Why I Volunteer: Erin’s Nicaragua Trip Reflection

Written by Erin O’Neill, Feed the Children Volunteer      

My week spent in Nicaragua felt surreal, like when you are having a dream you never want to wake up from. We spent most days in El Crucero. My group worked on a variety of projects that included building a fence, teaching the parents the Heimlich maneuver, baking, gardening, farming, and so much more. However, the most important thing we accomplished was connecting with the people in the communities. They had so much knowledge to offer us, and getting to share stories about our different cultures was a unique experience that I’ll never forget.

At the beginning of the week, my group was given a challenge: build relationships with the people in the community. This task intimidated me much more than I would like to admit. I knew we would have a translator with us, but there were 14 of us in the group and I had never taken a Spanish class in my life. Half of the time, I forgot there was a language barrier. They knew our Spanish was not the best, and we knew their English would not be the easiest to understand. However, they did not let that stop them from engaging with us, which brought me comfort.

I’ve spent the last several weeks trying to accurately put into words how truly amazing the week I spent in Nicaragua was. I’m still searching for those words. In those seven days, I felt something I have never felt before. Every single member of the community in El Crucero community opened their hearts, minds, and homes to us. They were incredibly accepting, and they constantly reminded us how grateful they were for our work. They did not let their lack of material items hinder them from dreaming big, which was especially true for my sponsored child.

Initially, I was incredibly nervous about meeting my sponsored child.   Little did I know, meeting him was going to be the best experience of my life. When I got to his house, I was taken aback. It was small and made of wooden boards. The only thing that hung on the walls were pictures of his family. The only light that was present came from the sun. Despite the surrounding environment and my original fears, this child was the perfect match for me.

When we went inside to have a conversation, I asked him about school. He made a face that told me something wasn’t right. His mother informed me that he had hydrocephalus and had to be taken out of school because the activity was too much for him to handle. He told me that he had surgery two months prior to help drain the excess fluid from his brain and he hopes to return to school soon. I started to tear up because I faced something similar two years ago. My heart is smaller than the average person’s and beats at a fast, irregular pace. I told him how I had to give up many things and had surgery to help fix it. I let him know that even though it took some time, I’m back on my feet doing the things I love again. After hearing that, he smiled super wide. He said that when he grows up, he wants to be a doctor so he can help others, the same way people helped him. I still cry every time I think about that conversation. It amazed me how selfless he is. A young boy, living in poverty, wants to be one of the most respected and regarded professions in the world, and I know he will not let anything get in his way of achieving that goal.

Since I’ve returned, everyone asks me the same question, “What was your favorite part of the trip?” It’s not about the best moment, it is a collection of the relationships I built with the community. There is not a singular memory that stands out, but a continual lesson that I learned: trust. Each person trusted us with their equipment, children, land, animals, crops, etc. They trusted us with their personal experiences, hopes, and opinions. Most importantly, they trusted as strangers. We came onto their territory knowing minimal details about their culture and work, but they welcomed us with open arms. They taught me a lesson in trusting and accepting others without judgement, and that is something I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

News Roundup, August 22, 2016

When the Waters Rise… Feed the Children is There

Reach Out America, The Salvation Army, Operation Compassion, Convoy of Hope, Office Depot Foundation and Feed the Children have joined together to provide disaster relief to Louisiana families affected by the recent flooding.

So far, Feed the Children has provided nearly 270,000 pounds of supplies, valued at more than $400,000. The much-needed items are currently being delivered to Louisiana families via partner organizations. Historic flooding began plaguing Louisiana earlier this month. Some 13 fatalities have been reported, with tens of thousands of people requiring rescue due to flooding conditions statewide.

Supplies include disaster-relief boxes, which contain personal-care items, cleaning supplies, and Energizer portable lights, flashlights and batteries, as well as food boxes and water coolers. Niagara water provided by Feed the Children will be transported into affected areas via The Salvation Army.

