Mission Trip to Nicaragua Leaves a Lifelong Impact

The Human Culture- Nicaragua

In times like this it is our differences that gives us strength. Every time I travel, I aim to integrate and experience the cultures of each place. The diversity of people, their way of life, and their stories intrigue me. Learning how a culture has evolved, what values, and traditions they tie into their daily life teach you not only about human nature but yourself.

“Wherever you go becomes a part of you somehow.”

I find this to be absolutely true, with every trip I take valuable lessons. Aside from the feeling of humbleness and gratitude, I find that traveling gives me a sense of hope. The diversity of thought between different cultures provides such a unique way to address our worlds issues from different perspectives. That fresh look into another’s way of life provides an opportunity to recognize, reflect, and grow. Although we have a lot of differences, we still face a lot of the same problems. Addressing these problems takes imagination and creativity, this is where we all add value from our different walks of life. It is together that we are stronger.

In 2012 I traveled on my first mission trip to Nicaragua to help build a well for a remote locations village to have water. It was here that I found a love for this community which ended up teaching me valuable lessons that I share to this day. People in this community not only do not have access to basic necessities such as food and water, they also lack other instrumental resources such as a good education system and even clothes to wear. They were lucky to have shoes on their feet. Their homes were often tents or huts strung together with mud, wood, and other organics, which certainly could not weather any major storm. I could not help but feel a strong pull on my heart to feel sorry for people in this state and sense of urgency to help.

To come from a privileged country that has everything at their fingertips and to have never experienced the struggles that these people live through daily. People that can turn their faucet on and never worry about running out of water, where their next meal is coming from, or taking shelter from a major storm. I could not help but feel a sense of responsibility that it is not right for people to remain removed from problems that we can easily help with. Even the simple donation of clothes and shoes makes such a difference in people’s lives. When they are walking miles barefoot to get water.

We spent every day working together and getting to know this small village. I spent a lot of time with this community, getting to know different families and their kids. I can definitively say these people were the happiest people I have EVER met in my life. This confused me at first, how could these people have literally nothing but be so happy? As I spent more time, I began to see how strong their families and communities were together. The whole community helped with accomplishing tasks such as, fishing, preparing food, fixing each other’s homes. No one was left behind, everyone made sacrifices to help each other. Some kids would not go to school to help their family have food to eat. Yet no one ever complained, they were always smiling.

One little girl, Maria, really touched my soul. She was only 13 years old, and helped her mother take care of her younger sister and two brothers. She selflessly sacrificed her time to help teach her siblings, help provide for her family, take care of her sick grandmother, and still make time for school. The mission group we were with also taught English and grade school classes. Maria was so eager to help with all that we were doing. She was a true leader and was constantly helping others and engaged with every aspect of things we were doing in their community.

I was privileged to step into her life and really admire how amazing and strong she was. She taught me how they make their morning sugar bread, their childhood dances that we all danced together, their community stories, cooking for their families, and how they creatively made things work with limited resources they had. She had so much care for our group even though she had truly little and had so much going on in her life. She and the other families took us in like their own.

Towards the end of the trip I did not want to leave this group of truly amazing people. I felt that we could do so much more to help but it turns out they were the ones that helped us. They helped us learn how a true community should work and care for each other. On the last day Maria pulled me aside from our group and hugged me she said, “Thank you for being my friend, and helping me and my family. We will never forget you.” She pulled out a necklace that was interictally woven with a shell pendant that she hand carved and gave it to me. “Here is something to always remember me by.” I could not believe that someone with so little took so much time and care to make me feel cared for.

It saddened me to think that she may have thought that I/we would forget about her, this resonated with me. I could never forget them! This made me think, there are a lot of people that come through and help different communities, which is great, but some people go right back to their daily lives and forget that there is still a harsh reality for others. If all you can do is donate small things or time, then do that. But it is extremely important to help build up communities so they can be equipped to grow and have access to life necessities. This trip marked my first mission trip to Nicaragua, which lead to many. I returned 4 consecutive years to this community and I am happy to say, I still am close with Maria and her family.

Reflecting on this trip, this community really touched me in many ways and made me feel a deeper sense of gratitude for life itself. It strengthened my thoughts and care for people in my life and the time that I spend with them. How being present and truly there for others in your community really can help. It made me realize how trivial problems many of us face and we really should not have anything to complain about. It made me thankful for the simple access to basic necessities and it also made me observe how many others take this for granted.

There are plenty of places in this world that need help and love. Even people in America, especially now in this pandemic, who are struggling. People that have lost their jobs, do not have food or shelter, or are in bad health. People deserve the access to life necessities, and there are many all over the world that do not have this. There is something that we all can do to help each other. I genuinely believe if our culture shifted to hold more responsibility and care for others in need, we could have a major impact on supporting impoverished communities. Shifting to a more humanitarian culture which encompasses taking responsibility to help others. Caring and supporting others enables our communities to grow and further address other issues we face globally. It is a great need today to set aside our differences and support each other’s growth, because it is our differences that make us stronger.

Shelby Thomas | Instagram

Fast Five

1. Three hours early to the airport or running to the gate? Run Forest Run!

2. Pretzels or Lotus Biscoff cookies? Pretzels

3. Excel planned trip or just wing it? Winging it, want to fly out tomorrow?

4. Favorite continent? Australia so far, so biodiverse and of course pristine diving.

5. Dream destination? Backpacking Africa

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