Ozarks student, faculty bring food and medical aid to Nicaraguans in need

Release Date: 4/5/2012

It was Ashley Teague's first trip out of the country, and she says it was like a trip to another decade. "Nicaragua is a beautiful place," she said, "but I was surprised to see donkeys and carts!"

Teague went to Leon, Nicaragua, as part of a medical mission organized through the Clarksville First Baptist Church. The trip included visits to three small villages near Leon, a colonial town located in northeastern Nicaragua.

Along on the trip was Ozarks Associate Professor of Mathematics Dr. Matt Myers, his family, and members of the First Baptist Church who had made the trip before. "We divided up our days between medical aid and handing out food packages," said Dr. Myers. "Four local doctors made themselves available on their own time for the medical mission. Each day we spent the first half of the day tending to the sick, and the afternoons handing out food."

Ashley Teague in Nicaragua.

Ozarks senior Ashley Teague spent time in Nicaragua recently on a mission trip organized by Clarksville's First Baptist Church. (Photo by Dr. Matt Myers)

It was Dr. Myers' first trip to Nicaragua, though he had gone on a similar mission trip to South Africa in the past. "The main issue of concern for me, comparing my trip to South Africa to this trip, is that in South Africa, we were able to make some efforts to help the people we were in contact with organize some small businesses or industry opportunities started," he said. "Irrigating a field so crops could be grown, supplying them with sewing machines so local seamstresses could begin teaching sewing - it gave them the opportunity to start working their way out of poverty.

"But by comparison, the poverty in Nicaragua is so widespread it was difficult to see how to get comparable projects going. Even if you teach a trade, the economy's so bad that there aren't jobs available anyway, which was kind of depressing. You can give out food, but once it's gone, people will be in the same place they were before. Of course, since it's a national problem, there may be some political things have to take place to help in a big way. I do hope to go back. My goal not just to hand out food, but to scope out the potentials and options that can be done to help the people pull themselves out of poverty."

Ashley Teague's experience mirrored Dr. Myers'. "In those communities people work so hard - it's not an issue of not working hard. We here work hard, but we have places to elevate to. They work hard just to survive. Just getting to the market is a huge task. So helping them set up some infrastructure to help them help themselves up out of poverty is a huge deal."

Teague, who has just been admitted to Capital University's school of law with an $18,000- per-year scholarship, wants to use her training in the law to help. "I've been interested in international adoption law for a long time," she said. "I want to work with kids and be their advocate, so seeing the kids there was hard. You fall in love with all of them. So going there did sort of solidify my desire to work with and be an advocate for children not only internationally but here as well."

She mentioned encountering a family who had taken in a small child abandoned by his mother. "The woman had a husband and children of her own, and she was very clear they lacked the resources to keep him," Teague said. "She wanted to know if we knew anybody who would be interested in adopting him! To hear that, especially when you want to work in adoption, was sad. If I could I would've brought him home and let Ozarks raise him!"

The trip was not without its moments of levity. "A man had asked us to pray with him," Teague said, "so Dr. Myers was leading and we were all praying. So I'm standing there trying to focus on the prayer, but there are these two pigs fighting directly behind me! And Matt goes to add 'one more thing' to the prayer, and I'm thinking, 'No! We don't have time for one more thing! These pigs are going to attack me!' I may be from a small town in Arkansas, but that was a unique experience for sure!"