For the seventh year in a row, URI’s Newman Club will be sponsoring a mission trip to Nicaragua to aid abandoned and disabled children.
From January 2-8, Fr. Matthew Glover, director of URI’s Catholic Center, will accompany around 25 students to a pair of orphanages run by Mustard Seed Communities. The organization runs Hogar Belen Managua and Diriamba, two homes for children with mental and physical disabilities, many of whom have been abandoned. The Managua location provides care for children ages 6 months to 16 years old. The Diriamba location, located on a much larger plot of land an hour from the capital, provides for both children and adults with disabilities.
The visiting students will be constructing a resource center for the home and surrounding community. The complex will include a school for local children and medical rooms for the residents. On past trips, students built a water cistern for use during the dry season, aided in constructing a new wing for the Diriamba location and demolished two wings that were no longer suitable for the kids.
Glover, who began planning mission trips nine years ago while at St. Luke’s in Barrington, said the goal is for the missionaries to receive a spiritual experience.
“The materially poor in Nicaragua are really spiritually rich, so we receive a lot more than we give in that sense,” he said. “We go on the trip, thinking we’re only going to bring medicine and supplies and build something. But what we find is we receive love from the kids and then we try to base our lives on that when we come back to the states.”
Kelsey Sheehan, a pharmacy student and the Spiritual Chair of the Newman Club, took part in the mission trips this past January and in 2013. “That trip was the most influential week of my life,” she said of her first trip. “You get there and see these kids who are disabled, who have been abandoned by their families, and who have every reason to have hate in their hearts, yet I felt more love from them than I’ve ever felt.”
Applications for the trip are being accepted until Monday, September 22 and participants will be chosen within two weeks. There will be weekly meetings until winter break, during which missionaries will get to know each other and plan fundraisers.
Inspired by pharmacy students who visited Nicaragua, the pharmacy department is funding its own student trip to Mustard Seed’s homes in Jamaica for the second year in a row. There, the pharmacy students will teach caregivers how to manage children afflicted with HIV.
“It’s going to be a completely different experience, but I’m looking forward to witnessing the beauty of a new culture and using my skills as a pharmacy major to give back on a global basis,” Sheehan said.
Glover is proud of how his and the students’ efforts have inspired others in Rhode Island. “When I started nine years ago, we were the first group from Rhode Island,” he said. “Today, we have about 15 or 16 groups in Rhode Island that go on an annual basis.”
“The pharmacy program is another one of those groups that has grown from something really small, one trip, because the work is something really beautiful,” she added, “People come back with a new perspective on life.”