Professionals Without Borders


  • March 28 & 29, 2015: Final Days in Belize by Chris

    Posted by Lauren Rochholz on 3/31/2015 10:19:38 AM

    [Day 8]

    Today was our last full day at Liberty. With the majority of projects wrapped up, Ryan and I still had our work cut out for us with the trench. Not only did we have to dig out another twenty-five or so feet of earth, but also we had to redistribute the dug up mixture of concrete-esque dirt and clay so that it would fall back into the trench during they rainy season. In order to get this task done, Luke, Tessa, Nicole, and Cat put on the gloves and picked up their shovels, and took to the mound of dirt. We all earned our keep (and our tans) today by digging, shoveling, and raking the dirt. We got it done, and hopefully the trench helps to keep the water level at bay during the rainy season. Beaten, battered, bruised, and bitten by ants and mosquitoes, we made our way home to freshen up and headed to dinner to enjoy our final night in Belize. Today was a good day.

    [Day 9]

    After enjoying our last breakfast in Belize, we made our way to Liberty to spend a couple of hours with the kids before we left for the airport. Luke, Cal, and I played a few pick up games of basketball with some of the older kids. Even though Team Liberty beat us all three games, we had a phenomenal time playing with the kids. After a couple of hours, we unfortunately had to say our goodbyes and make our way to the airport. The smiles on the kids’ faces will forever be engrained in our memories.

    2015 Belize Group Photo

    Our trip to Belize has come to a close, and it’s crazy to think about how quickly the time has passed. A week ago today, we had all truly met for the first time at the airport, unsure of what exactly was in store for all of us in Belize. We were all asked at the beginning of the trip to think about the question, “What is the point?” Why spend the money to travel over 2,800 miles and increase our carbon footprint when the money can be used to pay locals to do the same work we did? I came up with an answer that I feel helps to justify the trip and answer the question we were asked nine days ago:

    Expand our perspective – We can read about what’s going on in other places around the world, but what sort of insight does that truly give us? How can we begin to understand the world for what truly is without having experienced the world for ourselves? Words, after all, are only one person’s perspective, which inherently implies bias towards an experience. Participating in humanitarian trips, such as our trip to Belize, helps to expand our limited perspective. Trips like this help to broaden our outlook on the world by allowing us to venture outside of our safety bubbles and experience a small glimpse of what is truly going on in the world. These trips provide us with a different lens in which to view the world, to see the world through a different perspective, even though it’s only for a moment out of the scheme of our entire lives. All it takes is a moment—the right moment—to change our perspective. 

    Italian poet Cesare Pavese eloquently said, “We do not remember days, we remember moments.” Although our time in Belize was brief and only but a moment in the entirety of our existence, each of our relative perspectives was altered. With an altered—and improved—perspective, one can begin to open the door to understanding their position in the world. And, with a better understanding of one’s position in the world, they can begin to inflict change on the world, one moment at a time. That is the point.




    March 27, 2015: Day 7 in Belize by Luke

    Posted by Lauren Rochholz on 3/31/2015 08:37:12 AM

    In search for more ancient Mayan ruins, the PWOB team set off today to the Mesoamerican archeological site called Lamanai. We woke a few hours later than the previous morning at around 7am and enjoyed breakfast made by Ms. Virginia. Speaking mostly for myself, I think everyone was exhausted from the adventurous day we had yesterday on Starfish Island but, we managed to get ourselves into the van and onto our next adventure. Our destination included a one hour boat ride by an experienced tour guide. When we decided to go on the trips to Starfish Island and Lamanai, I was overly excited that we would be able to spend time on a boat and get ourselves on the water.

    We stopped at Liberty to switch vans and met our guide, Calissa, who took us to the boats along the New River in Orange Walk Town. Once we arrived, we met our second tour guide, Carlos, who was also our captain for the boat ride. We gathered our stuff and grabbed the prepared coolers of food and drinks for lunch and climbed aboard the vessel. Carlos first headed north to show us the Spider Monkey that lived near by. By using monkey calls and 20 years of guide experience, he led us to the monkey hidden in the trees. Some of us were given bananas to feed him as he climbed down the trees and swung over the boat holding on just by his tail. After we fed the monkey and explored a little bit of the surrounding area we headed south down the river to Lamanai.

