Sunday, August 20, 2006

Nicaragua 2006

This summer was not about a trip to Europe, a spa week at the Canyon Ranch or my favorite place of all, the Ocean Club in the Bahamas. Instead, something made me chose a different route: I went to Nicaragua. But, it was not to play in the sun, instead it was to play with disabled and abandoned orphans at Hogar-Belen, many of whom will most likely be adopted by a loving family. Mustard Seed is an organization that works with Mi Familia to place approximately two dozen children in this specially equipped facility. Hogar-Belen is one of only a handful of orphanages in Nicaragua country for children with disabilities.
I signed up for the trip several months ago, not sure what to expect, but expecting to be able to handle anything for a week.
It was difficult. It was emotional. It was life-altering.
The team I went with was great, many had been before, others were there taking it all in for the first time like myself.
We arrived in Managua on Saturday, August 12th after a six hour plane ride. When we got there, the facility had no power. In this section, the power company tries to conserve, so many places lose power for several hours each day as I would later find out. But the fact we had lights eventually did little to combat the heat. You see, there was not air-conditioning, no hot water, the water level about half of what we are used to here in New York City and the sleeping conditions at the orphanage made me quickly appreciate what we have.
The children were what broke my heart, in particular a little boy named Bryan. He is 7 going on 17 in terms of his life experience. Bryan is deaf. He was found wandering the streets of Managua. He has a mother who doesn’t want him because he is deaf and two brothers he was torn away from without warning.
We played baseball, ate ice cream, threw the ball and learned to communicate with one another despite the fact he has never heard my voice.
Bryan is among almost two dozen children who live at this orphanage. The staff works around the clock providing care, feeding them, bathing them and making sure they have a warm bed to crawl into every night.
Along with painting, fixing up the facility and getting to know the children, I got to know another place in Nicaragua: the city dump.
On Wednesday, a group of us took relief supplies to 150 families who live there. It was difficult and it was something I could have never prepared for no matter what I heard or read.
I made several friends on the trip, learned more about myself and realized that there is no such thing as “a bad day” in my life anymore compared to what I have seen and what Bryan lives through everyday.


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