Family Turns Vacation Into Fundraiser for Nicaraguan Children
LINCOLN SQUARE — When the Moran family heads to Nicaragua on a family vacation in July, they'll be taking along enough baggage for a small village. Literally.
For the past month, the Morans — Patrick, Myra and their two young children, who make their home in the Winnemac Park area — have been raising money online in order to buy school supplies and books that they'll deliver to children on the remote islands of Little Corn and Ometepe, two of the planned stops on their trip.
As of Tuesday, they'd topped their original goal of $1,000 — the average annual income of most Nicaraguans — with two days left in the campaign.
Patrick Moran, a videogame designer with Disney, first paid a solo visit to the Central American country three years ago.
"I'd been to Costa Rica on a more traditional vacation. I wanted to see what a country looked like before a tourist structure developed," he said. "Nicaragua is kind of a little bit like the Wild West."
Google images turned up the isolated Corn Islands, situated off Nicaragua's Atlantic coast, during a search of "best beaches in the world."
"It really is paradise," Moran said of the turquoise water, white sand and coral reefs.
But that beauty comes at a price, he discovered. There's no school for children beyond the elementary grade level — support for state-run schools falls off dramatically in remote areas — and supplies must be shipped in once a week, Moran said.
"They're making their own reading rooms and community centers," he said of the locals. "They're very proud of their island and their culture."
The son of missionaries, Moran was born while his parents were posted to Venezuela. He said he couldn't return to Nicaragua without doing something to give back.
"The decision to go there was synonymous with the decision to raise money," he said. "What if everyone before they went somewhere under-resourced raised some money?"
Moran hit upon crowd funding through YouCaring.com not only as a way to gather donations, but also to build awareness.
"It gives people an opportunity to be part of something bigger," he said. "Giving is really important to developing a wider worldview."
Moran has been working with contacts on both Little Corn and Ometepe islands to ensure that the items he buys and delivers are those needed most. In the case of Ometepe — a pair of volcanic islands that sprouted in the middle of Lake Nicaragua — "kids are having to share pencils and paper," he said.
With just weeks to go before their plane takes flight, Moran is still working on his Spanish, and he and Myra have been busy prepping their children — a 6-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son — for the journey.
"We've been setting expectations — it's going to be hot, you can't turn down food — and practicing sticking together," said Moran, who "rejected" the notion his kids are too young to appreciate such an ambitious itinerary.
"I want them to experience other cultures," he said. "We're just going to take them."
If there's one thing the gaming world has taught him, though, it's that there's no way to plan for every contingency.
"You see [players] experience things you didn't intend," Moran said. "Making games is very much about exploration and so is travel."
To donate, click here.