Last month, Amigos family member Makayla Lara walked 112 miles from Sealy, TX, to Austin, TX, to raise money for medical supplies to send to clinics and hospitals here in Nicaragua. Through this completely self-initiated and self-executed effort, she was able to raise an astounding $5,482 to serve her Nicaraguan brothers and sisters, and managed to inspire all of us along the way, too. Below, we asked her a few questions to learn more about what inspires her, and what Nicaragua and her involvement with Amigos has meant to her over the years.
When was your first visit to Nicaragua? What do you remember about it?
My first trip to Nicaragua was about two years ago with a group that our Spanish teacher, Bill Dooley, took. I remember just being able to be truly present with the people of the village and how awesome that was; for example, I specifically remember one time when we were playing tag with a little boy in El Chonco in the rain.
What about Nicaragua or the mission of Amigos for Christ inspired you to get more involved?
Everything about Amigos and Nicaragua has inspired me to want to do more. The people of Nicaragua and Amigos have taught me so much and made such an impact on my life, so I thought I should do something in return.
Where did your idea to do this walk come from? Why did you do this specific route?
The walk idea first started when I wanted to do a fundraiser to raise money for medical supplies. When thinking about what to do for it, it made me think about how the people of Nicaragua have to walk to get their water. This is why walking seemed like the path to choose, and I picked Austin for the destination because it is a recognizable end point.
What did you do to prepare for this walk?
The preparation consisted of just lots of walking around parks and neighborhoods on weekends and after school. To practice I walked from 13-17 miles a day, towards the total of 112 miles, depending on the weather. My parents switched off walking with me, splitting the miles each day between them. We actually ate a lot of PB&J’s on the road and, when available, stopped at local restaurants. We practiced walking mainly in ditches and shoulders of back roads for the most part.
How did your friends/family respond when you told them your idea?
They were a little surprised and confused at first but were supportive the entire time.
What were you most excited about for the walk? What were you most nervous about?
I was most excited to spend time with my parents, take in the fresh air, and enjoy the beautiful scenery! I was nervous about the weather changes.
What was a surprising part of the fundraising process?
A surprising but awesome part was how generous people I have never even met before were.
How do you want the funds to be used?
I hope that the funds will be used for medical supplies mainly.
Why do you want the funds to be used that way?
I am hoping to go into the medical field so I thought that would be a cool way to help out.
Do you have plans to return to Nicaragua?
Yes, of course! I am going to apply to be a long termer this summer but if I do not get in I’m hoping to either do a short term stay or even a week this summer!
Why do you think it is important for an American to support an organization like Amigos in Nicaragua (or any country far away)?
I think that it’s not necessarily just Americans who can help, but I think that in the US we are given a lot more opportunities and resources to have the ability to bring help to organizations in other countries.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I think I would just like to share Philippians 4:13 – “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
In 2005, Nance Burrell met Jacque, a little girl living in the community of Villa Catalina. That meeting marked the start of a relationship that continued to grow and deepen over the next several years, eventually leading Nance to sponsor Jacque’s secondary school education in 2008. Now, it’s a story that has been in the making for almost a decade and that has changed the trajectory not only of Jacque’s life, but of Nance’s as well. We’ve loved watching this story unfold, and so we asked Nance to share it with the greater Amigos Family, too.
I met Jacque in the summer of 2005. Side by side, we dug ditches and did other manual labor. In December of 2005 I was back with Amigos as a nurse on an orthopedic brigade. We had gathered money to help with the festivities of the Feast of Mary for Villa Catalina. I remember going with the group of medical folks to Villa Catalina and Jacque and a couple of other girls greeting us. Jacque gave me a plastic ring with a solid star on the top (which I still have). It was a simple gesture, but touched me deeply.
The following summer of 2006, Jacque and I worked side-by-side digging water line ditches in Villa Catalina. Although she was only 12 years old and I’m certain less than half my weight, she could outwork me any time. In December of 2006 the houses were dedicated and I was back in Villa Catalina and visited with Jacque and her family.
Jacque graduated from primary school in November of 2008. I flew down for a surprise visit and to be present at her graduation. In her class of five, she was the top student. On that visit, Amigos employee Chris Dubas was the coordinator of the sponsorship program. He knew of Jacque’s potential and encouraged me to sponsor her for private school if I was able to so that she could receive the best possible education.
So, through interpreters I talked with her mother and father to insure (as best I could) that they were supportive of her continuing school. Jacque was a regular “worker” for her family, riding her bike from village to village to sell corn tortillas that he mother made. Being in school had the potential to interfere with her part in the family income generation.
Here parents were supportive, however, so in February of 2009 Jacque started at Colegio Ruben Dario Chinandega. I have continued to sponsor her through her five years of attending private school there. Every year I would visit Nicaragua with an Amigos trip through the summer of 2011 and always would see Jacque even though we weren’t working in her community.
I think that my story as sponsor is very unique as I know Jacque personally, which is probably why I am so committed to sponsoring her. However, I think sponsoring a student is worth doing because there is a great return on our investment, even if we don’t directly see it. I have continued to sponsor Jacque because I can and because I believe that she deserves the opportunity to continue her education.
To walk alongside a student as they strive to realize their dreams, visit www.amigosforchrist.org/giftsofopportunity and give the Gift of Opportunity today.
Over a year ago, complications caused by the smoke from Rosa’s wood-burning stove during her pregnancy resulted in unimaginable loss. But today, thanks to her Clean Air Kitchen, Rosa and her family are writing a healthier, more hopeful story for their future.
You can help change stories like Rosa’s by giving the Gift of Opportunity today: http://amigosforchrist.org/giftsofopportunity.