Thursday, we went on our first excursion to the Science Museum of Minnesota. Because most of the kids were still in school, we went as a small group of just two moms and two young kids (four and five years old). The museum had such cool exhibits and we all had a really good time – it was the perfect place to go because it was interesting for everybody, even the adults. The kids had a blast because the exhibits were very interactive and hands-on. We finished the day off with a quick lunch and ice cream in the museum cafeteria!

Finally, on Friday we had our first cooking lesson with Josemy on-site at the Refugio! Josemy is the Organizational Support Coordinator at Casa de Esperanza, but he also is finishing up culinary school. He very generously agreed to give weekly cooking lessons this month, which is wonderful because the majority of the residents love to cook. This Friday, he taught a group of three adults and five kids (plus myself) how to make Puerto Rican flank steak fajitas, a fairly simple (according to Josemy) but delicious recipe. He taught us how to cut the different vegetables (peppers, jalapeños, onions, avocado), cut, season, and cook the meat, and prepare the tortillas. A super engaging man, Josemy used a perfect balance of demonstration and participation in his lesson. Everyone had fun, but I think the mothers especially enjoyed learning new cutting and cooking techniques. And eating them afterward was delicious!

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