    2015 Belize Day 7 monkey

    When we arrived at the site, we hiked along the trails to six different archeological ruins. Carlos explained how Lamanai is one of the largest sites archeologists have uncovered in northern Belize. It was really a treat to explore more than one site of ancient Mayan ruins in Belize, including "Altun Ha". As the Howler monkeys howled to one another, we were guided to each of the temples and climbed to the peaks to grab stunning photos. On top of the "High Temple" overlooked what seemed to be the whole country of Belize. A full 360 degree view above the trees. It makes sense to build a temple with the country being so flat! The sights were spectacular and well worth the hike to the top. After touring the temples, we had buffet style lunch of rice, chicken, coleslaw, salad, fried plantains, and watermelon. This was the time we also had to check out the small museum on the site and shop in the various gift shops.

    2015 Belize Day 7 ruins

    After lunch, we headed back north on the New River, spotting baby crocodiles and turtles along the way. The boat ride couldn't have gone any smoother and the breeze cooled us off after the heat of the hikes up and down the temples. Once we returned to our original departure location we headed back to the guest house to relax for the day.

    When we returned to the house, everyone settled down and we had a tasty dinner made yet again by Ms. Virginia. For the rest of the evening we hung out, played games, and prepared for another full day at Liberty. I'm pleased to say the trips we have taken allows us to catch our breath from the volunteer work, and explore what Belize has in store for us. You betta Belize it!



    March 26, 2015: Day 6 In Belize by Nicole

    Posted by Lauren Rochholz on 3/30/2015 08:41:13 AM

    This morning I awoke to my cell phone alarm. Within 15 seconds I heard two more alarms. It was 4:00 AM. We left the house at 4:45 and headed for Amir’s boat. Today, we were in for quite a trip.  The boat left Amir’s house shortly after 5AM.  Watching the sun come up is a rare occasion, but today it felt good to be there for it. Amir had recently bought a small island, and after picking up his staff, he allowed me to drive the boat about half way there. This 60 ft. boat was certainly the largest I’ve ever steered! We spent an hour on the island before we had to leave to pick up 120 people on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship. Amir invested a lot in his new piece of land, but bringing people to it was how he made his money back. Next, all (about) 160 of us were brought to the Belizean Barrier Reef for an hour of snorkeling. We saw a school of squid, starfish, conch, stingray, and numerous species of coral and fish! Hopefully the underwater pictures we took will reflect what we really saw, but those are yet to be uploaded… The rest of the day was spent eating delicious food, snorkeling, and exploring Amir’s island.  We were also able to collect some beautiful shells, which the crew said we shouldn’t feel bad about collecting, as they washed up plentifully each day.  We had the privilege to interact with Amir’s crew of 30 Belizean men and women, and learned about their jobs and lives.  Throughout the day I saw so many amazing species plants and animals, especially when we kayaked into the mangroves around the island. On our way back to Ladyville, the sun was far across the sky from where we saw it come up, and I think every single one of us began to feel a bit of a sunburn in some places.

    Belize 2015 Day 6 Nicole 2

    We did not spend the day digging ditches, or sorting clothes and books, but we did immerse ourselves among the Belizean people and were able to experience some amazing biodiversity. Today we first handedly learned about this beautiful country we have chosen to come to, and we feel gratitude for that.


    Belize 2015 Day 6 Nicole 1


    March 25, 2015: Day 5 In Belize by Luke

    Posted by Lauren Rochholz on 3/30/2015 08:39:13 AM

    Another full day at the Liberty Children's Home. We woke this morning to yet another spectacular breakfast from Ms. Virginia. Eggs, refried beans, sausage, homemade tortillas, and freshly squeezed orange juice. So dangerous! I haven't decided whether I like sleeping in the hammock outside with the cool breeze or in one of several beds inside. Either way, I'm excited to wake up every morning in Belize. This morning, the old director of Liberty, Delfina, joined us for breakfast and conversation. We introduced ourselves and it was nice to catch up on where to find the local blackberry wine, I must admit, I had to know. 

    We arrived at Liberty at 9am as usual. However, the plan today was to work a little bit more than typical to gain way on our projects. The past few days I have been jumping around from project to project to help the other students out but I really enjoy working with Michael on all the mechanical repairs. Since our first full day at Liberty, Michael and I have been working together in the rec room, ripping open arcade games and coin rides to modify them as simply as possible. The kids enjoyed hanging out with us and learning a thing or two about electrical; it was nice to interact one-on-one with them. 

