Catching Katy

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Nicaragua Wrap Up

I am back from an incredible trip to Nicaragua! I’m not going to post specific details because I already did that during our trip on our group blog: https://nicaraguanadventure2016.wordpress.com

But I did want to give a little overview here. I definitely had some expectations going into the trip because I have done mission trips in other countries, including Central America. I expected the work projects to be similar. I expected the lodging and food to be similar. I expected the overall experience to be good, but not as great as my other trips that were with good friends and some that were return trips to the same place. I now know better than to hold to expectations.

The people of Los Robles, Nicaragua blew me away. They are humble and grateful despite having practically nothing. They welcomed us into their homes, gave when they had little, and chatted despite our broken communication (minus our fluent leader). The children laughed and played and openly gave hugs to strangers who couldn’t communicate with them. And the people in our group REALLY blew me away. Most had not done a service or mission trip before. But everyone had a heart to serve, was easy going and flexible, and ready to have a great time, which is exactly what we did. God placed each one of us on this trip for a reason, and as our trip leader said, if just one person had not made and kept that commitment, the week would not have been the same.

I do hope to make it back to Los Robles, Nicaragua one day and also hope to see more of this beautiful country, which we got to see a little more of on our last day as tourists in Granada. Adios – until next time!


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Adios, Atlanta

The time has come! Seven new wonderful friends and I are leaving for Nicaragua this weekend! If you missed my first post, click here to learn what this trip is all about and why I’m going. A big thank you to everyone who supported me financially and made this trip possible. We have worked hard to prepare a VBS curriculum for kids in the area as well as put together 120 hygiene kits for those kids (with a wash cloth, toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, a comb, and cup). These, and so many things we take for granted having readily available will be a huge gift for the kids we come into contact with. We will also be helping with some home improvement projects in the area.

I’m so excited for this experience – personally and for us as a group – and prayers this week are appreciated (especially for no volcano eruptions or tropical storms 😉 ). I’ll do a post or two when I get back, but while we are there I will be keeping our trip blog up-to-date. Visit the site and follow it if you want daily updates and pics! Can’t wait to share stories and [lots of] pictures! Adios!

nicaraguanadv


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Happy Working Song

Wednesday, May 26
Work day numero tres. Done with the sifting and moving sand. Now on to bigger and better things. Moving rocks!! I think this was harder than the sand by far.

Work day 3 - rocks

There was an exciting part to this day. Walking through the town square on our way to the hospital, we made a friend. Meghan yelled “DOG!” at me from behind just a dog licked my hand. Now the dogs in Santiago are not exactly clean or well-fed or taken care of….so it was not exactly heartwarming, even though he was cute. Well, he decided that he needed a break from his real life for the day and continued to follow us all the way to the work site. He stayed all day, following us with the wheel barrows and eventually laying, exhausted, in the cool sand. He didn’t want food at lunch. He just wanted some lovin. It take long for someone to name him: Gillium. And he will forever be remembered in our site photo!

Meet Gillium.

Gillium keeping up with the work

Lunch and nap time

The full group, including Gillium!

We left work a little early so we could do some shopping before the shops closed for the day. We lost Gillium somewhere near where he picked up with us that morning and never saw him again! The evening was more fabulous hot tub and pool time, and another delicious dinner.

Walking back into town

Hot tub....heaven

Pool

Dinner at the Posada

By this point in the week, I think we were all sore and tired, but also very relaxed at the same time. This trip was so different from my first 2 undergrad spring break trips. Then, we had schedules and things to do and places to be. Now we had work during the day, but basically free time after that to do what you pleased. We still had devotions/discussions in the evenings, which help to process everything you see and are doing, whether this was your first time there or seventh. The most difficult thing is to think about what to do with the extreme poverty. Obviously it’s nothing we can change, but it glares us in the face every day we are there. On the up side, the community seems to put family before anything else, which we could all take a lesson from.


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Whistle While You Work

Tuesday, May 25
Work day 2. Same walk, work, lunch, and more work.

Work day 2

When we left the work site, we took a tuk-tuk past the hotel to Panabaj to see the old hospital. I am amazed that 5 years after it was covered by the mudslide, you can still see the mud line on the side of the building.

Old Hospitalito Atitlan in Panabaj

By that night we were the only guests at the Posada. After another delicious meal at the restaurant, we borrowed a guitar and our many talented musicians took turns playing and singing. It was a great time.

Music night


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Work Hard to Play Hard

Monday, May 24

Work day number 1. We set off for the trek from the hotel toward the hospital. It was about a 30 minute walk, so we worked up a good sweat even before setting a hand on a shovel or wheelbarrow.

Walking to the hospital - Work day 1

We got to the site and went straight to work. Our assignment for the day: sift black sand through giant sifters, shovel the sifted sand into wheelbarrows, then move it to another pile on the site. This is sand used for mixing cement. The men usually mix cement by hand, but this year had a cement mixer. This is the only piece of equipment they have and I know it was a huge deal for them to get.

Work day 1

We took about an hour lunch break, making our own PB&J sandwiches and chips. We worked again into the afternoon for another few hours before calling it quits.

Lunch break

On the way back to hotel, we stopped for a little treat of frozen chocolate-covered bananas (yum!). We dragged our tired bodies to the chairs and hammocks in front of our house. Most of the group went for a swim in the pool and some relax time in the hot tub. Meghan and I took showers then hung out near the pool until dinner time.

Choco-bananas!!

Lots of porch sittin'

Pool time

Everyone met up together for dinner at the hotel. It was a delicious dinner every night. Everything from chicken, fish, pasta, and steak.

Dinner and games


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Santiago Atitlan

A little background about where we were working and the purpose of our trip!

Hospitalito Atitlan was originally opened in 2005 in Panabaj, just outside Santiago. Sadly, in October 2005, just 6 months after opening, Tropical Storm Stan hit the lake area full force, causing massive mudslides to completely cover Panabaj and the hospital. Hundreds of people were killed and buildings and houses were useless. Within days of the tragedy, the hospital relocated to a former hostel on the other side of Santiago, where it has been operating ever since.

In March of 2006, our group of PSF undergrads took our first trip to the area. We worked to build houses for some families who had children with physical disabilities, whose houses had been destroyed in the mudslides. They were being built near the relocated hospital. We visited Panabaj and the old hospital, and the devastation was incredible. We also visited the “tent city” where survivors had been relocated.

Old hospital in Panabaj 2006

Visiting families

Workin hard for some houses 2006

It wasn’t long before new land was purchased and designs were started for a new hospital. In March 2008, PSF undergrads traveled to Santiago again for our second trip. The medical storage building had been built, but the rest was flat, cleared land. We worked digging ditches for the foundation and a retaining wall along a hill. Between dirt, rocks, and stumps, we worked harder than I think any of us had ever worked in our lives.

Old hospital 2008

Workin hard 2008

The houses we helped start, now finished! (2008)

In March 2010, another group of PSF undergrads made the trip again, continuing work on the hospital. Then on May 22, 2010, our group of PSF alums and friends, 10 total, went again to help. I was blown away by the progress made, with no machines, only incredible man-power. Where we saw flat and dirt in 2008, there was now a 2-story structure with walls, ceilings, a roof, and wiring. We take our machines for granted, but these men work with their hands only. Yes it may take longer, but the results are awesome.

Hospitalito Atitlan - May 2010

Inside Hospitalito Atitlan - May 2010

Phases 1 and 2 of the hospital are scheduled to open this November, in which there will be clinics, an emergency department, 2 operating rooms, and 2 labor/delivery rooms. The next phases will include education rooms and offices on the second floor.