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Altersheim Leon

Home for the aged „Sociedad San Vicente de Paul“

1. Basic activities and goals

This elderly home, situated in Sutiava, the old indian city, nowadays part of León, is run by catholic nuns and takes care of about 70 elderly people. Men and women are separated, further there is distinction between patients who are independent and those who require continuous care.

Although the Nicaraguan habit is typically to integrate older people into once's house and take care of them, the people in "San Vicente" are mostly abandoned by their family or have family that can not take care of them. The capacity of the centre is limited, but the practice is that the nuns will not refuse anyone at the door, also because of the lack of other options for these people: there are no government‐run elderly homes, actually there are almost no elderly homes at all.

Despite the fact that resources are scarce and the nuns have to ‘beg’ at the market to be able to supply in the necessary amount of food, the building looks pretty good, clean and with several simple gardens in the patio area. In the middle there is a church building and the refectory. On both sides, the male and female dormitories are situated.

The atmosphere is open and welcoming, but the work force is actually too small to be able to give every person the attention needed.

2. History

San Vicente is situated in a very old building which was once a female prison. In 1913 the building was donated to the convent to offer shelter to people who needed help. In 1927 it was officially declared an elderly home and after that, the state of the building deteriorated dramatically. In 2001, a much‐needed renovation was done.

3. Organisation

The asilo is run by three nuns. One doctor passes by every day on a voluntary basis to perform routine check-ups. Apart from that, there are two professional nurses who try to deal with most problems, such as taking care of wounds and distributing medication. Apart from that, there are about 17 local people who work on a voluntary basis, but who have no formal education related to what they are doing. They cook, wash, clean and take care of the garden.

Due to alack of finances the nurses can not hire more professionals, even though the is an obvious need for this, particularly in the area of nursing.

4. Tasks of volunteers

The daily routine is: 6.00 AM: washing the patients, 7.30 AM: church mass, 8.00 AM: breakfast,  8.30 AM: medical check-ups by doctor (and steps if problems occur), 9.30 AM: snack time, 11.30 AM: lunch (warm meal), 15.30 PM: early dinner (because the personnel will go home at 17.00 PM), 16.00 PM: Television time, 21.00 PM: everyone has to be in their beds.

Volunteers can work from 6 AM until noon. People with some experience in nursing can do wonders here, but also people with a caring attitude can really make a difference by giving the people the attention they need and unfortunately not often get due to the fact that the nuns themselves are too busy running the centre and raising funds.

The centre does have experience with volunteers and is very open to people offering help. Possible activities are: washing patients, distributing medicines, taking care of wounds, assisting people in their mobility (getting to mass, strolling in the gardens), organising activities (e.g. bingo), offering mental support.

Please take into account that there will be some rules as well, such as not smoking on the premises, respecting guidance from the nuns and co‐workers and wearing a uniform. Also, you always have to have permission to take a patients out of the institute. 

Info box:

Location: León, Nicaragua

Duration: Minimum 2 weeks

Special qualifications needed: yes

Costs: none, the trouble-free package is optional

Accommodation: Not included

Meals: Not included

Included: Placement in the project; if you opt for the trouble-free package the whole range of services which is part of the trouble-free package is included

Not included: Travel to Nicaragua, health insurance, visa

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