    First, we tested and made sure we knew which machines worked and which did not. Then we modified each machine so no coins had to be used by the kids to allow them to function. The goal of the machines was to allow them to play by a simple plug in and a flick of a switch. Today, I assisted Michael by assembling outlets for 220V power, the needed voltage for the machines to run. By the middle of the day, we had one arcade game and an arcade ride up and running (The rec room turned into chaos)! The kids were so excited to take a turn on the Ninja Turtle car ride and play a game or two on the Street Fighter arcade game. As a mechanical engineering major, I loved getting the hands on experience working out of the classroom and in the real world, helping the kids at Liberty. 

    2015 Belize day 5 arcade games

    Chris and Ryan continued their hard work in the trench while Cat helped shovel away the excess clay into the uneven spots of land. The clay is so tough and heavy, that if you threw a piece at a tree, the clay would stick! Tessa and Nicole finished their project in the library and moved onto staining the porch and stairs of the old library-turned-guesthouse. After completing that project, they headed to the upstairs of the rec room to sort and organize the clothes for the kids, stumbling upon geico eggs and cockroaches. At the end of the day, we all gathered together at the trench to shovel clay into the wheelbarrow and haul it off to wherever needed. 

    My favorite part of the day was seeing all the kids jump on the machines after they returned from school. Although hard at first, they quickly learned how to take turns and wait to make sure everybody had an equal opportunity. I have grown a stronger relationship with these kids each and every day, and I'm glad to know that the work I do here at Liberty really makes a difference. The time spent in Belize has exceeded my expectations personally, allowing me to do work in the engineering field, while improving the lives of others.



    March 24, 2015: Day 4 in Belize by Chris

    Posted by Lauren Rochholz on 3/25/2015 11:28:05 AM

    Day 4: In Search For

    Today started out similar to the last two. Each of us typically wakes up a little early to have a little time to ourselves. Whether it’s reading a few pages in a good book, skimming through the latest Facebook posts, or enjoying the already warm and humid morning on the porch with a cup of coffee listening to the sounds of Belize, we seamlessly go about our morning business until Ms. Virginia calls us to the table for breakfast. I must admit, I was a bit sore after spending the better half of the day digging trenches, but when you wake up in the morning and watch the sunrise and you realize that you’re in Belize, the soreness is merely an added bonus. Even if it’s only for a short while, I feel blessed that I have the opportunity to wake up in Belize.

    2015 Belize view 2015 Belize Hammock

    Upon arriving at Liberty, each of us made haste to pick up where we left off from yesterday. Ryan and I were especially eager to make up ground from yesterday’s mild letdown with the progress we made on the trenches. After a strong start yesterday morning, our momentum was all but depleted when we ended up digging into some dense clay and a thick patch of roots. We resumed our mission today with a more conservative goal and better game plan as to how we would attack this mess we found ourselves in. We dug for a good three hours before we broke for lunch, at which point I was reassigned to help Cal while Luke replaced me to work with Ryan in the trenches.

    For our first task, Cal and I set out to take a handful of measurements in the dining and kitchen facility. The measurements were to be used to create something that would help reduce the echoing in the dome structure. If you’ve ever been to George Bush Airport in Houston, when you stand in the middle of the dome, it’s a lot like being in the “echo chamber” in Terminal C. Cal had a brilliant vision of having an acoustic engineer and one of Seattle University’s distinguished art faculty to collaborate on the project. This project won’t be done this time around, but I’m eager to see what comes of it when I come back next year!

    2015 Belize day 4 capentry  2015 Belize day 4 painting

    Our second task had us taking more measurement, this time in the old library-turned-guesthouse near the entrance to Liberty. Ms. Agatha wants to create a place where the volunteers can escape to and have a bit of privacy away from the hustle and bustle of the home (44 kids running around can exhaust even the best of volunteers). After taking our measurements and looking around the building, it was evident that it was in need of some dire TLC and elbow grease. Cal was particularly enthused about this project, partly because this guesthouse has the potential to be something truly amazing. The hope (and plan) is to create a practical and comfortable place where volunteers can come and stay onsite, which would allow them to truly experience the essence of Liberty Children’s Home.

    I feel comfortable speaking on behalf of this year’s group when I say that we all share Cal’s and Agatha’s enthusiasm and vision for this project (and for all the projects).

