Family spends vacation helping Nicaraguan poor
December 22, 2008
By Rebecca Steele
Earlier this year, Tom and Lori Carmody left their busy, comfortable lives in Issaquah to be part of the See Greater Things Mission in Nicaragua. The trip was sponsored by the nonprofit organization Corner of Love.
The Carmodys, along with their son Matt and daughter Katie, stayed in basic concrete dorms that were surrounded by lush green mountains in San Ramon, in northern Nicaragua. They were part of a team of 35 others who hailed from all over the Puget Sound area. Every day, they would catch a rickety old school bus to rural villages, where they delivered medical supplies and gave shoes to more than 200 children.The Carmodys first became interested in helping people in Nicaragua because Matt was looking for a medical mission. But they all came home feeling amazed and touched by their experience.
“Working in a Third World country is a particularly good way to get some hands-on experience and help somebody,” Tom Carmody said.
“We looked around and discovered the Corner of Love on the Internet and we thought it looked like what we were after, especially after watching the online video,” he said.
But he said he feels he got more out of helping Nicaraguan people than he ever expected.
“We discovered that when you give, you end up getting so much more in return,” he said. “To see my kids see how other children of the world live was a wonderful experience. It was an eye opener for all of us.”
Distributing shoes was a case in point. Shoes mean even more than protecting feet for Nicaraguan children, because without shoes, they are not allowed to go to school.
“It was so great to see the kids’ faces when they realized they could now go to school because they had shoes,” he said, adding that his only disappointment was that they couldn’t give more children shoes.
“The experience was extremely humbling, but I also felt a great deal of compassion for these people, because as good as we were doing, we weren’t doing enough,” he said.
Matt Carmody agreed that the hardest and most challenging part was not being able to help everyone. He is majoring in pre-dental and minoring in English and Spanish at Washington State University.
He has always had a passion for helping people. He first became interested in Nicaragua after he spent two months in Africa informing people about AIDS and premarital sex.
In Nicaragua, he worked alongside local doctors and helped provide medical relief for people, putting antibiotics on open wounds and bandaging them when needed.
“In America, I could never help out like this without the fear of possibly being sued,” he said.
He also helped organize and fit children with shoes. One 12-year-old boy he worked with had been wearing the same shoes for more than four years.
“His feet were so cramped that he had broken his big toe,” he said. “But he had to continue wearing those shoes, because if he didn’t, he could not go to school.”
He added that he has no doubt that the best thing about making the trip to Nicaragua is realizing how lucky he is to have been born in America.
“It tore my heart out to see these people working so hard day and night, just so they could live and yet it was all given to me,” he said.
His sister Katie, who is 12 and attends Eastside Catholic Middle School, was also involved.
“It made me feel really good inside to know that I was helping them in some way,” she said.
She didn’t know Spanish before the trip, but she didn’t let that discourage her from interacting with the Nicaraguan children.
“It was really funny trying to figure out what each other said — they would start laughing and then I would start laughing,” she said.
She added that she thought the best thing about the trip was seeing how many Spanish words she could learn, and seeing the other children happy.
“I could have just raised money here, but it felt so good to go and see who I was raising money for,” she said.
Corner of Love Executive Director Tanya Mroczek Amador, who also founded the nonprofit, said she was very impressed with the See Greater Things Mission and the Carmodys’ efforts.
“The Carmodys were great, very enthusiastic and energetic — collecting statistics, distributing medicine, keeping the children entertained while they waited in line and helping out with various other tasks,” said the Maple Valley resident.
Mroczek Amador began Corner of Love in 2000, about eight years after her first visit to Nicaragua with her Nicaraguan husband.
Ever since, “I just really wanted to help out there,” she said, adding that she feels that the trips to Nicaragua conducted by Corner of Love are great family missions.
“It was great to have the whole Carmody family come along with us — going to Nicaragua is a big life lesson, especially for kids,” she said.
“The kids were very flexible and hard-working,” she said. “They did a fantastic job with the conditions and their surroundings, which were often quite poor. But they just jumped right in and started helping out.”
Mroczek Amador said she hopes more people and families like the Carmodys will get on board for the next mission to Nicaragua, called By His Spirit Medical-Dental Brigade.
Rebecca Steele is a student in the University of Washington Department of Communication News Laboratory.