written by: Michael Mastroianni | College of the Holy Cross ’16

michael-hondurasThe past two summers I traveled to Honduras as part of a medical mission trip through the College of the Holy Cross’ Medical Ministry International chapter. Our team of healthcare providers and students ended up treating 3,150 Hondurans last summer in just two weeks. I am a junior biology major at Holy Cross and I dream of becoming a physician, but nothing I could have seen in the United States could have prepared me for the experience I had in Honduras.

In Honduras, I met a countless amount of amazing people whom I will forever cherish. One person I will never forget is my dear friend, Mingo. Mingo was a street beggar with a litany of medical issues, the most troublesome being a disease that resembled cerebral palsy, leaving his body permanently distorted and incapable of walking. We found Mingo sleeping on the side of the road with an obvious trail of bodily excrements next to him. Immediately, we brought him into our medical clinic.

As soon as they unloaded him onto one of our hospital beds, the reality of the situation struck me. Mingo was covered in his own bodily fluids, and was incredibly malnourished as his medical condition left him unable to care for himself. To be put bluntly, it was a truly gruesome sight that I never imagined was possible. I volunteered to help clean this man, and while Mingo was stripped naked I remembered thinking how awfully embarrassing this must be him. In my eyes, this would have been the lowest point in my life, but Mingo showed me something completely different. While holding his head upright as he was treated and cleaned, I could look directly into Mingo’s big brown eyes. I saw tears dribbling down as he was getting cleaned, and then heard him begin whimpering and mumbling things in Spanish that were too faint to hear. I began to tear up myself because of the gravity of the situation, until I realized he was actually laughing and he began to flash his million-dollar smile, three teeth and all. I asked him through a translator why he was smiling, and he responded by saying that God had blessed him with us to save his life. He went on to tell me that he has never seen so many beautiful women in his life, referring to the many college girls working the clinic. I realized that his tears were not tears of sorrow and pain, but rather tears of heart-lifting happiness and joy.

I responded to him in my own broken Spanish, “Muy Guapo!” and had one of the translators inform him that all the young women thought he was the best looking patient we had seen the whole week. He immediately began bursting into more laughter and tears of happiness, and that smile just kept growing as we finished cleaning him up. In order to provide him with a fresh, new pair of clothes that could somewhat fit his small body, I stripped down and gave him the pants I was wearing. I drove back with him to where he was supposed to be staying, holding his hand the entire way back as we drove off and waved to the girls in the clinic. We found out that he was being neglected and that he lived in a metal crate, so our group pulled funds together to put him in a good nursing home where he was no longer subject to such circumstances. Unfortunately, Mingo passed away about six months later but we were told he was so happy after meeting us and that we restored his dignity.

Mingo has taught me so much about solidarity and helping those who are not afforded the same opportunities I have enjoyed. To give back to Mingo and the other Hondurans who have forever touched my heart, I have begun a campaign to raise $10,000 to help build a public school in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, the hometown of many of my close friends in Honduras. San Pedro Sula has the highest murder rate in the world as many are forced to turn to extremely powerful and dangerous gangs at young ages in order to feed their families. As you can imagine, it is rare for any of these young kids to even make it out alive in such an extreme situation. Therefore, staying in school is critical to both their success and could potentially save their lives. To date, we have raised $5,000 dollars to build this school that provides impoverished children with an entirely free education. I will be traveling down in January to help physically aid in its construction. For more information on the project or to find out how to make a tax-exempt donation, feel free to visit my YouCaring page.

Michael can be reached via e-mail at mamast16@g.holycross.edu.

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