Thursday, April 26, 2012

Las Munecas

If you are ever in need of a pick-me-up, just take a minute to look through these pictures and you will instantly find a smile on your face, no matter how bad of a day you are having! :) Getting to pass out the dolls that you all sponsored was such a joy for me and I'm so thankful to each and every one of you who gave these precious little girlies such a wonderful gift!

As I mentioned before, we got to walk through several of the neighborhoods in Managua during our time there and I saw first-hand how little these children and their families have.  I know each one of these little girls will treasure their dolls as a special friend.  

I saved the majority of the dolls to pass out on the last day we were at the school.  However, there were many little girls who were not students at the school who came through the clinic with their mamas and I prayed that God would give me discernment in choosing who the dolls went to.  It was so hard to make that decision because I wanted to be able to give one to each little girl who we saw. 

This little girl was the first recipient of a doll.  On Wednesday, we hosted a women's clinic in the afternoon.  When we arrived back at school from lunch, there was already a long line of women waiting outside the door and I immediately noticed this little girl. She wasn't quite a year old and when I handed her the doll, she did the thing babies do when they try to love on something by immediately smooshing it up her face with a drooling open-mouthed kiss.  Aaaahhhh! She was so adorable and I loved her reaction to the doll.  She didn't stop hugging her.  (And notice the little boy's expression in the picture.  I love his smile too watching her excitement over her new toy.) 


The day this little girl was in the clinic was her first birthday! so of course, she got a doll!! :) She immediately squealed and fell in love with her. 


This little girl had been patiently waiting with her mom and aunt for almost an hour in the women's clinic. I could tell she was ecstatic when I offered her the doll, but was a little unsure of how to respond.  Maybe she wasn't sure if it was hers to keep?  She kept shyly looking down at the doll and then would look up with a huge smile on her face. 



And bless this poor little girl's heart.  Her mom brought her to the clinic because she had some sort of infection causing sores on her face and head.  You could tell she felt miserable.  I didn't see a smile out of her that day, but her mom brought her back a few days later after she had been on the medicine that we gave her.   Not only did she look like she felt so much better, she had her doll in hand and a huge smile on her face!

nicaragua doll3

And this little pip-squeak was cute as she could be.  She was playing with her doll until I pulled my camera out to take a picture and this was the look I got.  As long as I had my camera in hand, she refused to smile for me.

Thursday was our last day at the school, so I rolled my suitcase that the dolls were in down to the first grade class before school was dismissed for the day.  I was really nervous standing in front of a sea of little questioning faces, unsure of why I was there and what was in my suitcase.  In my best and broken spanish, I explained how there were people back home who wanted to do something special for them and how you all had sponsored dolls for me to be able to bring with me to Nicaragua.  And then I had to tell the little boys that unfortunately I only had something for the girls, but I promised to do something special for them too (so I need to get my thinking cap on and send something down there for them SOON!)  Honestly, I was really surprised and pleased at the boys' reaction.  You'll see them beaming in many of these pictures as they watch the little girls getting their dolls.  


I must not have done a great job explaining that they were a gift for them to keep, because the first minute or so, they were very quiet and just studied the dolls like they were unsure of what was going on. 



But then I asked one of the little girls what she was going to name her doll, and the light bulb clicked on! She realized it was hers to keep forever and for always and then the smiles bursts forth!! 




It was really special the way it worked out because we asked Louise, the headmaster, which classroom he wanted us to give out the dolls to.  There was a group of girls that I had been especially drawn to all week and would play "ring around the rosie" with during our break time.  Louise choose the first-grade classroom and as "luck" would have it, that was the class that had "my girls" in it. :) So I was secretly excited that they were the ones who got to have the dolls. 


nicagagua doll dollnic7

After I had left the classroom and the children had been dismissed for the day, the little girl in the picture below (on the left) shyly walked up to me and quietly asked:

"Tiene otra muneca para mi hermana?"
(Do you have another doll for my sister?)


Her sister bashfully walked up from where she had been standing a little off in the distance.  How could I say no to either of these sweet faces?? Thankfully I did have a few extra and so each sister got to go home with a new friend that afternoon. 
It was so sweet of that big sister to be looking out for her little sister and this picture is one of my favorites from the entire trip.  I can't look at it and not smile. Hopefully you'll feel the same way too when you look through all these pictures and find joy knowing you helped to create these smiles! 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Nicaragua - part 1

Hola! Hola! I've run into several people around town who apparently read the blog and have said, "Oh good to see you! You must be home from your trip."  Um, yes. It has been almost a month and I haven't updated yet! Shame on me for not sharing sooner.  It was much too full of a week to completely put into words in one blog post (which may be why I have been putting it off - sort of like trying to eat an entire hamburger in one gulp instead of breaking it up into smaller bites), but I'll try share some pictures to give you an idea of what the time was like for our team in Nicaragua. 

We had fourteen people on the team: 2 doctors, 2 nurses, 2 physical therapists, 1 chemist (who played pharmacist for the week), 5 translators, Tim (the "eye guy") and Nicole (the children's minister)


We were hosted by Henry Vargas and his gracious family in their home. Henry started MCA, which is the school were we held the clinic in Managua, and he has gradually been expanding his home year by year to host teams who come to Managua to serve.  

I love love love the hispanic culture and how hospitable and gracious the people are. I also love that most of their homes are centered around an open air courtyard.  You can't tell from this picture, but the main living area of the home is very open.  When I got back home I felt so closed in and stuffy in our house because I couldn't feel the breeze or hear birds singing when I was inside. 

