Mission of mercy - Mustang woman’s work brings blessings to lives

By Carolyn Cole
Published on August 28, 2008

A Nicaraguan man told Mustang’s Haley Grant he would never forget seeing the women of his village dressed in black and crying.

As a toddler he witnessed shootings and bombings, his uncles leaving for war and the women around him crying, sick with grief.

“Most of the men in his family went to war and never came back,” Grant said.

Each villager the 23-year-old college nursing student treated during a medical mission this summer told her a story of how their families struggled to survive and rebuild their country after years of war. The new friend she described she met in a nearby market. Even though he is one year younger than Grant, she said their lives couldn’t be more different.

“I feel so blessed to be born in the time and place that I was,” she said.

Grant has volunteered near Jinotega, Nicaragua on three earlier trips, but this summer is the first she’s made on her own, without the safety of her college group from Harding University in Searcy, Ark. While she said she missed the shared experience with her classmates, being on her own allowed the fluent Spanish speaker more freedom to meet Nicaraguans and talk to them about their lives than she found on other trips.

Near the start of her July trip, Grant found herself onstage at a youth rally belting out hymns with 3,000 teenagers. The majority of Nicaragua’s population is young, with a median age of 21.7 years old. As they sang in Spanish, Grant said their voices drowned out her own, and she realized she was looking into the eyes of the nation’s future.

“Their hearts are definitely in it,” she said. “That was eye opening, that different worship experiences are all the same to God.”

During her trip, Grant traveled with a medical mission team to remote villages, riding in a beat-up, four-wheel drive truck as close to town as they could and wading the rest of the way in often ankle-deep mud.

Many of the diseases and injuries the team treated would be easily prevented or are rare in the United States, Grant said.

“You see a lot of kids with deformities that wouldn’t happen here because they would get care really early on,” she said. “They learned to live with it.”

Almost half of Nicaragua’s people live below the poverty line, and Grant said many of the homes she saw were made from plastic sheeting and sticks — whatever residents could find. The structures don’t provide much protection from storms in an area prone to volcanic explosions and hurricanes.
The most recent was Hurricane Felix, which struck Nicaragua with category 5 strength last September.

Hurricanes cause mudslides, which Grant said uncover and move landmines left from the Sandinista-Contra war, causing new injuries and death.

Most of the people she saw were suffering from bacterial diarrhea, hepatitis A and typhoid fever related to unclean water and the runoff of human and animal waste into rivers. Intestinal worms are also common.

Many scrapes and cuts often become infected, she said, because people are unable to adequately clean their wounds.

“They have to go through a lot to go get water and boil it for a long time,” Grant said, adding medical workers give patients soap and bottles of water just for cleaning the wound, along with antibiotics and bandages.

Nicaraguans also seem to face a large number of respiratory illnesses, which Grant said she believes might be connected to their wood-burning stoves, which fill their homes with smoke. The stove is a central part of Nicaraguan life for preparing food and heating their homes.

“Every time I smell wood burning, my thoughts go back immediately to Nicaragua,” she said.
Family is also central to Nicaraguan life, but Grant said many people she met have relatives scattered across the western hemisphere, trying to earn money because they couldn’t find steady work at home.

In her friend’s family, his father, mother and brother have all left his home for other countries to work. Meanwhile, he stayed in Nicaragua working when he could and holding their family bonds together through brief phone conversations or e-mail at Internet cafes.

“I don’t know how he does it,” Grant said. “He always has a smile on his face. If my whole family was gone, I would be very lonely.”

Wherever Grant visited in Nicaragua, she said she saw the same spirit. As she traveled into the mountains or across rivers into the valley, the villagers always welcomed the medical team with smiles.

“They are very kind people,” she said. “They are very appreciative of you and want to invite you into their home and offer you whatever they have even though they don’t have much.”


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