© Matt Dayka / Vitamin Angels NI15
© Matt Dayka / Vitamin Angels NI15

Nicaragua 2015: Tana Whelan’s Experience

1. How did you feel when you landed in Nicaragua? 

Incredibly overwhelmed. There were people from the plane everywhere, it was warm and humid which my brain is not used to thinking in! But as soon as we got in the van and headed out I was struck by the beauty of Managua. There were people selling fruit on the side of the road as our bus ambled by. It was a completely new experience for me!

2.  What was your favorite moment you had with a child/mom in the areas you visited?

In the first village we visited there was a group of Moms standing off to the side and speaking with Catarina of Vitamin Angels. They were so kind while she stumbled through her practiced, but far from fluent, Spanish. They were so interested in our lives in the United States. Our lives, our families, any detail about us they could get. When they found out I was married they asked if I had children. When I joked “dos perros” (two dogs) they laughed and I said, “Not the same! I know!” but they laughed and our translator told me they said it really was the same! They were delightful and so funny. There was also a small girl in that village who walked up to me and grabbed my hand and told me I looked like a princess. Who doesn’t love that!?

 3.  What differences did you see in the children who had received vitamins?

The children we saw in the villages that had been receiving vitamins were so lively! They wanted to run and play and blow bubbles just like any other kid would. They were so curious and alert. It was such a difference from what I expected!

4.  What surprised you the most in the villages?

All the children in the villages were so well taken care of. I was struck by their stories. The dedication of the Moms to ensure that their children had a better opportunity than they had. We would ask the Moms what they wanted for their children and they all said that they wanted their child to continue school and be better than they were. Their strength was incredible. As different as we all seemed on the outside, they wanted the same things for their children that my mom had wanted for me. But they were helping their children overcome so much more. They struggled for water and food but their children were happy and playful. It was really inspiring.

 5. Anything else you would like people to know about your experience.

Next time you complain about something in your life, be grateful you have it. Next time something gets spilled on the floor and now the carpet is stained, be grateful you have carpet. Next time you are at a restaurant and your steak isn’t cooked quite right, be grateful you have food. But most of all, next time you think you can’t do something, you can. If people in Nicaragua have taught me anything it is to be grateful for everything that I have, and all that I am capable of. If they are happy, then I have no excuse!

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