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Thankful Thursday: Children of Nicaragua

July 14, 2011

Thankful Thursday feels especially appropriate this week after spending time volunteering in Nicaragua and getting to know that country’s incredible, beautiful, loving people. Despite having meager means, they made sure to show us how thankful they were every day with gifts, meals and cultural presentations. Yet it was us Americans who truly left feeling thankful to have met these amazing people and spent time in their company.

The children of Ciudad Sandino brought joy to the work site every single day. Whether playing soccer in the field or painting walls alongside adults, these kids rarely stopped smiling.

Nicaraguan kids — some of which come and went through the school day, others of which weren’t enrolled in school and spent long, full days with us — work hard and play hard. Sports went beyond soccer to basketball on a faded court and baseball in the street.

And bubbles? I’ve never seen kids have so much fun with such a simple toy.

My host family exemplified this enthusiasm for life. My limited Spanish-language skills weren’t up to par for adult conversations, but they were perfect for a tea party with a five-year-old.

My host sister, Betsy, didn’t care that I could speak only in nouns. It didn’t matter that I couldn’t conjugate verbs or expand my vocabulary beyond a typical Mexican menu — skills that come in handy for a living room picnic, by the way! She was just happy to have someone hold her babies and play house.

I couldn’t have asked for a better host family than mine. When I apologized to the host mother at the end of our stay, saying that I wished I spoke better Spanish, she just smiled and shook her head: ‘It doesn’t matter.’

The story that left permanent imprints on my heart, however, and the one that stays with me the most on Thankful Thursday, is that of Ramon.

Ramon looks five or six years old but is actually 10. He showed up at the work site every single day, getting there before us volunteers and leaving once we were. He wore the same faded, dirty outfit every day and worked at twice the speed of us white collar gringos. At the end of one long, hot, sticky work day, after many of the volunteers had headed home and us Americans waited for our ride home, we spotted one long figure in the field.


Out there by himself, cutting grass powerfully with a machete, Ramon didn’t care that his friends were playing. He just wanted to get the work done. Earlier, he had shown me and fellow volunteers the best method to cut grass this way — use a stick to hold the grass taut while chopping — and despite the backbreaking nature of this work, he labored on for hours without stopping.

The next morning, we arrived at the work site to an incredible story: Ramon, who lives on the street and eats scavenged food, had spent the night at the renovated school to “guard” the precious school supplies. Despite the entire community knowing that these supplies were there, despite night being the most dangerous time to be alone, Ramon said that he wasn’t scared of anything and wanted to protect the school.

If that doesn’t break your heart and make you thankful for all you have, I don’t know what will.

The story gets better. Someone from the Ministry of Families heard Ramon’s story and came to the work site to announce that they would be keeping an eye on Ramon, enrolling him in school and getting him a school uniform.

In the moment, I think he was more excited about a new soccer jersey and Washington Nationals hat, but you could see the pride radiating off of him as various people told their Ramon stories.

If going to Nicaragua and helping bring attention to this one little boy improved his life, even a little bit, I’m so happy and thankful that I went.

Nicaragua is a study in contrasts. Beautiful people proud to present their culture

are seen alongside the worst of poverty and need.

This post hasn’t even touched on the extraordinary adults I met — women who completed teacher training courses and, for the first time in their lives were recognized as making a contribution to the community — because it’s the hope and thankfulness of the children that I brought home with me. And if going back sooner rather than later means I can do anything more to help just one person, I’m there.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. July 14, 2011 8:53 am


  2. July 14, 2011 10:41 am

    Erin, your pictures of Ramon are breathtaking. I am so happy to know you and the amazing work you do!

  3. July 14, 2011 8:43 pm

    You are an inspiration, they are an inspiration, and this post is an inspiration.

    Just … very special.

  4. July 14, 2011 11:30 pm

    This is amazing! Thank you for sharing 🙂


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