We were approached by a friend of mine, MMS, who invited us to serve as the “Program Coordinators” for an experiential learning service trip to Nicaragua for students from Allegheny College. It seemed like a no-brainer when she asked. I heart Nicaragua in a huge way, and I’m pretty sure that Tim’s love for the country is growing with more and more experience there… and of course Sebastian was eager to see the place where his parents “found” his name. So, we packed up our bags and all the baby gear we thought we’d need for 11 days and headed to Nicaragua.
We made our way to Houston, where we met up with a group of 20 students from Allegheny College – 17 women and 3 men, most of whom are pre-health students. They were an outstanding group of young adults – interested, committed, concerned and full of energy and enthusiasm (I had forgotten what kind of energy you have when you’re 20 years old!).
Our purpose in Nicaragua was to work with Project Chacocente, a non-profit organization founded by a gringa who had visited the dump of Managua – La Chureca – and decided that she needed to do something to help out. She purchased a plot of land with the idea that her organization would assist families living and working in La Chureca to relocate and build sustainable housing, a school, income-generating businesses, and healthy lifestyles. Several families were selected to move to Project Chacocente, about an hour’s drive from the dump, and they committed to working in the community for a minimum of 5 years, after which time their houses and plots of land would become theirs. In 2010, the community has grown to 8 families.
We worked on three main projects while were at Chacocente…
The first project was building a computer lab for their local school. We did it all by hand from carrying the cement blocks to mixing the cement to laying the blocks and cutting rebar and wire reinforcements.
The second project was digging a septic tank for the toilets at the school. Currently they are using latrines, but they needed something deeper, with larger capacity. So we partnered in digging 20 feet down. It sure gets tough to breath when you’re down that deep underground! And yes, we did this all by hand…
And the third project was splitting and digging up plantain trees and transplanting them into new holes that we dug – again, by hand – in order to space them out better with the hopes that it would produce a better crop.
Lots of sweat and sore muscles were poured into these projects. Our students worked side by side with the folks from the community and didn’t complain about the scorching heat or their tired, achy bodies. They made us all very proud, and we were honored to share in this experience with them.
More to come on our adventures in the Motherland… poco a poco!