NICARAGUA: Student Annual Mission Trip Builds New Home and Provides Free Dental Care for 176 Children
(MissionNewswire) In February 2016, 23 students from Don Bosco Preparatory High School in Ramsey, New Jersey and 12 chaperons, went on the school’s annual mission trip to Masaya, the capital city of Masaya department in Nicaragua. Each year over the school’s winter break, students accompanied by teachers, parents and other chaperons head to the Mama Margarita Foundation in Masaya to help with community development and enrichment projects facilitated by the foundation.
The Mama Margarita Foundation was started by the parents of Salesian Father Manny Gallo, who once worked at Don Bosco Prep but is currently with Don Bosco Cristo Rey High School in Takoma Park, Maryland. The foundation was started to help families living in poverty in the city of Masaya. On this mission trip, Don Bosco Prep students build a home for a poor family in the community. This is the third completed house built by Don Bosco students.
“There were 23 of us who went on this trip, and we had many discussions about the value of building a house, feeding the poor, giving clothing, and keeping company with the kids,” says Jonathan Ramirez, a grade 12 student at Don Bosco Prep. “I came away realizing that we, in our everyday lives, should perform small acts of kindness. It just might change someone’s day, their week, or it might change their lives.”
The group also worked on various other projects with the Mama Margarita Foundation. Dr. Luis Rodriguez, a dentist and friend of Fr. Gallo, joined the mission trip and worked with a local dentist to examine and treat 176 children in five days. Students had brought with them donated items like clothing, toys, and dental supplies such as toothbrushes, floss, and toothpaste, for the children.
Parker Stone, a senior at Don Bosco Prep, as part of his Eagle Scout project brought with him 100 backpacks filled with school supplies for 100 children at the center. After distributing the backpacks, students went on to visit the Masaya dump-site where they distribute food to the poor who work there collecting recyclables they hope to sell to earn an income. Several students, with the leaderships of Don Bosco Prep art teacher Veronica Cutter, painted a beautiful mural on a building at the Mama Margarita Foundation.
In addition, four local students are now able to attend the Don Bosco School in Masaya thanks for funding provided by Andy Feliz memorial scholarship. Feliz was a student at Salesian High School in New Rochelle, NY, who died before he was able to travel with the group to Nicaragua.
“It was really wonderful to see so many students focused and happy to be giving to others in need,” says Father Mark Hyde, executive Director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “Salesian missionaries in Nicaragua are working with poor children and their families by providing education and social programs. The extra support provided by these mission trips helps to further support the work of missionaries on the ground in these communities.”
Nicaragua is one of the least developed and poorest countries in Latin America, second only to Haiti, with more than 42 percent of its residents living in poverty, according to the World Bank. Poverty, although declining steadily in recent years, remains high. More than 80 percent of Nicaragua’s poor live in remote rural communities where access to basic services is a daily challenge.
After decades of political instability and vulnerability to natural hazards, the country has achieved a remarkable economic turnaround and is now focusing on innovative ways of reducing poverty. However, years of widespread poverty have taken their toll and many residents suffer from poor health conditions including HIV/AIDS. In addition, crime, violence against women, gang violence and high unemployment result in challenging economic and social conditions, particularly for young people and women.