While life-saving medical and dental care is the foundation for Project El Crucero’s work, the time I spent in Nicaragua as part of Project El Crucero was also spent on projects intended to bring joy to the village children. I felt lucky to visit Nicaragua with a few colleagues, as a few of us signed up to experience Project El Crucero on behalf of our company, R&R Partners. R&R Partners is a full-service, independent, international agency dedicated to helping clients thrive in complex, fast-moving business climates. Eight of my colleagues, all stemming from all parts of the United States, joined me on this mission trip.
Throughout out weeklong stay, there was always some part of the day set aside to spend time with village youth. We conducted arts and crafts, played soccer and swung kids on the swing set we built while giving away sandals, shoes, sunglasses, toothbrushes, and soccer equipment. Each morning, the village children were quick to spot our arrival when our vans with U.S. bumper stickers pulled up to the Susie Syke Clinic. From the smiles on the children’s faces when they run to greet us, it was hard for me to remember that daily struggles for these youth include fighting hunger, malnutrition and poverty. Looking beyond their sun-and dust-kissed faces, I saw kids decked out in American hand-me-downs and children wearing shoes twice their size based on scarcity. Seven-year-olds walk around with their younger siblings on their hips as if they were adults, showcasing the grown-up responsibilities many village youth take on before becoming adolescents.
Project El Crucero truly proved to be a life-changing experience for me. Upon returning back to Denver, I experienced a reverse sort of culture shock, so to speak. I felt guilty about taking a long shower with warm water, purchasing packaged food from Whole Foods, and the realization that not once did I ever have to fight for the right and privilege to finish high school let alone college. The perspective that I gained on life due to my time volunteering for Project El Crucero is priceless.