Nicaragua Medical Brigade Diary

by Jim Carlins

1st Phase – St Christopher Advance Team

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The flights to Managua were uneventful, which is the best to hope for with today’s airline travel. Now the moment of my biggest concern approached – clearing Nicaraguan customs.  All was going fine until Rachelle was pulled aside so that they could inspect her personal suitcase. When I went to make sure that she was faring well, the Customs agent asked if we were a Medical Brigade.  He then spent over 30 minutes telling us that he could not find us on the approved list of Medical Brigades, that he had no paperwork on us, and that ALL of our medical supplies could NOT enter the country. Even when I showed him my copy of the paperwork with the Nicaragua Health Ministry and the Customs approval stamps, he was not satisfied.  He said that we could leave the airport but that we could not take the medical supplies with us. After all the hoops that we jumped through during the past several months to gain the approvals, I was not about to leave any medical supplies at the airport. Finally the agent found our Brigade’s name on another list, so he took my copy of the paperwork and cleared us for entry. Apparently incompetence reigns supreme in most government agencies in most countries. However, as an individual, this Customs Agent tried hard to find the missing paperwork and probably bent the rules by letting us enter the country using the copy that I provided. Another hurdle (of the many since starting preparations for this trip) was successfully cleared! ...more

  Mission Nicaragua

St. Christopher Parish Mission Nicaragua began in response to parishioner requests for mission trips to less developed countries.  MISSION NICARAGUA is thus a parish-based undertaking, an outgrowth of a more than 25 year relationship between St. Christopher Parish Outreach and the Nicaragua Project coordinated by Ann Marie Zon.  St. Christopher Parish Outreach provides boxes of food, medicines, hygiene bundles, baby bundles, school supplies, boxes of clothing, furniture, etc. for the people of Nicaragua through the Nicaragua Project.

Those who travel for the first time to Nicaragua experience life in the second poorest country in the Western  Hemisphere, the rich spirituality of the people, and various aspects of the culture of the area.  They also provide some simple services.

Those who take part in succeeding trips go for a specific ministry purpose such as the expanding Eyeglass Project which is done in conjunction with some of the Lions Clubs of Western New York and Nicaragua and some area professionals.  Other projects could also be undertaken depending on the background, skills and available time frame of the participants.
Mission travelers in the 2012 group experienced the lunch program for children in Cristo Rey Parish, Granada.  In response to the great need to feed about 400 children 1 meal five times a week, the mission group began the St. Christopher Parish Cristo Rey Rice Project.  A group of parishioners returned to Cristo Rey in 2014 and helped the people paint their church.
Periodically, parishioners are invited to donate bags of rice, tools, or even sporting equipment for the children or other items as a need is recognized.


  1. First level trips of up to ten people usually travel to Nicaragua during the second week of January for 12-14 days.  When there is sufficient interest, another trip may be scheduled for late Fall.
  2. Travelers need to have a valid passport. 
  3. No immunizations are required other than those determined by one's physician.            
  4. Mission travelers stay at Ann Marie Zon's house in Rivas, Nicaragua.  Meals are usually eaten there with a
    mixture of American and Nicaraguan style food.  Provision can be made for special dietary needs and allergies.  There is also the opportunity to eat out from time to time.
  5. American cell phones do not work in Nicaragua.  Ann Marie Zon and Fr. Alfonso can receive calls from the US
    and calls can be made from their phones when necessary.  Phone numbers and email addresses will be provided before the trip.
  6. A knowledge of Spanish is not necessary although it is helpful.
  7. There is a significant amount of walking so good sneakers or walking shoes are helpful.
  8. The temperature in late November to the end of  January is generally in the 70's. Occasionally there is some rain. The sun rises at 6 am and sets at 6 pm.  Nicaragua is in the Central Time Zone.
  9. Bottled water is available at all times.  There is no hot water for showers.

  10. There is a person who will do laundry for visitors as needed for a stipend.

  11. Travelers bring comfortable clothing including Shorts and T shirts (no short shorts). Nicaraguans dress nicely for          church so women bring a dress or skirt and blouse, men khakis or nice pants and a sport shirt for example.

  12. Travelers typically bring a back pack and a suitcase of clothes some of which they choose to leave for the people  there.  This also provides room in our luggage for  souvenirs!

Parish support for Mission Nicaragua is expressed in prayer, sense of responsibility for the project, publicizing the
project informally/formally and fundraising.
Participants in the mission trips are asked to pay as much of the travel cost as possible. This year (2014) plane tickets were about $800.  Personal money brought to Nicaragua is basically for souvenirs.

Parishioners are invited to sponsor/subsidize mission trips through invitations in the bulletin.   Friends and family can be asked to make a donation or to organize a fundraising event in the name of one or all of the travelers. 
Parish Fundraisers of many kinds (e.g. Quilt Raffle, Country Western Dance, etc.) also contribute to defraying the costs of the mission trips (some ticket costs, food, lodging and transportation costs, etc.) New fund-raising ideas are always welcomed!


Participants in the mission trips are asked to be available from time to time to give power-point and slide presentations to the parish and to other local groups to raise awareness and funds.       

Click Here to view a video of St. Chris's first mission trip to Nicaragua.

Articles are prepared for LaVia, the newsletter of the Nicaragua Project, the Tonawanda News, Western New York Catholic and other media.