OLMC group learns the gift of giving

Alex Cournoyer, left, and John Habershaw interact with orphans during a mission trip with a group from Our Lady of Mt. Carmel parish. The group spent one week in Nicaragua to help improve the living conditions for some of that country's poorest inhabitants. Alex Cournoyer, left, and John Habershaw interact with orphans during a mission trip with a group from Our Lady of Mt. Carmel parish. The group spent one week in Nicaragua to help improve the living conditions for some of that country's poorest inhabitants.
Marissa Simeone gives some much needed affection to an orphaned child at Mustard Seed orphanage in Nicaragua.

Marissa Simeone gives some much needed affection to an orphaned child at Mustard Seed orphanage in Nicaragua.

When John Habershaw of Bristol joined a group of volunteers from Our Lady of Mt. Carmel parish on a mission to help orphans in Nicaragua, he, along with others in the group discovered the meaning of the Bible’s lesson, “give and it will be given to you.”

After passing up the opportunity to join other groups from OLMC who made the journey the past two years, the 19-year-old set aside his personal concerns of traveling to a third-world country, instead focusing on the positive impact he could bring to others.

“I had fears and doubts about going,” he said of taking the 2,200-mile trip to the impoverished country. But after he and the group of 25 high school and college age volunteers made their first visit to the Mustard Seed orphanages — where abandoned children, many with special needs, live — his fears and doubts about going were replaced with an overwhelming sense of the power of the human spirit.

“These kids have all the reasons in the world to be sad, but they genuinely appreciate us for being there,” Mr. Habershaw said.

For Josh Cordeiro, 18, of Bristol, he already knew what to expect on his second trip to the orphanage. He experienced the same overwhelming feelings on his first trip and was thrilled for another opportunity to make the journey.

“When you go down there you find a whole different comfort level,” he said of the culture. “When you walk into the orphanage, they hug you. They’ll take your hand and walk with you. It’s great to have that.”

During the week-long trip, the missionaries spent time with the children in two Mustard Seed orphanages, one in Managua and the other an hour away by van, in Diriamba.

Accompanied by OLMC Rev. Stephen Dandeneau, the group members spent their days providing one-on-one attention to the children, giving them the affection and interaction that all children need.

When not playing soccer, having fun and simply playing with the children, the volunteers turned their efforts toward improving the environment in which the children live. Some worked alongside construction crews who were building a foundation for a chapel. Other helped build ramps to ease access into buildings.

But it’s what the children gave in return that was most memorable to the volunteers.

“They don’t have much and they’re happy. All in all, they don’t complain. We learned from each other don’t worry about the small things,” Mr. Cordeiro said. “They learned that there are a lot of people in the world that care about them.”

To make the trip, the volunteers spend the year raising funds to pay for the journey, said OLMC Rev. Henry P. Zinno, Jr.

“Once they’re there, it’s a seven day, life-changing experience,” he said. “It changes their whole perspective.”

John Habershaw couldn’t agree more.

“It was the best experience of my life,” he said. “It just opens your eyes. I left a part of me in Nicaragua.”

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