That Thing that She Does: Outreach worker, Los Quinchos Association
Armed with a first aid kit and a soccer ball, Nataly Hodgeson makes daily forays through the streets of Managua, sweeping for abandoned and drug-addicted kids. Her outreach work with Los Quinchos Association, a rehab program for Nicaraguan children, is dirty, dangerous and depressing. But you’d never know it when you see her in action. She’s at ease with everyone, from crack dealers and prostitutes to police officers and street cleaners. She forges fearlessly into the dark corners of the Managua markets — all-too-familiar turf from her childhood.
One of nine children raised by a single mother, Nataly was born in 1966 in Bluefields, a city on Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast. The drugs and grit of street life began to consume Nataly when she was eleven, and the next ten years passed in a blur. Only a few significant events stand out. Like the day her mother’s new husband was killed in the civil war, forcing Nataly and her family to flee across the border to Honduras. Or the day she married a fellow drug addict. Or the day her six-month old baby died. That was the last day she ever did drugs.
She began dedicating her life to preventing the same circumstances that blotted out her childhood and led to the death of her own child. She worked in Honduras as a street outreach worker for orphans and abandoned children. When the war ended, she returned to her own country to continue her work. Los Quinchos helps street kids fight their addictions, find a place to stay and attend public school. It’s Nataly’s mandate to find these kids and invite them to participate in the program.
It doesn’t matter if she’s officially on the clock, on her way home at night, or catching a bus to go visit her daughter: she is constantly on the job — advising, inviting, scolding, but primarily, loving. Her loud Creole, animated nature, and constant jokes have made her a well-loved figure on Managua’s streets. But it’s at the end of a long day that I love Nataly the most. She gives so much of herself that she is left fighting back tears, overwhelmed by the pain that she opens herself up to in her struggle to reach the street kids. — Taleigh Smith, fellow outreach worker
How She Shakes Off A Bad Day: When I gots a bad day, man, I pray to the Lord. I say, “Where you at, Lord? I ain’t feelin’ ya.” Then I goes to the park and that’s where I just sit. I just sit and talk to the people there. And that’s where I feel the love again, because the kids, they care. They care and listen more than my own family, man. They ask me what’s up, and we talk, and then when there’s nothing else to say I just start walkin’. I just walk and walk and walk and sometimes cry, and I don’t stop until I’m feelin’ better again, ya know?
Favorite Way to Travel: I get around on the 11. That’s my two legs, man. They carry me everywhere I got to go — it’s just that somedays they start a hurtin’, man, cause they tired of walkin’. I may not have money for a bus or a cab, but I always got my two legs. Outside of Managua I travel by bus, but I’ve really only been to Honduras. I’d love to travel around the world, especially to the United States. I want to see how other cultures and other systems work, but I just live life month to month, you know? Our kind of work don’t let for much travelin’.
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