    As the day drew to a close, I made my way to the library to check in on Nicole and Tessa to see how their project was coming along. I noticed several children running in and out and laughing as I approached the library. When we first walked into the library on Sunday, it was like walking into an unfrequented basement at your grandparents’ house. The library was dark, stuffy, and it smelled of old and, quite possibly, moldy books. Hundreds of books were scattered throughout the library, unorganized and poorly taken care of, as if the library was a cemetery where used books went to rest. I had no idea how Nicole and Tessa were going to turn this dungeon into an inviting place where children want to hang out and read. However, when I walked into the library this afternoon, I was completely taken aback by the complete transformation that Nicole and Tessa had accomplished. Dawn was in the corner reading to two children, and Nicole and Tessa were helping a few children with their homework assignments. It’s hard to describe the joy that I felt seeing Dawn, Nicole, and Tessa spend time with the children and seeing their excitement after all of the hard work they put into the library. This was undoubtedly my favorite moment thus far at Liberty.

    2015 Belize Day 4 reading

    There truly are amazing things going on here at Liberty Children’s Home, and each of us is excited to have the opportunity to share and be a part of PWOB and Liberty’s vision. Little-by-little, project-by-project, PWOB and is making a difference here at Liberty. Even if the children may not remember our names at the end of the day, what matters is that we are helping to provide a better home for them so they can do what they do best: be kids. One of the questions that we were asked at an orientation before we left for Belize was, “What’s the point?” What’s the point of us being here? What’s the point of raising all of this money to come down here to work at Liberty when that same money can be used to fund local workers? Truth be told, I don’t know yet. I’m still searching for the answer. We’re all in search for the answer.


    2015 Belize gate

    March 23, 2015: Day 3 in Belize by Ryan

    Posted by Lauren Rochholz on 3/24/2015 02:24:16 PM

    Waking shorty after our cook, Virginia, arrived to prepare breakfast—and well in advance of the rest of the group—Chris and I went for a quick run around the neighborhood. Thoroughly warned about the possibility of encountering stray dogs that would then (potentially) proceed to viciously pursue us, we armed ourselves with sticks and went on our way. Thankfully, no encounters occurred, and Chris and I made it back to the compound unscathed and just in time to enjoy a well-deserved meal with the remainder of the group.

    In our haste to get to Liberty by 9am, we nearly forgot to prepare our afternoon meal of chips and sandwiches, so the entire group pitched in to get it done as soon as possible. For the record, assembly lines are efficient for a reason. Lunch was secured in no time, and we were well on our way, anxious for what lay ahead.

    Arriving at Liberty shorty before 9am, we found ourselves with time on our hands as Cal, Dawn, and Cat worked out how to best employ us. In the meantime, the rest of us—Nicole, Tessa, Luke, Chris, and myself—occupied our few minutes of down time by either shooting hoops or indulging our inner child on the courtside swings. Soon enough, a lone boy recruited us to play a pickup game of “Rush”—a variation of world football—which he was clearly adept at, for he proceeded to shame all of us by scoring goal after goal. Though still early, the intensity of the sun was already in full force, and some of us (myself included) were soon soaked in sweat; a trend that was to go unchanged for the remainder of the day.

    After their short meeting, Cat returned to brief us on what they had in mind. We started out by walking through the recreational room and conducting a quick survey of what we thought we could do to improve the space. Once we had collected each member’s input, we moved on to the library. Deciding that the most progress could be made there, we decided to get started. However, Cal and Michael (another Liberty volunteer veteran from Seattle) showed up before we could even get started and informed us of their slight change of plans. Cat, Tessa, and Nicole would remain at the library to continue the planned refurbishment, while Luke (an aspiring electrical engineer) was chosen to join Michael on electrical related projects elsewhere. Deciding that Chris and I were little more useful as cheap manual, outdoor labor, Cal assigned us to ditch digging detail… Yay us!

