First time out of the country and I was petrified. My parents weren’t accompanying me, I had no idea how to fill out the customs form (what is a customs form anyway??), I was bound to forget to take my malaria pills, and a third-world country seemed all too daunting for a little 17 year old girl far from home. Needless to say, I did it.
Every summer my youth group goes on a mission trip to Managua, Nicaragua through an organization called Project Hope. Juniors and Seniors in high school have the privilege and blessing to build houses for desperate families in villages surrounding the capital of Nicaragua- the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Now that I was old enough I joined my friends in adventuring to this country in May to build houses that are 20×20 huts made from concrete blocks for support, plywood for siding, and tin sheets for the roofs.
The village where my youth group and I went was named Dios Provee translating to God Provides in English. The Nicas of this small, run down outskirts had never seen white people before we pulled up to the site with a bus full of Caucasians. They were hesitant. (As was I to be honest.) The children hid behind their mothers’ legs as they stared at us, not knowing whether to crack a smile or run the opposite direction. The men were just ready to get to work and not bother talking. The women would stand back in awe and watch the whole spectacle. I had never experienced anything like this.
The first day came and went as did the following. The Nicas were starting to warm up and I would try my best to communicate with anyone who would listen to my poor Spanish. On the third day I was pounding nails into the side of a wood post, sweating like a dog and proving that even a girl can do hard work, when I noticed a skinny boy in a green shirt sitting in the dirt watching me. I called him over with a shout of “Venga aqui!”- meaning “come here” in Spanish- and he hesitantly scrambled over to me. I made him hold my nails for me and began speaking with him. His name was Carlo and was 14 years old. He loved to play the drums and loved learning English in school. My heart instantly melted. Our conversation was soon interrupted by the sound of all the Gringos (what the Nicas call white people) cleaning up to head back to base camp. I gave my new friend a quick hug and promised to see him again.
The next day I didn’t see Carlo and my heart ached. I asked all around the village as to where he might be. The Nicas quickly told me that he was at school and wouldn’t be back until later that afternoon when my group and I would be gone for the day. I was so upset and longed to see my buddy again. Finally, on one of our last days there in the village my heart’s wish came true. I was working in a house stacking concrete blocks one on top of the other when I hear a faint “Hanna! Hanna!” coming from a sweet boy’s heavily accented voice. I looked up to see Carlo with his two little brothers waving frantically at me and jumping up and down. I immediately dropped my tools and ran over to them. The three of us spent the rest of the afternoon running around the village tagging each other with “mezcla” (concrete mix). Hearing those giggles, seeing those smiles, and watching their big beautiful brown eyes light up with joy will always be a treasured memory permanently imprinted on my heart.
It is hard to describe the feeling of contentment when you know you have done something so minute in the grandeur of this world and that it was all the grandeur of this world to the minute. For that one afternoon I was able to share the joy of life with three little boys who screamed my name as we skipped along the dirt roads of Dios Provee. And that is simply priceless.
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