Daryl and Becky’s Nicaragua Mission trip, Part 3: Meals, Training and Care for Children
[This article, submitted by Becky Warner, describes a mission trip she took with her husband Daryl in January, 2016. This article is part 3. Read Part 1 here (Bible Donation). Read Part 2 here (Clothing Distribution). Read Part 4 here (Conclusion).]
This is the third part of what we would like to share with you about our trip to Nicaragua. Nicaragua has a population of 6 million people, 2.4 million of which are under age 18. Eight to twelve per cent of those children are either homeless living on the streets or housed living on survival skills. We traveled to Nicaragua in January, 2016 with our Nicaraguan niece Edith, our nephew Craig, Edith’s father Juan and other first time visitors like ourselves.
One of our visits was to a center that we heard no name for, but we know it is good, full of love, full of care and concern for any human walking in the door, especially children. Sister Angela and the five other sisters living there prepare a noon meal for any children arriving at their doors Monday through Friday. On Saturday they conduct classes that teach some of the children (again, whoever shows up) skills like hair styling, manicures and pedicures. Sister Angela has beautiful nails since she is one of those the students practice on.
We arrived by van, 8 of us, before the children. After driving up a very steep road (think San Francisco) as the city ends becoming mountainous, we entered a clean, light room with tables and chairs and a station for washing hands. The next room had more tables and chairs and a pass through from a kitchen where helpers prepared the meal. Beyond that room was a room with two cook stoves. This room became a concern to us immediately because the chimneys on both wood-burning stoves had holes in them and were rusted through filling the room with smoke. The sisters and helpers breathed in that smoke every day as they prepared the meals. That became our number one priority right off the bat.
Back in the entry room, Sister Angela was telling us about her program when she stopped mid–sentence. “Here they come!” she exclaimed quietly. We turned to see out the window, dozens of children trudging up that steep street. They were in small groups, some with an adult, ages 12 and under. They quietly and respectfully entered making eye contact and greeting Sister Angela. They took turns washing their hands, then finding a place to sit. The adults stood behind those children too small to feed themselves. They had leftover dishes ready to pack leftover food to take with them.
Sister Angela excused herself, then went to each full table saying grace with the children. The other sisters were not there that day because they were on the same pilgrimage many others in Matagalpa, lay people as well as those of the church, were on. The two teenage girls on our trip gladly helped serve and clean up in their absence. We were very impressed with the attitude of order and respect in the hall. There was quiet conversation, but as soon as the children were finished they cleaned up and headed out remembering to thank Sister Angela and smiling. She took every opportunity to chat with them individually, but remained the overseer. She told us later that she used to run an orphanage for these children, but funding from the government had been stopped and she simply couldn’t afford to keep it going. A lunch program is all she can do presently. To raise money, she sells any items donated like used clothing and toys at the markets, and walks door to door asking for donations. That is how she met Juan, Edith’s father, who has been a major funder ever since.
After the meal, Sister Angela finished the tour. Outside the kitchen we saw her garden. This garden is etched into the side of the hill they are situated on. She has herbs and vegetables, but it is very small. She has chickens, and she cares for some dogs that come and go just like the children. Next we saw the tiny personal quarters for the nuns. Their rooms are just large enough for a bed and night stand. They have a very comfortable, spacious, but modest common room. And finally, Sister Angela was very proud to show us the chapel. Although it is quite modest, the floor had special tile to demarcate the aisle, a few special pieces for the altar, and motivating pictures on the walls. The sisters meet 5 times a day for prayers, but attend mass on Sunday's at one of the two main cathedrals of Matagalpa.
In response to my question, “Where do the children come from?”, while looking out the front window Sister Angela waved her arm and said, “the neighborhood.” In other words, she didn’t know for sure. Some came from homes where they live depending on survival skills or from the streets. Sister Angela is the real deal. There is not a doubt in our minds that any contributions she receives are used for helping those children.
NOTE: Since our visit Edith, Craig and Juan have had the wood burning stoves repaired so that the workers no longer need to inhale that smoke all day.