Before Chris returned to the hustle and bustle of life at the Youth Mission Team near Consett, we asked him a few questions about his time in Nicaragua.
Just nine questions for now, although we’re sure that we’ll get to hear a lot more about his adventures and the people he met.
1) What were your expectations before the trip?
I didn’t realise I had any expectations of the trip until they were all shattered during and after the trip. I realised my expectations were that CAFOD were involved in helping people up. Although I knew CAFOD’s mentality was working with partners, I hadn’t quite given up the mentality of CAFOD being the saviour rather than the partner. My expectation was to see CAFOD going in and sorting out the problem.
2) How was the journey there?
I cannot complain about the journey except for how early we started out on it!
3) Your first impressions?
My first two impressions were how hot it was and how absurd the place was. The heat was self-evident, the air was heavy with evening heat when we arrived. What made the place seem slightly absurd were these large metal and illuminated “tree(s) of life” down the centre of the road every 100m or so. We were told by our driver that each tree cost around $18,000 and it seemed so unnecessary and absurd when poverty was so evident in certain places of the city.
4) How were the accommodation and the food?
We changed accommodation several times throughout the trip and in all of them I slept soundly. The only two times I could raise a complaint was having a cold shower in the mountainous region of Nicaragua- I really did not like them – and when a very large spider appeared on my wall one night. The food was delicious! No complaints there.
5) Highlight of the trip?
Now having a highlight of the trip is hard. If I was to say the moment I was happiest during the trip it would be while playing games with the children who attended the Sister of the Guardian Angel canteen in Managua. These children transformed from shy strangers into delighted friends but only after realising that although we looked so different, we also wanted to have fun.
6) Lows of the trip?
I think the biggest low I had was experiencing the desperation in the children beggars. I must press this was not a common experience in Nicaragua.
7) Tell me one story that you’ll always remember.
I was talking to this 11 year old boy called Josue. He was small, softly spoken and thoughtful. And I remember asking him “If you could give one message to those back in England what would you give?” To which he replied “Be good kids, do your best, study and believe in God.” So I asked “Why believe in God Josue?” So he said “He can help you in your difficulties. I know God loves me because he is always with me.” To which another of the CAFOD team chipped in “Where do you see God in the world?” And I will never forget this reply from an 11 year old boy. “He is in my heart. I feel loved, appreciated and valued by Him.” That is one of the many stories I will never forget.
8) What reflections do you have on the trip now?
One reflection I have on my trip is how noble the people we met in Nicaragua were. They seemed to have a strength that drove them to strive on for their children, for their spouses, for their God. Never ceasing, always enduring and forever trusting. There was such love there, a real knowledge of themselves and what is most important in their lives.
9) What would you say to other people who might be thinking of applying to Step into the GAP?
If I was speaking to myself before this year, I would say “Do it now, thank me later!” But to others who are thinking of applying I would say “If you are open to a life changing experience, apply now!”
There’s more details about CAFOD’s Step into the Gap programme go here BUT you’ll need to be really quick as today at 10pm, applications close and you’ll have to wait another year to get on!