To be or not to be

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Maria Elena’s father looked happy when the civil servant explained to him the requirements for his daughter to get an identity card, the only way to prove who one is, and which is needed by all Nicaraguans aged 16 or above. Maria Elena is already 26 years old.

Because of her disability the family never made the effort to apply for an ID, although she is relatively fortunate that she was registered after her birth and her father still has her birth certificate. So she legally exists which apparently makes it easier to collect the paper work needed to obtain an ID. I write ‘apparently’, because in Nicaragua one never knows what sort of unexpected administrative demands or surprises can happen before the finishing line.

Father’s visit 

Napoleon, the father of Maria Elena and Manuel, lives in a deeply rural and isolated area of Nicaragua, more than a day’s journey from Juigalpa. So it is understandable that he does not visit his children at Ruach frequently. But when he does visit them, when he leaves he usually promises to visit soon again, a promise he does not always keep. He rarely phones us or his children either, which could partly be due to distance and poor connectivity. Once he is back home he lives in a different world, which makes him forget that a phone call to his children would do a lot of good for his children’s well-being.

Recently the father sent a message that he wanted to visit Ruach, so I suggested a Wednesday, our special day for a trip to the swimming pool, for him to be able to watch his children’s newly acquired skills! I decided not to mention the planned visit to Manuel and Maria Elena to prevent disappointment if something were to crop up to stop the father from coming. 
But Napoleon made it! He arrived loaded with home grown cooking bananas, fruit and vegetables. Moreover, he was in time to join us to the pool, together with a half-brother and half-sister of Manuel and Maria Elena. Maria Elena was immediately happy when she saw her father, but Manuel needed time for the ice to break. But after a while he started to enjoy his father’s visit.

Swimming pool and visit to the Electoral Council 

The father was very vocal about his pleasure to see his children’s progress in the water, and his children were beaming with pride. Back from the pool I proposed to him that he should visit the Electoral Council to start the procedure for getting Maria Elena an ID, while at the same time enquiring what would be needed for Manuel to get an ID, as unlike his sister, he does not have a birth certificate, a situation quite common in Nicaragua.
Last August Napoleon and I made enquiries at the Population Register’s Office about what would be needed to get an identity card for Manuel. We were given a long check list of documents to be handed in, as well as the information that these documents had to be handed in in person in the capital Managua. Napoleon’s courage sank into his boots when he heard this.

This time we tried a different channel, the Election Council. We were helped by a very non-bureaucratic clerk with a practical approach to Napoleon’s predicament: “ ‘Not officially married’, and ‘mother died’ equals to ‘one-parent family’, hence far less paperwork”, and so on.

Napoleon was happy as the simplified process seemed ‘do-able’, and, although not easy, it was as easy as was possible. He promised to return next week with the required paperwork to start the procedures to obtain an identity card for both his children. It would also be a burden off his conscience.

We walked home. Before we got there, Napoleon invited Maria Elena and myself for a pre-lunch drink in the park. After our lunch at the Community House, Napoleon visited the Activities Club to see his son Manuel at work, before starting his journey home. Everyone was well-pleased with his visit.
So now we will put all our energy and prayers into reaching the happy ending of Maria Elena and Manuel becoming fully-fledged Nicaraguan citizens. Please pray with us.