Spreading Smiles One Child at a Time

“Una mala actitud es como una llanta desinflada. si no la cambias, no te llevara a ninguna parte.”

“A bad attitude is like a flat tire. If you do not change it, it will not get you anywhere.”

These were the words hanging at the entrance to the young boys housing area at CICRIN. CICRIN (Centro Inantil Christiano Nicargüense/ Nicaraguan Christian Children’s Center) is a facility for young boys and girls on the Island of Ometepe. This facility currently houses 23 children who either have no family or has been abandoned and or abused by what family they do have. There are also 6 young adults at University who are allowed to stay in CICRIN housing as long as they are continuing education. CICRIN also provides schooling for 90 children who do not have the resources to attend public school. On February 17th our group traveled to Ometepe and spent a week serving some wonderful people and making some new friends.

Mark and Tami Radecke have organized mission trips to Ometepe for the past 18 years, since Mark’s days as Chaplain at Susquehanna University in Selinsgrove PA. Our goup of seven, some from Pennsylvania and some from Virigina, were on our mission for 2 projects. Myself and Libby Sieber were going to provide dental services. Mark, Tami, Tom Dewan, Kristin Einsel and Noelle Markle were going to be tiling a new bath house that was recently built. Upon arrival at the campus, we were greeted by its smiling gracious and grateful residents. For the week we spent time working for and with the children and adults of the facility. I wish I had the eloquence to describe the paradoxical experience of going to a place that is at the same time so beautiful and yet struggles with pollution and water not safe to drink, a place where people make very little money but smile and laugh with the happiness of a wealthy soul.

Our group is only one of the groups who visit CICRIN, they rely on external aide not only with hands on participation from these groups but also financial aide. As history continues to dish out some harsh realities to this organization, it is with great faith that all those involved with CICRIN continue to trust that God will provide. This may sound cliché, or we may take for granted that most of us are pretty lucky for what we have, but there was something wonderful about seeing such a faith filled group of people.

CICRIN was started in 1971-72 by and functioned as an refuge for mistreadted, abandoned, poor and at-risk children until 1979. At this time the Sandanista National Liberation Front took control of the facility. They took the young boys off to war and used the facility as a place to collect other children from the island and as a military training facility. After the conflict in 1990, the facility was again reopened as an orphanage. With the help of the facility began again to house children. CICRIN’s current director has been with CICRIN since 1990. Helen Vindas Elizondo has a wonderful story about her resistance to working at the facility, hours upon hours of prayer, years of doubt, until she decided to stay permanently. She feels this was her calling in life and that God wanted her to take care for these children. From what is seen from an outsider, she really loves the children and works tirelessly to ensure their wellbeing, physical and spiritual development and that they feel that they are loved. There is a team at CICRIN. There are teachers at the school, cooks and cleaning staff, and “Tias” or “aunties” who help tend to the kids. There is also a psychologist on site. The children take on chores usually around the age of 7 or 8. They help clean the rooms, maintain the open spaces on the campus, collect garbage, and tend to gardens and livestock. There are chickens and island sheep that serve as a source of food and banana, papaya, guava, and other vegetation.

In terms of adoption it is very difficult to adopt from Nicaragua due to government restriction, and even more difficult if those looking to adopt are from outside of the country. The Government is trying to preserve the culture and to preserve family dynamic. Although the facility is housing children some with no families, it is not considered an orphanage. The government has strict regulations on the organization, but provides no resources for its continued operational needs.

Friends of CICRIN is a 501(C)3 nonprofit organization established in 2010 by Tami and Mark Radecke. Friends of CICRIN has an independent board of directors and exists soley to secure finianciual support for CICRIN. Residents of the United Stated may make financial gifts to support the children, a special project or the school by:

-sending a check to
Friends of CICRIN
2916 Plantation Lane
Waynesboro, VA 22980

-making a secure online donation through PayPal at www.cicrin.org

I included the quote at the beginning because it really had an impact on my experience. The children at CICRIN by our definitions and standards have very little, have little chance. But when you meet the children and staff, you see a thankful, loving, kind, hopeful, optimistic group of people that you would never guess they had such a horrible start to life. It gave me some insight into my need to look at my life much differently and possibly change some of my flat tires.