“I have a totally different son,” Ana Maria says of Jonathan. Photo: Miguel Alvarez.
A project in Nicaragua turned rebellious preteen Jonathan into a model son
In his family of seven, Jonathan Osejo Morraz was a rebel. A young preteen living with his mother and father, brothers and sister in a poor municipality in Nicaragua, Jonathan took on an attitude and closed himself off from his family. His only contributions to household chores were what he saw as a man’s work—digging holes, hauling buckets. He would wield a shovel, but not a wooden spoon. He would take out the dirty wash water, but never wash the laundry. He wouldn’t do “women’s work,” his mother says.
In the dusty streets of Ciudad Sandino, where families live in poverty and violence is high, Jonathan was on the same track as many boys in the neighborhood—all too soon becoming men with machismo attitudes, abstaining from house work, telling women what to do, maybe even hurting their children.
But subtly, slowly, he began to change.
At age 12, Jonathan joined a project called Entre Amigos (“Between Friends”), a collaboration between PATH and a local partner, CEPS, to encourage gender equity and healthy behaviors among boys and girls (based on the original Entre Amigas Project). He saw an opportunity to help people, he explains, to improve himself and his peers. He began to learn about relationships, violence, respect for women, and how to be a better man—topics he wouldn’t learn elsewhere. As a promoter, he brought other boys together in monthly groups to discuss these issues.
His mother, Ana Maria, started noticing the changes in her son. First it was the way Jonathan talked about what he was learning, then it was what he did, helping his mother prepare dinner or cleaning up after meals.
“Jonathan has a future that I never could have had when I was young,” says his mother, Ana Maria.
The family began to change, too. Ana Maria realized she could improve the way she communicates with her children. She learned about protecting herself from unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. She and her husband began to see themselves as equals. “I’ve learned to value myself as a woman,” she says.
Not rebellious anymore
Today, at age 15, Jonathan irons clothes, cooks meals, and shares a close bond with his parents and siblings. “I have a different vision of the world,” he says. “I was rebellious before, and I’m not rebellious anymore.”
He is well respected in his school and among his friends. His carefully combed hair, pressed button-down shirts, shined shoes, and open, friendly face convey his pride in who he is and who he is helping other young people in his community become. He now works as a facilitator for Entre Amigos, mentoring younger boys and girls to lead groups in their neighborhoods and encourage healthy choices.
These important skills and values are still foreign concepts for many in Ciudad Sandino, and elsewhere. But young people like Jonathan are modeling behaviors that are beginning to take hold.
Ana Maria is thrilled by Jonathan’s transformation. “I have a totally different son,” she says. Her face beams as she talks about this promising young man. “I can’t even say how proud I am. Entre Amigos has opened a lot of doors for him. He has a future that I never could have had when I was young. For me, it’s a blessing.”