The school was set up in the same manner.  All of the classrooms opened to a courtyard in the middle of the school.  In their current location they are short on space for classrooms so the older classes meet in the courtyard in makeshift "classrooms" made of metal sheeting.


The first grade class busy working at their desks in their classroom.
After the first morning, I commented to Henry about how happy and healthy the children looked. I guess I had prepared myself to see much worse poverty than the little faces that greeted us at the school that morning.  He explained that most all of them come from the most impoverished areas of Managua, but they are the happiest when they are at school because they are cared for and loved. They receive a meal at school and get to wear uniforms, which increases their moral. Later in the week we had a chance to see what home life is like for the majority of these children (which I will share in a later post) and it is indeed a stark contrast to what life is like for them at school.

Each morning we would arrive to the school for the clinic after classes had started.  All of the children would swarm Henry's white van to greet us with smiles and hugs as we were walking in.  I could never get away from the masses fast enough to get a picture of the rest of the group to document the experience, but there was no way I was hurrying past those sweet faces.  What a way to start your morning! :)

This is Miss Nicole talking to the kindergarten class while they were waiting in line to visit the clinic.

This was the room we used to set up the health clinic. It was very makeshift, but I think we did a great job of using what we had to accomplish what we did.  We were able to see over 500 students and adults in the four days that we were there!


Each "patient" would come first to my table where they would fill out their name and birthday and then I would try my best to find out what they needed to be seen for.  
The first day was hilarious as I tried to get my spanish skills working again. Who knows what I said to those poor patients that first day!?!


 Thankfully, most of those students we saw first were just there for a health check up. And thankfully I was feeling more confident in my abilities by the next day because word spread throughout the community that we were there and we started seeing other patients who came in for specific problems who were unable to receive medical attention. 

We had several different "stations" set up and I would indicate on their paper who they needed to see and for what problem: 1) vision 2) physical therapy 3) doctor 4) pharmacy (for their vitamins and anti-parasite meds)


This is Holly translating for Melissa at the doctor's station.  

Thankfully there were four other translators there who were much more experienced than I that were assigned to each station to help translate.   I think this picture was taken on the afternoon we held a women's health clinic. That green sheet behind Melissa was the "examining room" where she or the other doctor would do exams for the ladies who needed them.  Can you imagine laying on a towel on the floor to receive an exam with only a sheet between you and the rest of the room that had over 30 other people working and talking in? It was amazing to watch the doctors work with the little resources that we had and even more humbling to see the appreciate smiles and hugs of the people that they helped.  They were so grateful to be receiving any medical attention at all, not minding the hour-plus waiting time or meager accommodations of the clinic.

Holly's husband, Tim, set up an eye clinic and stayed busy all day long doing eye exams.  His station was the most popular by far!  But regardless of how long the line was at his station, he remained very patient with all of the children who came through requesting an eye exam (whether they really needed it or not!) 

These are our two physical therapists, Tina and Amy.  The little girl in the orange and yellow shirt came in with her family.  She was almost five years old (I think) and had never been able to walk on her own without assistance.  Tina was able to fabricate braces for her feet with some velcro (velcro!!) that she had brought with her and the little girl was able to walk for the first time by herself without assistance!  There is a video of Amy helping her walk, along with other highlights of the trip, on the church's blog:


Once the morning session for school had ended, we would close up the clinic to head home for lunch before the afternoon session.  While we were waiting for Henry to pick us up, we had the chance to interact and play with the children.  This picture is of David (one of the translators and leaders of the trip) entertaining a group of students with a broomstick.  See their smiles and how they just flocked around him?
They were all so eager to just be around us and shower us with hugs and attention.

Ok, I need to wrap this up for the evening, but I'm sharing more tomorrow...
yes, I know I've said that before, but this time I double pinky promise!

Monday, April 2, 2012

finding the words

I'll be honest. I'm having trouble finding the words to share all I experienced and learned during my time last week in Nicaragua. I keep waiting to feel inspired to write and share, but I just feel very quiet, with nothing but the sound of crickets chirping. My sincerest apologies for my absence, especially to those of you who sponsored a doll. I want to share those pictures with you soon. It's just that I've been walking around in a fog this past week trying to get re-acclimated to life here in the land of plenty.

One of my girls cries over her bowl of spaghetti because she really wanted a PB&J. How am I to find the patience when I have just been with children who only get to eat one meal a day and have to share that one meal with the parasite living in their stomach?


When her sister is reluctant to share one of the coloring pages from her book, I struggle to know how to discipline out of love because I know they weren't with me last week to witness children (who have literally nothing), joyfully offering the little they have to us (who have everything) as a gift: a Smurf sticker, a piece of candy, or their juice box from lunch.


How do I not feel sick to my stomach when I make a quick run to CVS to pick up medicine for the girls when I have sat with mamas who can't afford to take their children to the doctor when they are sick; much less buy the medicine they need and have to watch their children suffer through discomforts or serious illnesses?


And while I watch the girls playing outside in their playhouse, how do I process the knowledge that it is far nicer than anything most of these precious people will ever live in when their standard of living is dilapidated shanties?


I find myself frustrated with my distorted sense of entitlement when I'm in the grocery store or on Pinterest or in conversation with friends. To dwell on these thoughts can become depressing. On the other hand, if I let them go and return to my "normal" comfortable life here, I feel like I am ignoring all that my eyes have been open to. So I'm having trouble finding a balance.
But I do promise pictures of the dolls you sponsored as gifts SOON! Being able to give those away were one of the highlights of the trip for me!!