I realize that I’m a bit late in posting this, as I visited Nicaragua nearly a month ago. But with the launch of AT&T’s college recruiting Facebook Fan Page and my 2,600 mile trek across the country to move to Bellingham WA, I’ve been a little busy over the past several weeks 🙂
The experience with Amigos for Christ in Nicaragua was, in a word, incredible. This trip was different from the one I took last year to South Africa in a few ways – it was a smaller group (only about 50 of us were there this week), and we were a little more casual about time. This came to be known as “Nica Time” – when we would aim to do something at say 9am, and would actually get started around 10:30am.
We worked – HARD. Between shoveling stuff called ‘material selecto’ (basically a mixture of sand and small and large rocks), mixing/pouring concrete, and hand-digging 10′ x 3′ x 3′ ditches for a warehouse foundation, we were all exhausted by the end of our workdays. Combine this back-breaking work with the 90+ degree & seemingly 100% humidity days (every day!) and that’s basically what the week consisted of.
Our Nicaraguan colleagues worked hard right alongside us. Each day, people from the communities we worked in came out and shoveled, dug, hauled, lifted, and sweated with us. The Nicaraguans work hard for what they have, even though to us it may not seem to be much. They take pride in this because of the fact that they have worked so hard for it. This inspired me to work even harder, knowing that the people we were doing these projects for were so willing to put their own sweat equity into the work that was being done to assist their communities. All too often, I feel jaded because of the lack of willingness to work I see here a lot in the US. My faith in hard work was renewed after this experience.
During the week, we took a trip to the Chinandega garbage dump. There are people who actually live there; daily life for them consists of picking through mounds of trash looking for recyclable material to trade for Cordobas. On any given day, most of them can find enough trash to earn about 6 cordobas (about $0.25 US) which might be enough to get them rice and beans for one day. Amigos For Christ is working with these people to help them get out of the garbage dump and to a community called Villa Catalina – a community built with love by efforts from Amigos and the people who used to live in the dump. We visited the Villa later in the afternoon and it was inspiring to see what the people there have done to turn their lives around from where they came from.
We also visited a special needs orphanage in town. The children at this orphanage have physical and mental challenges and need round-the-clock care. The women who work here have essentially given their lives to take care of these children. I ended up sitting with a 12 year old girl named Yaosca who could neither walk nor speak. It was an emotional morning for most of us, and the children were so pleased to have people sit with them, play with them, and basically just be there with them.
At the end of the week after all our work was complete, we took a day trip to La Playa Roca on the Pacific coast. As a girl who grew up 15 minutes from the Gulf Coast, this was a special treat to me. The beach is volcanic ash and rock so it’s black sand, and the surf was high that day. There was a lagoon down the beach which was safe, so we went swimming there and hung around for the sunset – absolutely gorgeous! A perfect end to an inspiring week.
Some of my observations from the week:
- John Bland, the man who started Amigos For Christ, had gotten in touch with some high school buddies. They passed the word around and there were about 12 guys who’d gone to high school together about 30 years ago who came down to work. A couple of them brought children and grandchildren. It was really neat to know that they had arranged a little ‘reunion’ to do service work.
- The Nicaraguans were eager to help us understand their language. I took Spanish all through high school but never used it so it was a bit rusty, but over the week it started coming back to me. The next time I visit a Spanish speaking country, I will do a little more prep work with the language. I think I missed out on some interaction because I couldn’t communicate as well as I wanted.
- Spending time with the children was priceless. On our last day, I brought a tub of fingernail polish and painted the little girls’ nails. I must have spent about 2 hours doing this, and it was such a treat for the little girls. The children help their families make money, so there isn’t much time for play. They know when we’re there, they’re going to get some playtime. Loving on the kids is one of my favorite things to do on trips like this!
- The work ethic there is outstanding. People typically only have hand tools to do manual labor, so it’s intense and they work REALLY hard.
- Our Amigos hosts were wonderful, we were well-fed all week and they were very kind to us. They see a lot of groups come and go through their home; they were very hospitable to us.
I’m getting addicted to doing things like this. The feelings of fulfillment and renewal of faith I come back with are priceless. Experiences like the one in Nicaragua help me to put my own daily issues into perspective in the grand scheme of things. When we take our eyes off of ourselves and do stuff for someone else, things always seem to get better. There is something special about serving those who need it, and the gratitude you receive in return just warms your heart. There is another trip to South Africa being planned for April 2010; I am giving serious consideration to returning. Would you like to come too? Let me know!
If you’d like to see pictures from my mission trip to Nicaragua, you can check them out here on Facebook!