A Friendship in Nicaragua
Villa Esperanza is a home in Managua, Nicaragua for at-risk, adolescent girls who have escaped poverty and abuse. Each year, teams from Bridgetown Church, in partnership with Hear the Cry and Forward Edge International, visit Villa Esperanza to build relationships with these girls and offer love and support.
A story from Samantha Hamilton about a friendship she experienced:
I met Elaysa when our team arrived at the Villa Esperanza for the first time. I sat down at a table for lunch, with expectations of developing profound and impactful relationships.
Instead, I instantly felt awkward and uncomfortable.
These girls were not eagerly awaiting our arrival. They were reserved and disengaged. I awkwardly stumbled through, asking the girls their names and immediately mispronouncing them. Elaysa sat there with her head on the table and I assumed she was not a girl I would interact with much.
I went on the trip knowing that our main goal was to create relationships with adolescent, at-risk girls that lived at the Villa Esperanza. My desire was to make an incredible connection, to hear stories from their past, and develop an unbreakable bond, like other people who had travelled before me. Instead, the trip progressed quite differently. I was often met with disappointment and discouragement at my inability to connect. The language barrier didn’t help.
What I couldn’t see at the time was that God was working.
Each night, we spent time with the girls after dinner and each night I slightly dreaded the awkward encounters I was sure to experience. Then I found my niche: braiding hair.
I had finally infiltrated with my hair styling skills. Then, unexpectedly, Elaysa asked me to braid her hair too. It caught me off guard, because I hadn’t even noticed her there. I gladly accepted. After I finished, she surprised me again when she turned around, kissed me on the cheek, and thanked me in English.
That’s when I realized that I might have been all wrong about her.
We never had one big moment, like I had imagined. Instead, throughout the week, we had small moments that began to build into a friendship.
Suddenly, our last night at the Villa Esperanza had arrived. I wrote letters to some of the girls, one of which was to her. I felt a tinge of awkwardness giving it to her, wondering if she would be confused at my gesture since we hadn’t really talked that much. When I handed her the letter her face erupted into a gigantic smile and she flung her arms around me.
All of my fears instantly vanished.
That night at dinner she grabbed a translator and started asking me all sorts of questions about my life and my family. It was difficult to say goodbye because it felt like I had just started to make progress and it was cut short.
I knew as soon as I left that I would sponsor her but, again, wondered if my choice would be received with confusion.
Throughout the year we wrote to each other and I learned more about her and her life. With each letter I was more assured that I had done the right thing. Fear almost held me back from a great blessing. I anxiously waited when I could return to the Villa Esperanza.
Then in August 2016, I was finally on my way back, excited and nervous.
“Lord, please help me have a great time with the girls and with Elaysa,” I prayed.
I went into this trip with a completely different perspective than the previous year. I had waited all year to come back and I wasn’t going to waste my time being self-conscious.
The trip was more wonderful than I could have imagined. The girls were comfortable around me and I was comfortable around them. I learned just enough Spanish to carry on a simple conversation. However, even with the unexpected ease of interacting with the girls, it was still difficult to connect with Elaysa at times.
She would be standoffish and I would need to take the initiative with her. All those previous fears would start to resurface. I knew I could be hurt, but if that is what I had to endure to show this girl I cared, I was going to do it. As the week progressed we spent more and more time together.
One of the most special moments in our relationship was being there for her Quinceanera. In Nicaragua, your 15th birthday is a coming-of-age moment in life that is very seriously.
It was impossible not to get emotional while watching this beautiful young woman walk through the room in a stunning blue dress, surrounded by adoring family and friends.
I realized what an incredible honor it is to be allowed to be part of her life.
I can only imagine that the pride I felt in that moment was only a small fraction of the adoration felt by her heavenly Father.
I discovered that we shared the same hesitancy to be vulnerable. It was easy for us to goof around and be silly but the idea of having an extended conversation through a translator was a bit daunting. But I knew it was important and so one night I asked her if she would talk with me. I didn’t know how she was going to respond and, honestly, I had no idea what I was going to say.
When we sat down to talk, butterflies fluttered throughout my stomach. What was I going to say? What if we didn’t have anything to say? What if it just turned into an extended period of awkward silence?
I eased into it asking about her past year, her family, and how school was going. At first, I could tell she was hesitant to go into any detail. She responded with generic and vague responses. So I asked her if she had any questions for me. She asked me the same question, and said that I seemed happier than last year.
In complete honesty, I told her that the previous year I was scared of rejection and it was difficult for me to talk with any of the girls. Elaysa patiently listened and when I finished, she opened up about her past and how she came to the Villa. She shared about struggles of her own and how she had also grown from them. I told her I was so proud of her and that she was an incredible friend to those around her.
In that moment we both learned to trust each other a little more.
Our last night at the Villa Esperanza had arrived again. We hung out all night, running around, being crazy, and rambunctious. Saying goodbye was so hard, but my heart was full of happiness.
Then the next morning, before catching our bus to the airport, we had the opportunity to say goodbye to the girls again. I was annoyed because I had already done that. I don’t like goodbyes. I found Elaysa and told her I loved her and gave her a brief hug. Neither of us seemed eager to make a big moment out of it. So I walked back to the bus, not wanting to drag it out. I was waiting for the rest of the team when my heart started pounding and I felt like something wasn’t right.
As the team began loading into the bus, I ran back to find Elyasa. I wrapped my arms around her and the tears just started pouring down my cheeks. It was a big moment, because I was saying goodbye to my dear friend who I wasn’t going to see for a long time.
We just held each other for a while and when we broke away Elaysa realized I was crying. She grabbed my face, her own eyes glistening, wiped my tears and told me that it was going to be okay. She flung her arms around my neck and hugged me tightly.
A year ago, I started sponsoring a kid who I hardly knew. Now I have a deep friendship with a 15 year old Nicaraguan girl.
A girl who is stubborn, intelligent, crazy, and loving.
A girl who struggles with depression and self-doubt, just like me, but has the strength to grow and better herself.
A girl who learns from her past and does not make herself a victim, but instead can see how the past has shaped her into who she is today, which is a young woman of outstanding character.
A girl who is an incredible friend to those around her.
A year ago, I thought I would change a girl’s life, but my life was changed by her.
Written by Samantha Hamilton.