Schroon Lake residents, from left, Clare Whitney, Mitchell Beers and Nicole Beers took part in a Mission of Hope to Chiquilistagua, Nicaragua, this summer.
While many students spent the summer working on their tans, a trio of Schroon Lake residents trekked to Central America to help those less fortunate.
Clare Whitney, Nicole Beers and Mitchell Beers were part of a Mission of Hope trip to Chiquilistagua, Nicaragua. It was second Mission of Hope trip for Whitney.
“The day I returned from the trip in February, I knew that I had to return,” Whitney said. “My heart really never came back from Nicaragua, which is why I know I will never stop going, for as long as I can. The work that I can do for MOH and the people of Nicaragua will never end, and neither will my desire to do it.”
Whitney and Mitchell Beers are Schroon Lake Central School students. Nicole Beers is a Schroon Lake graduate now attending St. Lawrence University.
Whitney was so enthusiastic about her February trip, she convinced Nicole and Mitchell Beers to join her for the seven-day July adventure.
“When Clare got back from her trip in February and told me how amazing it was, and how much need there is in Nicaragua, I knew I had to take part, help and learn,” Mitchell Beers said.
The trip was made possible for Nicole Beers thanks to an award from St. Lawrence University.
“I had hoped to go on a Mission of Hope trip since I was in high school after hearing the stories of so many others that had gone,” she said. “This summer I was finally fortunate to have the time and receive partial funding from my college through an internship fellowship award to go.”
The students stayed at the North Country Mission of Hope’s compound, “Nicasa.” While there they worked to improve the lives of local residents.
“We worked with Nicaraguan families to build home shelters for them to live in,” Mitchell Beers said. “We distributed rice and beans to impoverish families in rural areas. We painted buildings such as hospitals and schools, trying to cover up the dismal chipping paint and create a happier and healthier environment. We threw a birthday party for children who were orphaned because they were born with HIV, and celebrated with most of them their first birthday party ever.
“ At the party there was a piñata, cookies, gifts for each child and a pencil case with school supplies in it,” he said. “The birthday party allowed many of these children to experience what it is like to have fun, be happy and know that someone cares. We visited Pajarito Azul (The Blue Parrot) a center for children and adults with disabilities, and spent time fostering friendships with those who lived there.”
Whitney said the trip was success.
“I feel that it was a huge success,” she said. “The February trip I went on consisted of 45 travelers and this past trip was only half of that. However, we accomplished more than what was expected. It went very well.”
Mitchell Beers agreed.
“I feel the trip I went on and all the other trips that the NC Mission of Hope does are great successes,” he said. “We helped so many people and learned so much. The help, however, is mutual. I went expecting to give and ended up receiving so much. The people who live in Nicaragua shared with me compassion, happiness and joy and in the end helped me just as much as I helped them.
“On our trip we also continued the chain of mission trips that is of such a large importance in creating a lasting connection with the people that live there,” he added. “Most of all though, we grew hope in the hearts of so many grateful Nicaraguans, and that’s what’s imperative for the improvement of their lives, and the reason why we must continue to help.”
The Nicaraguan trip gave Whitney an opportunity to re-connect with friends from her February visit.
“The highlight of the trip for me was seeing the people who I had created such a bond with in ‘Nica’ again,” she said. “There are so many people there that I consider my family.”
The trip was life-changing, Mitchell Beers said.
“The highlight of the trip for me was when I realized that I’m not helping because it’s the right thing to do, but rather I was helping because there wasn’t any other choice in my heart,” he said. “Everyday there is ‘playground,’ a time when the local children living near Nicasa get to come inside the walls and interact with us. The time spent when I played with these loving and kind children, was the most important. They became a part of my family, and helped me strive to want to make the world they live in a better place.”
Mitchell Beers said the experience is unforgettable.
“The trip left so many lasting impressions on me,” he said. “The main thing I think I learned though was kindness. The people in Nicaragua live in such poor, poverty-stricken areas. Their everyday lives consist of trying to support the next meal for their families. Yet, even in the midst of such despair, they find some way to be kind to one another, and have such a great sense of community. I am definitely more grateful for what I have and I know now that there is always a way to find happiness, and always the opportunity to be kind.”
That kind of thinking impressed his sister.
“It’s great to see the compassionate people that Mitchell and Clare have become,” Nicole Beers noted.
Nicole Beers was also stuck by the plight of HIV-infected children, who are often abandoned by their families because of social stigma.
“I was angered and saddened,” she said. “These children had contracted HIV through no fault of their own.”
The St. Lawrence student, who hopes to attend medical school, recalled meeting a 7-year-old girl who could not walk at the birthday party organized by volunteers.
“I got a painstaking glimpse of what it was like for this young girl to be an outcast from society,” Nicole Beers said. “I scooped her up in my arms and bore the weight of her frail body so she could celebrate her first birthday, although she was already 7 years old. Holding her I saw the signs of the disease progressing and I realized that this child might not have the chance to celebrate many more birthdays. And then she looked at me and smiled for the first time since I had seen her. Although I couldn’t cure her HIV, reclaim her childhood or take away her pain, for those few minutes I could show her that we cared. I could make her smile. In that moment I knew that I was living my purpose and changing my world.”
All the Schroon residents hope to return to Nicaragua.
“I will definitely go back to Nicaragua,” Mitchell Beers said. “I know that my journey in helping others isn’t over and I am sure that there are always needs for so many, and always a way to fulfill them.”
A spiritually-based humanitarian organization, the North Country Mission of Hope is committed to fostering hope and empowering relationships with the people of Nicaragua through sustainable programs in education, health care, community and ecological development. It began in 1998 by responding to the devastating effects of Hurricane Mitch on the impoverished villages of Nicaragua.