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The eyes of a child (part 2) -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

The eyes of a child (part 2)

Sherling Góngora Arauz.
©Habitat for Humanity International/Ezra Millstein

‘There are no limitations’


At the beginning of the build week, volunteers were asked to write on a cement block one word that best expressed their reason for making the trip. ©Habitat for Humanit
y International/Ezra Millstein


Sherling Góngora Arauz, 10, and her little brother, Samuel, check out the view from their family’s new home in Managua, Nicaragua.
©Habitat for Humanity International/Ezra Millstein


At the beginning of the week in Managua, everybody on the building team was asked to think of one word that best described why they were on the trip. Each person wrote his or her word on a cement block: Bridges. Hope. Love. Future. Connect.

On the opposite side of the block, Habitat Nicaragua staffers translated all the words: Puentes. Esperanza. Amor. Futura. Connectar.

All the volunteers knew they were part of something special that week, as they worked alongside the parents. The children, too young to help with construction, took great joy in drawing pictures for the volunteers and decorating their lunch area with colorful streamers and handwritten signs.

At the end of the week, Felicia Brannon, executive director of community and local government relations at UCLA — and a former board member at Habitat for Humanity Greater Los Angeles — took the children’s mother aside to share a personal story.

Brannon had noticed that the little girl was vision-impaired, unable to see out of her right eye.

“I think the family saw her eye problem as a hindrance, a barrier,” Brannon said. “So, I told them about my brother, who lost the sight in one eye when he was very young, playing with a hammer. When the patch was removed, he saw a doctor who looked like him,” an African-American.

“He said, ‘You know, I’d like to be a doctor one day.’ And now he is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon who owns a multimillion-dollar corporation and has invented a number of medical devices.”

When the mother and daughter heard that story, tearfully translated through staffers with Habitat Nicaragua, they were overcome with emotion.

“I think it helped the mother to see that there is a future for her daughter,” Brannon said. “Whatever Sherling’s passion is, they should pursue. There are no limitations as long as you have dreams and goals.

“Brick by brick, you build your way out.”

Back to the beginning

A house is only the beginning of this story. The Build Louder volunteers returned from Nicaragua to their regular lives, transformed by the experience.

“When you have that family there with you, working side by side, it makes you want to do more,” Brannon said.

And the Arauz family started a new life that suddenly seemed full of possibilities.

Shortly after the volunteers had left, Vittoria Peñalba, resource development manager at Habitat Nicaragua, found an eye specialist who thought he could help Sherling. After a thorough exam, the doctor said Sherling needed ocular deviation surgery. It wouldn’t restore vision to her right eye, but it would align her eyes and improve her sight dramatically.

She is scheduled for surgery this month. Once recovered, she will need to wear prescription eyeglasses. The $90 price tag for glasses seemed out of reach for her hard-working parents — until Brannon sent a check for the full amount.

In more ways than one, Sherling will see the world differently now.

Series homepage: Why We Build