    2015 Belize Digging

    After our initial walkthrough, it was clear that the library was in serious need of reorganizing (not to mention, a thorough cleaning), so Cat, Tessa, and Nicole went to work. After first conducting a thorough cleaning, they then turned to reorganizing furniture by moving tables in order to allow them to be used as desks. Once that was done, they then began the arduous task of sorting books by genre and grouping them into their own sections in the hopes of improving the organization and appeal of the library’s layout. During this time they also realized that there were numerous books that were either irrelevant for children (including a gem detailing the DOS operating system) or infested with mold from the humidity. The task has yet to be finished and will be continued tomorrow…

    2015 Belize library

    Guided by Michael, Luke worked on getting the old arcade games and mechanical rides working so the children would have more entertainment opportunities. They started out testing to see if any of the systems worked and determined that the mechanical ride worked, it just needed to be modified so that it would work without coins. Due to Michael’s skill, they were able to accomplish this. Regarding the arcade consoles, they determined that only one functioned properly, but the other has no video feed and needs to be investigated further. In addition to these tasks, they realized that the dryers on the compound were inoperable due to the lack of a 220v. They then set out to convert the nearest electrical source from the standard 110v to 220v source. Without these dryers, the staff is forced to line dry all the laundry. Although this process is is certainly more sustainable, it is nearly an impossibility during the rainy season.

    Meanwhile, Chris and I got started on the ditch. Picking up where the groundskeeper had left off, and using his work as a gauge for our own efforts, we worked to get as much of the task accomplished. Initially making quick progress, we were confident in our initial assessment of how far we would make it before the day was done. As it turns out, we were a bit overconfident. After making it some 50 feet, the soil ceased to be relatively dry and gradually began to become what can only be described as sticky. Apparently, Belizean soil is mostly clay, and moist clay at that. At about this time, we both realized that we had jumped on the opportunity to get our “He-man” on by digging the ditch without actually knowing why we were doing it. Given the exponentially increasing difficulty of the task, this question began to weigh ever more heavily on our minds. As we speculated the necessity of such a project between ourselves, Michael showed up to see how we were fairing. Hoping he could shed some light on the true purpose of our task, we decided to consult him. Luckily, given Michael’s history with Liberty, he was just the man to ask. As he explained, the amount of rain that the area receives during the rainy season, if not properly drained, can result in standing water in excess of 10 inches. We were digging a ditch that would drain that water off the compound and thereby prevent the breeding of mosquitos as well as a whole host of other negative health hazards. Our curiosity satisfied, and fortified by seeing the grander picture and significance of our efforts, Chris and I pressed on.

    2015 Belize ditch

    None of the tasks that we began today were completed. But our trip is not over, and tomorrow is a new day. One book, one electrical panel, and one swing of the pickaxe at a time, we will finish what we all came here to accomplish: making the lives of these children, and the adults charged with their care, just a little less challenging.


    March 21 & 22, 2015: Day 1 & 2 in Belize by Tessa

    Posted by Lauren Rochholz on 3/23/2015 03:03:03 PM


    We arrived at the airport in Belize City at approximately 10:30 am Belizean time.  Due to a miscommunication in arrival time our ride had been at the airport since 9:00 am, we were so thankful she waited for us.

    Day 1:

    After settling in at Breadfruit Garden, we began our first adventure. We decided that we were going to head to Altun Ha, the Mayan archaeological site in Belize City.  On the way to Altun Ha, we ran into a sign advertising the Snake Man. He had all different types of snakes native to Belize, including the Fer De Lance, green viper, and a coral snake. 

    2015 Belize snake

    Then, we arrived at Altun Ha, which consists of 13 Mayan temples and mounds. This is the site where the famous Jade Head—a priceless Mayan artifact—was found in the temple of the high priest.

    2015 Belize Aztecs


    The first night we had dinner at a restaurant on the ocean in Belize City. We met Ms. Agatha who operates Liberty Children’s Home and her cousin. The food and company was amazing.
    After a very long day we arrived back home around 10:30 pm to find a ginormous spider!


    Day 2:


    Today we woke up to a homemade breakfast from Virginia. She made an amazing breakfast consisting of refried beans, eggs, fry jacks, pineapple, and stew chicken. 
    After breakfast, we packed up our donations and headed to Liberty Children’s Home.  Agatha met us at the home and explained to us what they do and what there current needs are.
    Here is a little background on Liberty Children’s Home: They currently have 44 children that they are caring for; there current capacity for children is 42 but the need is too great. The children come from a variety of backgrounds including medical conditions such as cerebral palsy and HIV, abuse, neglect, and sex trafficking.  The home provides them with shelter, food, life skills, and love. They also arrange medical care and opportunities to learn how to work in the real world.
    The home has several needs that we hope to help them with:
    • Kitchen update
    • Daycare sponsorship (they currently are providing free care and education to more than 6 children, which they are losing money from)
    • Replace bathroom doors
    • Remove thatching and replace with aluminum
    • Repair pipes to the green house
    • Repair the sump pump that pumps the grey water to other areas in the home
    • A 15-passenger van to transport the children
    • Repairing the cabinets in the girls dormitory


    These are just some of the many needs that Liberty Children’s Home has. If you are interested in learning more, please visit their website. In addition, we created a fundraising page in case anyone is inspired and would like to donate money to the cause.  The website is on it is called “Liberty Children’s Home Belize”.
    While at Liberty, we met a young English lady, Alex who just arrived at the home and will be staying there for another four weeks. We decided that she should go on our second adventure with us to the Belize Zoo.


