West Georgia Voices
Nicaragua Medical Mission 2011
The Central American country of Nicaragua is a land of extremes.
I was made aware of this recently while accompanying a medical and dental team to several remote areas there.
Steven Broome, photographer and assistant director of the Office of Communications and Marketing, traveled recently to Nicaragua with a dental and medical team. While in the small town of Motuce, he loaded a small truck loaded with goat feed and hay for a large family. Nicaragua is a land of "extreme wealth and abject poverty; wonderful joy and great heartache," Broome writes. This photograph of him was taken by Becky Wallace Tomlin.
It was there I found hot days and cool nights; extreme wealth and abject poverty; wonderful joy and great heartache. This was my third trip there since 2006. I figured by now I would know what to expect, or at least find it familiar enough not to be overwhelmed by the disparities.
But I wasn’t.
Nicaragua is a land of great need. In the roughly two decades since the end of their civil war, a lot has been done to rebuild the country. And great strides have been made to create a better life for its citizens. But those improvements still have a long way to go.
In the rural mountains of the north, one could easily mistake the current state of living for what would have been 120 years ago in the United States.
People still travel by horseback. They do their laundry in the nearest river. They do their best to live off of the land. And medical needs pretty much go unmet.
Only a few miles from the Honduran border, the small community of Motuce is a prime example.
Our team of doctors and dentists was headquartered in the rather modern town of Somoto. On the first day, they climbed onto an old schoolbus and struck out, down a winding, weathered dirt road toward Motuce.
I stayed behind to help run a few errands. One was to buy goat feed and hay to take to a family in Motuce. The family of 14 depended on the animal for milk. It gave them the necessary nutrition, especially for one little boy who was anemic.
We bought the goat feed. But had other supplies we needed to transport, so we put off buying the hay until the next day.
After a beautiful, but rough, hour-long drive we arrived in Motuce around noon to bring lunch to the team.
We inquired as to the whereabouts of the home of the family with the goat. We were met with the sad news that the goat had died. But then we received the heart-breaking news that the little boy with anemia had also passed away.
He had died three days before our team’s arrival. It was a sobering moment to realize that life sometimes hangs only by a thread.
The next morning back in Somoto I learned that our friends in Nicaragua would make sure that the family would get a new goat. We bought eight bales, as much hay as could possibly fit in the back of that little truck.
We also stopped by the market to pick up a few bags of rice, beans and other non-perishables to take them. It was the least we could do.
The medical team had traveled to another community on this day. I returned to Motuce with two Nicaraguans and myself in our small truck, loaded with all the hay and food it could hold.
A few members of the family came out to meet us when we arrived and offered to help unload. The hay bales were big and heavy, so we appreciated the help.
We handed off most of the bales when I noticed one of the young girls standing at the gate of the truck. She was probably six or seven years old. She stretched out her arms and motioned me to hand her the last bale.
My first thought was, “No way. The bale’s too heavy.”
But this little girl gave me a look that said, “I’m strong enough to take it. Just watch.”
I grudgingly helped lift the bale on to her shoulders. Before I could make sure she could actually handle the load, she was off down the trail to her family’s tiny home, carrying that burden as if she’d done it a thousand times.
She disappeared around the corner of that place which now houses one less child than it did a few days ago.
“What a strong little girl,” I thought.
What a strong little girl.
- Steven Broome, photographer and assistant director, Office of Communications & Marketing
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