Today was the first day of our Community Action Project (CAP) Delivery! 7:00 AM wake-up call. 8 o’clock breakfast at Quiero Mas with vibrant and delicious pineapples. Next thing you know, we’re utilizing the public transportation of Leon to get to Casa Jacinta Y Francisco, the children’s home where we are doing our project. When we were let  inside the tall walls of the orphanage, we were greeted by an exuberant lady in a conservative Hawaiian dress. Right away, we split up into 3 groups and began opening the paint jars and unwrapping the brushes for our large painting task. Our Community Action Project will entail painting the boys’ room a vibrant chartreuse, the girls’ room a light lilac, the dining room a pastel sky blue, and a mural that will fill one wall of the dining room.

I am lucky enough to be with the mural group because I’m artsy, so I can help sketch out the drawing and help direct other people where to paint what. So, first things first, we sketched the sun for the sunset. Then came the ocean water, the cityscape, and the elephant perched on a red and yellow palm tree. And the penguin perched on the elephant’s head. There are also jellyfish breaking free from the ocean and flying into the sky and imaginary plants reminiscent of the Lorax’s trees. So…no, this mural is not realistic–it is surrealistic.

When the three of us working on the mural (myself, Alice, and Valencia) were sketching it all out, there were two kids from the orphanage who continued to hang around. One was a rather tall 12-year-old boy who was very friendly and helpful, and the other was a young girl with pigtails who mostly kept quiet. I would ask her questions like,  “Que es su nombre?” and “Como estas?” and “Cuantos anos tienes?” Sometimes, she would bashfully respond, and other times she would simply smile, fidget, and bite her shirt. When I asked her how old she was, she showed me on her fingers: 7. So many children in the U.S. remind me of her. Another little boy joined us, and he really wanted to participate in the mural, so I handed him a pencil (or as they like to call it here, un lapiz) and told him to sketch estrellas (stars) above our cityscape as I stood beside him on a white plastic lawn chair and drew the cosmos above his head. The bashful girl had been wandering around the dinning room, but now, she was climbing on the chair that supported me. “Nonono peligro!” I said as she continued to climb with a pencil in her hand. I grabbed her another chair, and she helped me draw the night sky. Hours passed before my eyes as the mural grew to show every color of Roy G. Biv and then some.

Part way into the mural

Part way into the mural

All I can say is that the mural is really so beautiful. It’s so beautiful. We really worked together as a team, and when the people in other groups (with the girls’ and boys’ rooms) had some extra time because they had to let their rooms dry, they all came to help work on the mural too. From painting insects on our Dr. Suess forest to outlining the cityscape, even the most artistically challenged members helped out. And that, too, is a beautiful thing.

-Heather McLean

After arriving at the children’s home (orphanage) via public bus (which, by the way, was the ultimate roller coaster–or close to it), we split up into groups to paint the boys’ bedroom, the girls’ bedroom, and the dining room. Each group worked efficiently despite the smell of the paint fumes, the humidity, and the paint that refused to stick to some of the walls because of the weather. We gathered for lunch with the children and dogs (we had rice, chicken, etc.) and then returned back to work to collaborate as a large team to paint the mural in the dining room before heading back to the hostel to prepare for English tutoring.

Today’s Question of the Day was: “What can be my personal contribution to the greater good of everyone in our group, in Nicaragua, and in the U.S.?” Our nightly meeting gave deeper insight into what we think we can offer others and how we feel about our work in the children’s home–and our experiences in Leon as a whole–can impact those around us. We are contributing our time, energies, and compassion to helping the children in the orphanage. When we return to the U.S., we can not only talk to people about our trip, but we can also slowly change people’s perspectives on what is happening in the world and how they view others.

Right now, some of us are showering. Some of us are singing the songs from our favorite childhood movies. Some of us are looking out at the city and all its night lights and talking about what life means to us. Today is slowly passing by and fading into tomorrow. Tomorrow, we will continue our work painting, and in a few days, we will be leaving Nicaragua. In the future, we’ll all save the world, but even at that point, I hope we remember, perhaps not the names or even the faces, but the feeling we had, have, and will have serving others.

– Catherine

Girls' room crew

Girls’ room crew