    2015 Belize Zoo

    This is not a typical zoo; it is more of an injured wild life refuge. All of the animals are indigenous to Belize and were either pets that people could not care for, or injured animals that were unable to be released into the wild. While there, several of us were able to have a jaguar encounter where we were locked in a small metal cage inside of the jaguar exhibit, were able to pet him and feed him. We also saw animals such as the tapir, which is Belize’s national animal, along with macaw parrots, howler monkeys, crocodiles, and more.

     2015 Belize animal


    After the zoo we had a great dinner that was prepared by Virginia. We had baked chicken, cooked spice rice, marinated onions and peppers, and roasted plantains.
    Stay tuned, tomorrow we will begin our first project at Liberty!




    March 20, 2015: Belize for Spring Break

    Posted by Lauren Rochholz on 3/20/2015 09:22:51 AM


    Dear friends of PWOB,

    We leave for Belize tonight on the redeye!  The students (and staff) are very excited for our trip and looking forward to working with Liberty Children’s Home.

    Thank you for your support!  Your continued confidence in PWOB is greatly appreciated.


    January 7, 2015: Nicaragua Recap by Jane

    Posted by Lauren Rochholz on 1/14/2015 04:32:26 PM

     January 7, 2015

    We’ve been back from Nicaragua for more than two weeks.  Is it too late to contribute to the blog?  I hope not.  It was such a special experience on so many levels.  Thanks to the SU facilities department for having the vision to see what a powerful thing happens when you send a group of SU students and assorted staff to another country!  Professionals Without Borders has a winning combination.  The group that assembled at 4:30 am on the SU campus on Dec. 12 was very different from the group that returned ten days later.  We became a little family in the very big-hearted, welcoming embrace of the Neustros Pequenos Hermanos big family of the Casa Padre Wasson in Jinotepe. 

    2014 Nica group

    Some of the special memories are reflected in the photos included in this blog.  Others are recorded in my heart.  I’ll hit the highlights here.

    The special experience of watching each SU student and team member engage with the children with love, laughter and genuine interest.  Robert, Mark, Meech and Sara played soccer, volleyball and basketball for hours.   Wayne was everywhere – on the soccer court, the basketball court, the volleyball court – and this after a full day of being our jefe (boss of the retaining wall project!)  Bianca dazzled all of us with her jump roping skills and Hilary with her project management ability.  Sara brought children’s books in Spanish that were a hit.  Meech helped an older girl write a letter in English.  Robert, Mark and Wayne became human gymnasiums which the children loved.  We got to meet one of Wayne’s goddaughters, a beautiful young woman who is going to school at the University of Managua.  Our two Olivias had a steady following.  We heard “Donde esta Olivia?” all day when both of them rested from stomach upset.  Our folks can dance!  And they showed it at every opportunity.

    2014 Nica Fun & Games   

    2014 Nica reading

    It wasn’t all fun – we worked every day except for the two days we explored.  And it was HOT.  Hours of shoveling, sifting sand, moving heavy concrete blocks, digging and moving dirt, building steel structures to support the retaining wall and spreading concrete all the while practicing our Spanish.  I’ll never look at a retaining wall the same way again!

    2014 Nica building 1   2014 Nica building 3

     2014 Nica building 4 2014 Nica building 2

    Then there is NPH, our host organization.  The campus about the size of Seattle University is home to 250 children ages 4 through college.  Children live in sixteen large, family style homes, complete with  porches, courtyards and cement pathways throughout.  The homes are simply furnished and food is basic.  What there is plenty of is love, respect for each child, and a calm quiet way of creating a loving community.  The heart and soul is set by the staff and volunteers who are the tias and tios of each home.  The staff and residents create family and being part of it gave us a new way to think about just what family means. 

