For the second consecutive year, the people of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament (OLBS) parish, Bayside, became missioners to developmentally disabled children in Nicaragua.
Eleven missioners from OLBS departed from LaGuardia Airport for Hogar Belén, Nicaragua, to help the children of the Mustard Seed Community (MSC) orphanages in Diriamba and Managua.
The team had engaged in months of fundraising and collecting needed resources. Families, friends and parishioners were overwhelmingly generous donating 22 pieces of luggage, each weighing 50 pounds. They contained medical and dental supplies, diapers and arts and crafts supplies.
On Sunday, the first full day on the ground, the team accompanied the children and staff to Iglesia San José for the Feast of the Dedication of St. John Lateran. As the tower bells invited the community to prayer, they were warmly welcomed by the parishioners of St. Joseph. The liturgy unfolded into an amazing tapestry of incense, folk music and fellowship.
Monday was the first day of work. The team cleaned and painted the façade of the facility in Diriamba and applied three coats of paint to the children’s bed frames.
One of the missioners humorously commented, “They said ‘light manual labor,’” as the team spent two days supporting each other in the physical tasks that were required. However, it would not be all “hard labor.”
Tending to the Little Ones
On Wednesday, the team visited the younger children at the facility in Managua. They spent the day soothing and tending to the needs of the little ones.
The team was also in constant contact with the older children and young adults in Diriamba. The children’s need for attention was only exceeded by the radiance of their smiles. They delighted in leading their guests around their campus, showing off their living quarters and serving at daily Mass, which was celebrated by team member, Father Larry Ryan.
On Thursday, the team toured the country, meeting people and savoring the beautiful vistas of Nicaragua.
On Friday, the team visited Christ in the Garbage Ministries (CIGM), an educational outreach program that provides instruction in sewing, baking and language skills to those who formerly lived on the city dump in Managua. At the Sewing Center, the team had the opportunity to purchase products created by program participants to take home to their friends and supporters in the U.S. The day concluded with a pizza party for the children and the staff, accompanied by music, dancing and fireworks.
Each day, the team had time for prayer and reflection, games and relaxation and shared time for meals. The center of each meal was rice and beans, complemented by fresh vegetables and poultry from the farm at Diriamba.
On Saturday, missioners returned home to share their memories of the week with families, friends and benefactors.
A small part of the world is a better place because of the commitment of the missioners and the support of their benefactors.
Hogar Belén Managua began operations in the year 2000. As the first location of MSC Nicaragua, Hogar Belén Managua provides housing and care for more than 30 children. These children have disabilities which include Down syndrome, microcephaly, cerebral palsy, hydrocephaly, autism and infantile cerebral paralysis. The facility in Managua has an occupational therapist on staff, and the children receive a number of services such as hydrotherapy, interaction therapy and typical school classes depending on their needs and abilities.
In 2006, Mustard Seed Communities Nicaragua purchased land in the town of Diriamba to open a second home for the children. An hour outside of Managua, Hogar Belén Diriamba provides two types of accommodations for the children. Those who are able to live semi-independently live in a cottage-style setting, while those who need more care and attention are in a dorm-like setting. This provides an important degree of flexibility and allows the staff to cater to the unique needs of the children.
Mustard Seed Communities also completed the construction of a recreation center in Diriamba. This building is crucial to the development of the children. Additionally, a chapel is on site to serve as a place of spiritual growth for the children and the staff.
For more information on Mustard Seed Communities’ work in Nicaragua, visit http://www.mustardseed.com and click on the link for Nicaragua.