I first learned of NRN and TPCC’s involvement with Nicaragua several years ago from my sister-in-law Cathy Wendorf. I loved hearing about her experiences and seeing her pictures and vowed to participate in a Special Needs team trip. My daughter Christie was touched by God in 2009 and participated in her first trip. From that trip I became a sponsor for a SN child named Deyling, which increased my desire even more. Finally this year God paved the way and I joined Christie on her fourth trip.
This week has been amazing! I loved working with the children and meeting all the teachers. Thursday was a very special day as I finally was able to meet Deyling and her mother. I was humbled by their impoverished home but uplifted by their loving and positive spirit and strong faith in God. We also had an amazing and talented team this week and I learned so much from all of them! I sat in awe as I watched the therapists collaborate and work miracles with the limited supplies they had available. Kristen made splints using materials found at the school and an electric skillet. Erin and Nikki fitted three children with Kid Karts that came down in pieces, so their families didn’t have to carry them back and forth to school. I watched Christie develop teaching aids on the spot to augment teaching. I saw God’s love through Bonnie’s support of her numerous sponsor children. I’m so impressed by the NRN Special Needs program and the spirit of the SN teachers and their untiring devotion to these special children. Today we treated the teachers to a field trip to Laguna Apoyo, a crater lake and had a fun time kayaking, swimming, getting poured on and giving gifts of appreciation to the teachers. The teachers said that this was best location yet! We finished the evening with singing, skits and awards and final prep for the return trip on Sunday.
The sponsor kids enjoying their McDonalds meals
Today was truly a blessing to be here in Nicaragua. We got to be the hands and feet of Jesus serving others, but we were served by the Nicaraguans as well. We had a busy day today. We did food distribution to the students at Rey Salomon and lunch with our sponsor children.
Today, the sponsors got the opportunity to take their sponsor children out to lunch. For some of the children it was their first time to go to McDonalds and really be out in public. They were so excited and the smiles on their faces showed it all. It was so fun to spend time with them and see them so happy to be spending time with us. The students got to play in the large play place after our lunch. They ran around wild and enjoyed every minute they were there. What a blessing to get the opportunity to spend time with them.
We also got to spend time doing food distribution to five families at Rey Salomon. We took a bag full of food and toiletries to each of the families. After giving them the food, we said a prayer for each family’s specific needs. It was such a great experience seeing where the children live and getting to know their families a little more. One particular child’s (Luis) mother was struggling with paralysis on the left side of her face. The day before, he came to school and asked for us to go to his house to pray with his mother. We prayed with him at that moment in school, but we got the opportunity to go to his house the next day for prayer and food distribution.
Over the past few days it has been very busy for the 3 therapists (Arin OT, Kristen OT, and Nikki PT). We were fortunate to receive 3 wheelchairs from a vendor in Indy to bring with us and fit kids that needed them the most. After talking with Dr. Karla, we decided the wheelchairs were going to Edwin (age 5), Wanda (age 6), and Patrick (age 6). These 3 kids have very significant needs and have had to be carried everywhere by family because they have never had a wheel chair or stroller. As 5 and 6 year olds, they were not little anymore!! The 3 wheelchairs were all different in size, levels of support, and function. Initially we were worried that the wheelchairs would not fit the needs of the kids. But we should know not to worry, because every piece of equipment that we bring down has fit a child perfectly. God knew which kid needed a chair and all 3 chairs fit perfectly, with a little inginuity: a head rest, foot rest, and laterals using duct tape, towels, and velcro! All three families were present during the fitting and left with smiles knowing they no longer had to carry their child. Here are a few pictures of the wheelchair fitting.
The other focus on the therapy side has been splinting. Many kids had significant positioning needs for their hands, wrists, and elbows. The need for splinting has been voiced for years but we have not recently had a therapist trained/comfortable in splinting. Fortunately Kristen is a hand therapist and loves splinting. Again, another reminder that God knows what he’s doing!! We were able to work with Jacqueline, the therapist at the schools, and train her on how to make resting hand splints. Although she has never had training, during her second attempt (1st attempt on an actual child), her splint looked great and she felt confident to continue to make the splints herself. It has been amazing to watch Jacqueline go from a quiet therapy student to an outgoing and confident, colleague. The relationship between us has grown beyond just therapy. We all greatly enjoyed an afternoon of fellowship and “girl talk” as great friends that get together once or twice a year. God is so cool!!