    NPH Nicaragua has an onsite school for children and youth through the eleventh grade. Students working towards a technical career, attend school in the local community. A vocational program  includes welding, carpentry, painting, maintenance repair, sewing, shoemaking and handicrafts.  Any student who is able and interested is supported through college.  NPH continues to be home base while they study at various colleges in Managua. 

    2014 Nica Kids

    Other impressions – when an old yellow school bus traveled for three days to the NPH International soccer tournament in Mexico, they spent the nights on the bus.  When a group of 10 young teen girls made lanterns for the Posada they quietly waited their turn to use the two pair of scissors and two bottles of glue.  We survived just fine with instant coffee and rice at almost every meal.  We each carried a spoon and bowl when we went to lunch and dinner in the homes.  Beads, puzzles, balls, frisbees, Uno, the card game spoons were great activities for all ages.  We could have used more English and Spanish children’s books.  The “goodbye party” they had for us on our last night was incredibly moving – dancers in costumes, a great musical performance, and wonderful expressions of appreciation for visiting and working followed by ice cream for all.  And the great conversations and laughter. OK, boogie boarding on the beach where a recent season of Survivor was filmed was pretty fun!

    The best lesson I brought back is a reminder of what it important in life.  It’s not about the stuff, it’s about people sharing our humanity across cultures, geography, and language.  What a wonderful way to be reminded at a wonderful time of year. 

    Jane Spalding, staff 

    December 20, 2014: Day 8 by Pat

    Posted by Lauren Rochholz on 1/14/2015 04:05:20 PM

    How can this be our last full day in Nicaragua? We are off early for a day of discovery in our host country. We start in the city of Masaya, an old city in the Pueblo Blancos at the base of the Volcan Masaya. It is famous for its craft marketplace. Our NPH guide Rina, son Jonathan and our driver drop us off in the midst of the ancient market for one hour of shopping. It's a scramble to get Christmas gifts in such a short time, but our day has been cut a bit short we must scurry to keep on track. The market is framed by an old stone structure giving it the appearance of an abandoned fortress, even while the fabrics inside fill the interior with tropical effusions. Quite a contrast!

    From Masaya we drive in a climb up the side of the volcano, then down the interior to Laguna de Aboya. Our destination is the Casa de la Abuela, "grandma's house", a picturesque getaway on the shore of the caldera lake where we will have lunch. As we dine "al fresco", a small squall blows over the swimmers in the fresh-water lake. Of course, being used to Pacific Northwest weather, we are not intimidated by the weather and our group jumps into the water, heading for the raft. It was an idyllic setting and a fascinating glimpse of the origins of the breathtaking environment in this volcanic land. And we can't get enough of the totones, plaintain chips and fresh fish.

     2014 Nicaragua lake  2014 Nicaragua lake 2

    We drive back up to the rim of the volcano and slip down to the road, heading east for Granada on Lake Nicaragua aka Lago Cochibalca. Granada has a varied past as the "sometimes capital" of Nicaragua, alternating with Leon when the opposing parties seized control of the country. It is filled with bright yellow colonial buildings, complete with Spanish style iron work in the windows, a stunning cathedral and a very active central plaza. From the plaza we head to boats on the shore of the enormous freshwater lake and an exploration of the isletas, small single-home islands for the wealthiest Nicaraguans. The scattering of properties is beautiful and the profusion of egrets, gallino del agua, monkeys, etc. is stunning. The tropical foliage and astounding size of the lake leave us all speechless. We talk with our guides about concerns regarding the transnational canal that the Chinese are building which will cross this, the largest freshwater lake in Central America. It is a lively and informative discussion, particularly with our civil engineering students in the mix!

     2014 Nicaragua swimsuits  2014 Nica dinner

    We have little time left as we return to the shore. We had hoped to have dinner in Granada but have been invited to a farewell dinner by the pequenos back in Jinotepe. On the way we plan to buy many gallons of ice cream for the festivities. We do a bit more sightseeing in town before hitting the grocery store for "helado" or as the pequenos call it, "Eskimo". When we arrive at our NPH home, we drop the ice cream in the freezer, run home to grab our bowls and spoons, and zip to the girls' casas for a belated dinner, two by two, as always. They are patiently waiting for us, even though we are nearly 1 hour late. After dinner we walk together with our new families to the ranchon where we are nudged into front row seats for a special presentation in our honor. The pequenos present local folklorico dances. When 3 7-year old boys, dressed as campesinos riding broomstick horses, approach our group, Meech, Olivia and Sara are pulled to their feet and join in the dance. We are now officially part of this family! Colin announces that we have brought "Eskimo" and we begin to spoon out the icy treat. It is the end of another amazingly rich day. As we walk back to the visitor's house under the vast, starry sky, all is indeed good with the world. We retire to our rooms to continue our packing, but drift back in fits and starts to the kitchen tables to talk quietly and enjoy each other's company.

