By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
Earlier this spring Tavien Gillette spent 10 days on a mission trip to Nicaragua. There he assisted at a dental and medical clinic and distributed sporting goods.
“I wanted to go to give and to help the community,” the Assumption High School senior said of his first mission trip. He went at the invitation of his step-father, Christopher Cannon. They traveled with several others through San Juan Rio Relief. Christopher Cannon and his brother Matt Cannon are pediatric dentists from Iowa.
It took two days of travel to get to their destination. “The host, Rafael, who owned the lodge, was awesome and made sure everything ran smoothly, translated and helped us with our travel,” Tavien said.
On the dental side of the mission were four dental residents from Boston College. “The dental side would pull teeth, do routine check-ups and educate the people on proper hygiene.” The medical side of the mission took blood pressure, did check-ups and distributed simple medications, he noted.
“I handed out donations to the families who received medical attention. I would talk to them with the help of a translator and find out what they needed.” He distributed clothing. “I would have kids come in with sandals that didn’t cover the whole bottom of their feet,” he said. He made sure he found shoes for them. Other duties included helping to sanitize tools and clean rooms for the next patient. He also observed some procedures.
He handed out sports equipment that he had collected from the Assumption High School baseball program and Quad City Hitman’s coach Jordan Rangel.
“We also received donations from family friends and the generous people of this community.”
Items collected were mainly baseballs, bats, gloves and general clothing, hats and toys. Baseball is a popular sport in the Nicaragua, Tavien said. “The town I went to had only one sports field and it was an improvised baseball field.” He had the chance to play baseball and soccer with children there.
The difference in lifestyles made the biggest impression on Tavien. “The little things down there meant the world to the people. The people here in America would take the same thing for granted.” A highlight for him was the opportunity to help. The toughest part of the trip: long plane and car rides. “The trip was very eye-opening. I got to see a new perspective on the world. There were kids with shoes and clothes that didn’t fit. Something as simple as clothes, we take for granted in the United States.”
Tavien said he would like to do another mission trip in the future and help make a difference – even if it seems small to some.