Lessons from Nicaragua

I have just come back from Nicaragua where I chaperoned a trip with two other colleagues and 17 eighth graders. The purpose of this trip was to help build a school in the impoverished region of el Jicarito. I should say one of many. Education there is a luxury only a few children have access to, and as one of the members of Seeds of Learning told us, it’s the backbone for a better future for the country.

Seeds of Learning is an organization that helps build schools in Nicaragua and anything needed to bring education to children. But the way it does it is amazing. They teach kids from first world countries to appreciate what they have by immersing them in the communities of Nicaragua and actually having them help build a school. The leaders are great teachers, educators who are passionate about what they do.

The kids we brought along to SOL (Seeds of Learning) where troopers who didn’t complain and simply were eager to help and learn, away from their comfy lives back in the US. We were all inspired by Seeds of Learning’s commitment to such an enormous undertaking. The SOL leaders taught us every day about the culture and how to appreciate what we have. All the activities, besides building the actual school made our hearts open up as well as our minds. The week we stayed was intense, to say the least, but well worth the experience.

We learned:
1. How to mix dirt, build a wall, carry wheelbarrows of rocks and sand, in 40 Degree Centigrade humid and sunny conditions for hours. Not easy at all.

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2. We visited the temporary school which was an outdoor porch made of steel walls and tarp. We learned how children can learn under any condition if they are willing. The kids in Tipitapa studied and learned with no books, with only one teacher to hold the fort. Yet the kids smiled and were happy and eager to learn. The ages of the group ranged from 5 to 12.

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3. Kids from the nearby community high school came to the building site every day, as volunteers to help us. They walked along the unpaved dirt roads for miles after classes in order to do this. These kids showed us how to smile, dance and work hard.
4. Our kids and us, chaperones, stayed at a very rustic community center. No warm water, not that we need it under such heat! Bad plumbing and, and well, a long list of things we believe we cannot do without. But we got used to it.
5. We learned that it is in the free giving of time and ourselves that we can make others happy as well as ourselves. The satisfaction of supporting others in dire times is invaluable.
6. A hug makes us happier than ten pairs of shoes. Some kids had none.
7. There are people doing good in the world, like SOL, for kicks, not for a big paycheck.
8. That “alone” we are nothing.
9. Seeing first hand that there are people out there starving and with barely the essentials puts everything into perspective. We have it so easy with our first world problems!
10. We learned that as a team, anything is possible.

I, personally returned from the experience refreshed and with a different perspective of what I don’t have and what I do have. And this trip reinforced what I already knew, as I mentioned before, that it’s in giving that we receive.

Thank you, thank you, Seeds of Learning!

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