“Because of the generosity of Reach Out America, The Salvation Army, Operation Compassion, Convoy of Hope and Office Depot Foundation, Feed the Children is able to aid families who need us most,” said J.C. Watts, Jr., Feed the Children president and CEO. “Together we can provide assistance to the resilient residents of Louisiana.”

And we’re in it for the long haul: Feed the Children will continue working with existing partners in Louisiana and the surrounding areas to plan for continued relief and recovery efforts.

To make a gift to help those affected by disasters like the Louisiana-area floods, visit www.feedthechildren.org/disaster.

Photo: Patrick Dennis/AP

Whataburger Helps Feed Bodies, Minds and Futures

Whataburger has donated $15,000 to our Oklahoma City Teacher Store during our Season Opener of the store earlier this month. Thousands of teachers from pre-approved Title I schools were welcomed at the Teacher Store over a three-day period to shop for school supplies at no cost.

The annual event drew teachers from across Oklahoma, allowing them to fill one bag of supplies and collect an assortment of books for the new school year. Supplies included classroom essentials such as notebooks, paper and instructional materials.

“Whataburger is proud to commit $15,000 to Feed the Children for the Teacher Store,” said Whataburger Director of Operations Mark Wallace. “Our teachers are facing significant budget cuts, so it’s our hope that this money will help provide them with the supplies they need for their classrooms.”

Representatives and employees from several organizations volunteered during the event, including State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister; Oklahoma Principal of Excellence Price Brown; Feed the Children President and CEO J.C. Watts, Jr.; and Whataburger Director of Operations Mark Wallace and Marketing Coordinator Laura Danser.

Feed the Children opened the Teacher Store in 2009 to reach as many Pre-K through 12th-grade students as possible by providing resources and supplies to teachers in Oklahoma. Teachers from Title I schools are eligible to shop in the store once a month for free.

Feed the Children Supports Maternal Health in Kenya

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Feed the Children employees in Samburu County, Kenya, joined Community Health Volunteers (CHVs) to construct a traditional community maternal health shelter known as “Manyatta” (house made of sticks and grass), to be used by pregnant women during child delivery.

The structure was built following recommendations by the CHVs and community nurses. They reported that due to cultural perceptions, pregnant mothers are opting to deliver their babies at home because they believe the local clinic is unfit for their new born babies. Mothers in Samburu believe that a Manyatta is warmer and more conducive for delivery than health facilities. Some mothers also trust Traditional Birth Attendants (TBA) to assist them in the delivery process more than nurses.

Once the Manyatta facility is completed, TBA’s will be trained by nurses on sanitary, modern delivery procedures that ensure a safer delivery process for both baby and mother. This will help in increasing the deliveries assisted by a skilled practitioner and will reduce maternal deaths.

Feed the Children’s work in Samburu revolves around working in partnership with P&G, local communities, ministry of health and other partners to transform lives by improving food and nutrition security of mothers and their children. This project is aimed toward reducing maternal and child illnesses and deaths, improving access to and use of sanitation infrastructures using community-led total sanitation, reducing diarrheal cases, adopting water purification processes using P&G water purifiers.

Volunteer Spotlight: Kaiser Permanente Makes a Difference

Name: Kaiser Permanente – Print Services Team
From: Corona, CA
Volunteer Location: Ontario, CA
Volunteer Activities: Box Brigade, Sort and Prep
Volunteer Since: May 2014

Why do you volunteer with Feed the Children?
To be able to give back to the community and assist families in need.

What is your favorite part of volunteering with us?
Knowing we are making a difference in people’s lives.

How did you learn about volunteering at Feed the Children?
We researched organizations that assist children in need and came across Feed the Children. We believe in the good this organization is doing for the community and the families they help.

How has volunteering made an impact on your life?
The majority of the team are parents, and understand the need to assist children within our community. Knowing we have been blessed to have the ability and opportunity to assist others during their time of need has become a mission of our team, as well as of our business organization.

Tell us an interesting fact about yourself.
Print Services is made up of caring and thoughtful individuals who enjoy joining forces to make an impact on the lives of others. Along with volunteering their time to assist Feed the Children as a team, many volunteer individually to support other great causes to improve our community by giving back.