As Wilmington College students we had the rare opportunity to travel to the Central American country of Nicaragua for nearly two weeks starting August 5, 2011. We had little knowledge as to what to expect and what our travels there would entail. We both had a general idea that Nicaragua was an impoverished country and there was the possibility of instability and danger in these unfamiliar surroundings. Both of us had heard a little about the Sandinistas from various family members and friends (who were a little skeptical of anyone traveling there), but for us this was an opportunity we had to take. We believed that because it was an impoverished nation that there would be little-to-no color – just dirt roads and small shacks. Though we had these questions, we both agreed to jump into this trip with an open mind, ready to take in all experiences that were handed our way.
Once we arrived in Nicaragua, we were immediately welcomed with open arms by our delegation leaders Lillian and Carmen who gave us, contrary to what we’ve been told, a deep sense of security. We didn’t feel like tourists and despite the language barrier we had a sense of belonging. We both are compassionate people and became very interested in the Quaker-based organization Pro-Nica that runs the program
The next ten days were very busy and informative, but more life changing than one would expect. We became familiar with the capital city of Nicaragua , Managua and some of its history and culture during the first full day of the trip. We had the privilege of attending the national theatre to experience their Folklore Ballet and see just how important their culture is and how it is inculcated in their people from birth. The next day, Lillian took us to the Lagoon de Apoyo (a relaxing day of getting acquainted with each other) and we had the opportunity to see the active Masaya volcano.
We were exposed to some great development projects in this amazing country. Both the Casa Materna and Mama Licha program focused on women’s health and safety, especially during pregnancy. We were able to grasp a new concept of cultural arts that is beginning to take form in Latin America by Aldo, the art of Latin Origami. The two projects that had an enormous impact on our hearts were La Chureca ( Managua ‘s landfill and its residents) and Los Quinchos (a program for ex-street children). This was an emotional roller coaster ride for us and it became very clear to us how privileged we are. Of course we were changed, but we didn’t cry. The children brought out a light within us, not just by their simplistic lifestyle, but their happiness to make the best of what they have.
We were fortunate enough to see both sides of the story: those who started with nothing and those that were given the opportunity to better themselves through education, trade, cultural music and dance. They yearned for knowledge and personal relationships where the children of the United States are socially blinded to the fact that these elements are what really brings people together and makes a society thrive. We must develop an appreciation for the small things in life andtake it at a slower pace so we can better understand what life is about. It’s not about how much money you make or your status, but by your personal relationships and the lives you impact. Nicaraguans embrace relationships, which opened our eyes to what life should be based upon. We have learned that they are not just poor – they are an exploited country, but one that is abundant in resources, love, and endless opportunity.
We encourage all of you who have never traveled abroad or have only experienced another country through tourism, to step out of your comfort zone. There is more to life out there than what we experience here. If you really want to know and grasp the reality of life itself you have to experience it through other people and cultures. Learn their history, engage their culture, and share what you have learned. We are grateful to the campus Isaac Harvey Fund which arranged this experience and assisted us in paying for it.