When Terri Bowden, NP-C, took her first mission trip to Nicaragua during nursing school, little did she know that 13 years later her love of the country would be shared by her husband and children.
During Terri’s second year of nursing school, she was chosen for a summer medical mission trip to Nicaragua. “I immediately fell in love with the country and its people,” she says.
Her trip was with Centers of Hope Missions International, and Terri’s commitment has blossomed into leadership positions within the non-profit organization. She is President of its Board of Directors and Medical Director.
“My involvement began with a medical mission trip, but our primary focus is on year-round operations that are more impactful within these communities,” she explains. “Our organization is dedicated to the children of Nicaragua and Kenya. Our partners in both countries have been essential to Centers of Hope, growing from a single center in 1993 to what it is today.”
In Nicaragua, Centers of Hope has nine active feeding programs that serve the children in surrounding communities year-round. In Kenya, there is an orphanage where 130 children live full-time.
“All of our programs in Nicaragua are run by our Nicaraguan partners who live within the communities,” she says. “Our centers provide a place for the children to come and play, do homework, fellowship, or receive a meal.”
She vividly remembers her first trip. “We set up a mobile clinic at one of our feeding centers and there was no electricity, and it was very hot. I was sitting at a table in the pharmacy, and something touched my leg. I looked down and a little girl was sitting on the ground next to me. She was so small, and she stayed with me the whole day. We immediately connected and I was able to go back and see her again before we left that week.”
That initial encounter with a special child led to a lasting bond. Terri and the girl, Anielka, exchanged letters and saw each other every year. Anielka, now 18, is an important part of Terri’s family.
“On my first trip I was shocked at the primitive conditions in the villages,” she says. “The people lacked many necessities. I believe everyone should have access to food, water, and basic needs and my immediate response was the overwhelming urge to help.”
A Family Who Cares
Terri returned home and talked with her husband, Zach, who valued her commitment. “I know we are capable of helping and this effort is now a large part of my family’s life.”
The family, including daughters Faith, 17, and Lily, 14, was able to visit Nicaragua, some of the feeding centers, and meet Anielka several years ago. “This is our number one commitment as a family, and Zach and I want to show our daughters the importance of compassion.”
Terri is optimistic about the country. “I am grateful that we provide a safe place and meet basic nutritional needs. Many of the same kids who we met years ago are grown and want to give back by serving as role models to the next generation.”
She admits she used to cry every time she left Nicaragua. “I know now when I leave, I will return soon, and we communicate regularly. I have built lasting friendships there and I return at least once a year. Nicaragua has my heart.”
The Bowden family has learned small things add up to make a difference. “For example, our children and their friends have done lemonade stands that provided rice and beans for our feeding centers,” she explains.
“All of us have a responsibility to give back in some way, whether in our community or another state or country. You don’t have to be physically present or have your gift be monetary. There are many opportunities in the world to give back.”
Terri shares her simple philosophy: “The world would be a better place if we all remembered to be compassionate and help those in need.”
• It is the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.
• This Central American national is located between the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.
• Centers of Hope International (www.cohmissionsinternational.org) offers opportunities for charitable efforts in Nicaragua and Kenya.