Our day started with a 6:45 a.m. breakfast and a 8 a.m. departure to the Los Brasiles community, located about 20 minutes from Managua. We went to help out at the Christian school there, called Joshua 1:8, in their special needs classroom. There are 8 Deaf students in the special needs classroom, of which 5 have been able to recieve earring aids! We got to share the excitment with them, as they had just recieved them on Monday. The joy on their faces being able to hear their own voices was a blessing. The hearing aids are attached to a battery pack with a microphone located on it. Currently many students are learning to sound out letters and form words. Here is a picture of Heydi learning to sound out the letter m with vowels. The Deaf teacher, Yadir, has been very encouraging to all of the students as he is coming to communicate with them verbally.
I have just finished my first year of college majoring in speech pathology. For my courses I decided to take American Sign Language through out the year, as just a side piece for my major. Little did I know that God would use me to communicate with those Deaf students. As Nicaragua does have their own sign language many signs are similar. In coming to Nicaragua with little known spanish, I end up finding a common language I could share while here. In this picture I got to lead a craft with some of the Deaf students and truly enjoyed my time spent with each of them.
Our team also got to do food distribution in Los Brasiles today. We served 4 families, bringing them food and tolietries, and getting to pray over their families. Being apart of the blessings that God has provided for these families has been an amazing expereince but also eye opening to their living environment. Many lived in a one room home made of wood or tin, with a dirt floor, very few beds, and kitchens outside. And yet they were all very welcoming and willing to share their homes with our team. Each family reminded our team that in every situation we should always have joy.
Monday landed our team at Rey Salomon and their Agape program for students with special needs. Some of us spent time in the vocational area. Here students with disabilities learn functional academics, work skills and life skills through cooking and a class business with the goal that they will be prepared for life after high school in Managua. We had the pleasure of learning how to make churros – a fried pastry coated in sugar. The vocational students, ages 15-20, prepared the kitchen while wearing white aprons and chef hats over their school uniforms. Their teacher, Elizabeth, guided them as needed through the process of making the dough, forming it, frying it, rolling it in sugar, and graciously sharing their treats with us. Que sabroso! (How tasty!)
In our preparation for this trip we studied the John 6 passage on the five loaves and two fish multiplied for many by Jesus power and his blessing on what was offered up to meet the needs of the people. In many ways our work with the Agape program is piece-meal loaves and fish as teams go two or three times per year. Little by little we see the handi-work of God as he enables the students with special needs and their teachers to do more than they thought was possible. Several teachers commented on how recently the students in the vocational program are more willing to try things on their own, they are more determined and have been expressing dreams for their futures. This growth comes from their introduction of a class business and selling their churritos and other pastries they make at school. In addition, they have sold greeting cards and crafts at a local fair where they are seen as being productive, valued members of society – something that is sorely lacking there. Their presence in the community is being noticed and people are impressed, especially when they take trips to the local supermarket to buy ingredients. We were more than thrilled to see the progress that is already happening with the minimal support we can offer them. In this developing country, the Agape program is really the only one of its kind. God is using them to break ground in new ways, allowing his love to flow through these students with special needs into a society that needs His redeeming love. It also gives these students hope for their future where there aren’t government stipends to purchase work and living supports after high school. There are not even laws ensuring students with disabilities will even get an education. Truly we were encouraged by hearing of their progress. We will continue to meet with several of the Agape staff to share information they want to hear about. Walking in step with them, we have faith that God will continue to provide all of their needs into uncharted territory.
Arriving at Rey Salomon
Students at Rey Salomon begin their day by singing the National Anthem of Nicaragua. The school serves both regular and special education students.
Playing a game with the Agape students
Working with teachers and students in the Agape classroom for kids with special needs.
Roberto presses dough into the cookie press to make churritos as a part of the vocational program.
Final step: Ciela sprinkles sugar on the churritos.
Our team met up early this morning for check in at 4:30 am. With every piece of luggage packed and ready, we were hit with a change of plans. At our packing party we perfectly packed 4 totes that consisted of all supplies and extras needed to take with us on this trip. First item in line to be checked in was tote #1, which we were then told none could be taken in the totes. AHH! There was no extra room in any bag. But God had everything worked out and ready, we were offered 4 brand new duffle bags for just a little extra cost. As in line we all transferred every tote to a duffle. Phew! We got everything checked in and sent on our way.
With the sudden change of plans, God was still good and has the power to handle our troubles. Being reminded to be still and keep our eyes on God through this week. Our focus on Him will keep us from worrying with our troubles ahead.