One of the most moving and yet heartbreaking trips that we make during our Mission is to Pajarito Azul, a disability center for abandoned people of all ages. The facility is divided into two parts: children and adults. Most of the children have physical disabilities and cannot move from their chair or bed, while the adults primarily suffer from mental disabilities, such as Down’s Syndrome. They are all cared for by physical therapists and nurses who work at the center and sometimes aided by medical interns. The head physical therapist is Miriam who has been working there for over twenty years. Each morning, she must wake at five a.m. to make the hour-and-a-half bus ride to Pajarito. Her dedication is noticed in her kind ministrations and in her patients’ amazing ameliorations. She always greets us with a warm smile, and she even remembers the names of mission veterans, such as Sandy Davidson and Sister Stephanie. Unfortunately, neither could be with us on this mission. But we did send three groups to Pajarito: one to paint and the other two to work with the residents.

Both alumni and first-time mission travelers were deeply touched by the experience, which led in turn to many profound circle discussions. Renee Mean said, “Upon entering Pajarito Azul, there was a sense of sadness that I felt for the people who seemed to have all odds stacked against them. After visiting, it became clear that they had nothing but love, hope, and happiness that was nothing short of infectious.”

Connor Hammond said, “Pajarito Azul brings forth a part of your soul that you have never encountered before. This is a place where the unspoken eyes of another human being touch your heart to a greater degree than you thought possible. It has been my honor to be with these people at Pajarito Azul in Nicaragua.”

The littlest gestures register mightily at Pajarito. Many children enjoy simply swinging on the swing sets or playing catch with a ball. The smile that comes to their faces when they receive a hat or a toy —or even just a hug— tells you how deeply you have touched another.

One of the most talked-about patients at the center is Salomé. She is five years old and suffers from a congenital disease and abandonment, which restricts her growth to that of a newborn. She s unable to move more than her head (a little) and her eyes, when she isn’t too tired. Holding Salomé in your arms is life-changing and every time we return she can move more and is more receptive to sounds and touch.

The nurses help the patients make dresses, bracelets, blankets, and much more to sell to raise funds for the center. The store is set up right in Pajarito and the items sell fast: several times when we have visited they have been sold out! To help the process, we try to bring fabrics and yarn to supply the store and defray their expenses.

Mission 69 affected Pajarito greatly, and Pajarito Azul affected us. The benefits are mutual, endearing, and soulful. We are eager to return!

Mica Beatham is a student leader on the North Country Mission of Hope Leadership Team and a student at Plattsburgh Senior High School. In July 2017, she attended her fourth Mission trip.