Tell us about yourself! Where you're from, what you're studying, or anything else you'd like to share. What motivated you to join the Regis team on the DR mission trip?
My name is Rashell Mezquia, and I am from Hartford, Connecticut. I graduated from Regis College as a nursing major with a Spanish minor. I am half Dominican and Cuban, and I grew up here in the US.
There are many factors that motivated me to join the Regis team on this mission trip. It all started last year when I heard the name Mustard Seed, and it sounded familiar to me from growing up: my grandma would always say “all it takes is having faith like the size of a mustard seed.”
It was then that I knew I wanted to go to Mustard Seed in Dominican Republic, as I am Dominican and love my country, and also want to serve residents who are in need with the nursing skills I acquired throughout my Regis education. I genuinely have a desire to serve those who are in more vulnerable positions than myself. This was a perfect way to give back and truly try to understand the lives of others.
Is there any part of the Mustard Seed Communities mission that particularly resonates with you? What relevance does it have to your life?
The entire mission of Mustard Seed Communities is amazing, and the opportunities that they offer to the residents daily is astonishing. The aspect that resonates with me the most is the utmost care that each of the staff members had for all of the residents.
Something that specifically stood out to me was that there was a female resident at Hogar Immanuel named Chula who was 33 years old, and she was treated with the same love, care, and attention that every other resident received despite the age difference. This really touched me because Mustard Seed Communities shows care by continuously loving these residents, regardless of their age.
This really resonates with me because it shows what unconditional love looks like and how important it is to love someone no matter what their situation is. The people of Mustard Seed enlightened me by showing how they pour love into the residents without wanting anything in return. After witnessing this compassion, I strive to show bits of love in the littlest ways throughout my days whether that is helping someone out at the grocery store or volunteering at the local food drive.
What connections did you make with teammates, residents, and caregivers at Hogar Immanuel? Is there any individual whose connection stays with you?
Throughout my mission trip, I made lifelong connections. I enhanced my relationship with my two best friends, Thalita and Caterine. We were already very close before attending the service trip, but after we came back, we were closer than ever because we had all experienced a really beautiful thing together.
I also bonded incredibly strongly with Francis, a six-year-old child who is challenged by a psychomotor disability. I met Francis as soon as I arrived at Hogar Immanuel, and at first, he was shy. He was playing with a ball and I asked him if I could play with him; he immediately threw the ball over to me, and from then on, every single morning when I came downstairs, he was waiting for me to give him food or running into my arms as soon as he saw me.
Francis and I were inseparable. We attended Mass together, and he sat right next to me, paying the utmost attention. We shared almost every meal together. He even colored a page for me in therapy, and he waited for me to come down the steps after lunch just to give it to me. This relationship grew strong very quickly, and I would not trade it for the world.
Another connection that I made was with Yudelka (Yudi), who works for Mustard Seed and led our mission group. Yudi was amazing – I quickly learned how pure and generous her heart is, and how much love she has for all of the children. She was constantly making sure we were okay whether it was dealing with food, sleeping circumstances, or just having a good day in general. Yudi always had a smile on her face (even bright and early at 8 a.m. for breakfast!). Yudi was one of the team members who really made an impact on me simply because of the unconditional love she has not only for the residents, but for everyone she encountered. She was so polite and loving with every single interaction. On the last day, we all cried, not only because we were leaving the residents, but because we were also leaving Yudi.
What is a story from your mission trip that you want to share?
On day three in the afternoon, some of the children were outside, and there was music playing. At this moment, we saw many of the kids who were immobile attempting to dance to the music in some way. Some of them were able to get on their knees and bounce up and down. Others were able to bob their heads and move their arms. Some were able to run around and dance freely.
This moment really meant a lot to me because although some of the kids weren’t able to walk and talk or sing and dance, they still found a way to enjoy the moment and celebrate the music. It really reminded me that sometimes we take things for granted. Meanwhile, these children are content and able to still find positives and dance to the music while working through the adversity of their physical conditions. This was a really big learning point for me because it offers a reality check; it makes me aware of my blessings that I may be taking my day-to-day joys for granted.
What did you learn about yourself from the experience?
Throughout this trip, I learned that I have a strong desire to serve our dear neighbor. I learned that I love doing “little” things like feeding a child and taking the weight off of caregivers who devote their lives to serving the most vulnerable.
I also love guiding kids in physical therapy. Being a part of their journey and witnessing their improvement little by little every day is a joy. With this being said, I also learned that service can be done little by little, day-to-day. We don’t always see big changes every day, but it’s the small things that contribute dramatically to my personal feeling of fulfillment.
Making meaningful connections in hopeful settings like Mustard Seed is what makes me truly happy; all of the materialistic things in life will never mean as much to me as this mission trip’s experiences and the relationships do!
What advice might you give to future mission volunteers going to Hogar Immanuel?
Some advice that I would give the future mission volunteers destined for Hogar Immanuel is to go there with an open mind and open heart. You’re going to see a lot of different things from your own home; the environment, the residents and their conditions, and more will most likely be unfamiliar, but be willing to take it all in and learn from it. This experience will shape your future self and you want to make sure you put your best self out there! Be sure to give your all to these residents, caregivers, and staff while you’re there.
This is the type of service you remember when you’re old and gray. You can learn a lot from the pure joy that these beautiful children and adults have, and hopefully it will rub off on you. Enjoy every single moment – from feeding time, to playing outside after dinner, to helping change a child. You will not regret going on a mission trip with Mustard Seed, as it is a step to shaping you into the best version of yourself.