Mario is a tour guide in Nicaragua. As he walks up steep hikes to the top of volcano craters and climbs down into caves filled with bats you’d never guess he’s any different from the other guides bringing tourists up to Masaya and the other parks surrounding Granada. But Mario is a rare breed.
Mario has a strength most people can’t see. It’s hidden within his slight frame and behind his humble smile. It’s muffled under his words as he shares his knowledge with the youth of his church and talks about the country he loves. He doesn’t throw his courage and strength in anyone’s face, but his unbreakable spirit is certainly there.
Several years ago Mario learned he had cancer festering in the muscle of his leg. Nicaragua’s strapped medical system required him to wait months for the operation that would remove the cancer and give him a chance at life. Instead of feeling sorry for himself and expecting the worst, Mario passed those long days leading up to his surgery by getting involved with his church and continuously improving his English skills through self-study.
Today Mario is cancer free. His job as an English-speaking tour guide provides for his family’s farm and allows him to help out in his community. Despite having lost major muscles in his leg, he treks up and down the hills and climbs in and out of boats with apparent ease.
We had the privilege of getting to know Mario and helping at the youth English class he teaches at his church outside of Granada. English skills open doors for a young person in this country, but many can’t afford the materials and classes required to master the language. Mario volunteers in teaching a class two nights a week and inspires his students to put in the time to practice and study. He invited us to help with his classes. We have to admit, this was a pretty fun and easy service project.
We learned about favorite foods, family members, job aspirations and the other topics covered in the current vocabulary lesson. It was fun to get to know his students a little and see the impact Mario is having on the young people of his community. Mario is one of many inspiring people we’ve met on this journey who are doing their small part to make big changes in this world.