By Melanie Booth
Three years ago, my husband and I traveled to India with a foundation called ArtBound to build a community centre where the locals could gather for arts programs in a remote village called Rajhastan.
Last year in 2015 a similar group of people traveled to Guatemala to an orphanage to deliver bunk beds to kids in need; however, my husband and I were unable to join, as within weeks of the expedition, we were blessed with our healthy and very happy baby girl Winnifred.
As the 2016 Artbound trip to Nicaragua fast approached, Marcus and I had to decide if we could go. Everything in us wanted to, but now we had so much more to think about. Not only would we be leaving our one-year-old daughter for nearly a week, but we’d also be traveling quite a distance to Central America where we had zero cell reception and really crappy WiFi.
With quite a bit of convincing (on my end), we decided yes, for both of us to attend; I know my husband and there is no chance he would feel good about me making a massive difference in people’s lives without him being there to do the same.
Fortunately, Marcus and I both have wonderful parents that are always willing to help take care of Winnie when we need. It just so happened that the connection to Nicaragua was Miami and my parents would be at their home in Florida during the time we were away. So we boarded our plane with Winnie in tow – she stayed with her Grandma and Gramps in the Sunshine State while Marcus and I traveled onward to Nicaragua to help some other very special kiddies in need.
We were joined by 14 other incredible people at a surf resort 4-hours from the airport. Some people we knew and others we had the pleasure of getting to know throughout the week.
Every morning we woke up before 6am – not because of a happy baby, but because of some very happy roosters! The morning was my favourite time of day: we would surf, eat breakfast and take some time in a hammock to get ready for our days, which were jammed packed with building and spending time with local children in the community.
The road to the school was less than 1km away (but it took us at least twenty minutes to get there because the road conditions were so rough). Upon our arrival, we’d be greeted by happy children outside of the school, waiting to see what we would get up to that day.
Of course I was constantly thinking about Winnie and how grateful I am that we have what we have, but the truth is that these kids genuinely looked happy.
Each day they would eagerly help us dig and move dirt. They had zero hesitation about getting their school uniform filthy. Unless you spoke Spanish, there was a complete language barrier, but that just made it more interesting to communicate. I have no question these kids are grateful to be at school, around their friends, learning things they may not have the opportunity to learn elsewhere.
Every night as the group gathered around the table for dinner, we shared our favourite moment of the day; it was always hard to pick just one. Each and every one of my stand-out moments was rooted in being a mom and being able to teach my children gratitude and the true meaning of being present and, of course, giving back to others in need.
I knew that being on a trip like this required me to be extremely present… It would be so easy to think about how much I missed Winnie: Is she ok? What did she get up to today? What am I missing? … But then my entire trip would fly by and I would have missed being there – present for the kids that needed us and present for the others that also gave their time and efforts to make a difference.
Really being in the moment actually made the days go by slowly (in the best way). It made it so much easier to just allow myself to be there and to trust that Winnie was ok. We were there because we were meant to be there and it was both our privilege and our responsibility to do our part to contribute to the cause.
I am grateful we had the opportunity to go on an Art Bound trip and give back, and I am oh so grateful we said yes and made it happen.
Our trip back to Florida to reunite with our baby girl was a long one: a four hour bus ride to get back to the airport, followed by a 3.5 hour plane ride and then the Uber back to my parents’ house where we arrived to our sleeping baby (who of course, we WOULD NOT WAKE!).
The next morning, Winnie awoke happy and a little stunned to see us, but like nothing had changed, which was a pivotal moment for me. It reminded me to always take opportunities like this if it feels right. My commitment to my children is to teach them to live big and say yes to so much more than they say no to, to make a positive impact in others’ lives and to give back at every opportunity they can.
What better way to teach those things than to lead by example?
Thank you so much to everyone who donated to Winnie’s Creative Deed for her first birthday which was created to raise funds for the school build in Nicaragua. Her Deed raised over $2k and I will ensure she understands the impact she made for so many kids.
To get involved in Artbound and Creative deeds go to artbound.ca
Featured Image via www.artbound.ca
*****SHOP THE REBEL MAMA*****