    2014 Nica beach

    In the morning we rise to the sound of firework explosions and a band marking the beginning of the celebration of Padre Wasson's birthday. 60 years ago this priest founded the first of the 9 NPH homes, offering a safe, family environment for children. We are here to celebrate his life. The Mass includes baptisms for 2 babies of NPH graduates - a fitting testimony to the man whose vision created these family homes. As we say goodbye to our new friends, I think we all become aware of how much this experience has shaped us. We brought many presents and we built a much needed wall, but leave with so much more than we brought. We have become a part of these lives in this remarkable land. So blessed!

    Written by: Pat Whitney, staff

     2014 Nica Pat

    December 18, 2014: Day 6 by Robert

    Posted by Lauren Rochholz on 1/14/2015 03:50:19 PM

    Today we woke up as usual and ate breakfast. Breakfast was a little late (By Wayne's standard, that is. But honestly Wayne wakes up at 5:30 am for no reason!). 


    After breakfast we went to work on the wall. I am pretty sure Sara was already there working before anyone else; what a trooper! 

    2014 Nicaragua Sarah break

    We finished the top row of the right wall and with great precision the workers slanted the top of the right wall at a constant slope. It was rather impressive. The things these guys could do when it came to construction techniques was outstanding.

      2014 Nicaragua wall 2014 Nicaragua wall 2

    At eleven o'clock there was a confirmation but the people working on the wall did not end up going. It was rumored that Collin might get in trouble for having us work through the confirmation, but we ended up doing it anyway. 

    For Lunch today we ate carne asada with rice, pico de gallo, and banana chips. Mark, Bianca, Wayne, and I ate with all the other workers. While we were eating it became increasingly difficult to imagine going back to work, but we eventually mustered up the energy.

    Nicaragua 2014 sholving Nicaragua 2014 hammar

    While working I stressed my back and I came back to the house while Wayne and Mark continued working. Mark had to make sure to move all the dirt five feet over and then back over five feet again.

    After Mark and Wayne came back, Mark and I went and played a little bit of soccer with the German volunteer, Ben. After a little bit of soccer we went back to the visitors house to grab our bowls and utensils and then we headed to dinner.We showed up for dinner a little bit late today, but they were nice enough to still feed us. So caring.

    Then after dinner we went back to the cancha. I was exhausted and I didn't think I was going to play anymore soccer, but Mark and I ended up playing a good bit. I guess we had to make sure we were completely worn out. Mark especially. 

    -Robert Long, student

    Nicaragua 2014: Robert + Friend

    December 16, 2014: Day 4 by Sara

    Posted by Lauren Rochholz on 12/18/2014 04:56:12 PM

    Buenos Dias,

    This week we have had a series of interactions with Nicaraguan wildlife. It started off with an encounter of the painful kind when Jane unintentionally petted a scorpion. Thankfully it was a small one and didn’t send her into the land of pink elephants, which we were told that a sting can often do. The next day brought an unexpected visit to the house by a coral snake, no one was bit, but there was pain involved. Let’s just say it won’t be back to visit. The two foot lizard that tried to take a shower was shown better hospitality, and seemed to enjoy the ride out the door on the push broom, especially since I held back Larson, the cat, who wanted to eat it.Nicaragua Day 2.2

    Wednesday took us on an excursion to see the Nicaragua outside the boundaries of NPH. A visit to San Juan Del Sur supplied our first real coffee for the week (until now there has been only instant), and we used that energy to surf and play in the water at Playa Hermosa. Que Tuany! (Nicaraguan slang for “It’s cool”).

    Posted by Sara

    December 16, 2014: Day 3 by Olivia

    Posted by Lauren Rochholz on 12/17/2014 10:13:28 AM

    Dío 3 at NPH Nicaragua!

    This morning we got back to work on the wall. Large cement bricks were laid down in the trench. Some of us shoveled large piles of dirt and gravel to be used as filler for the cement.Nicaragua Day 3.1  

    The work was grueling but very satisfying. We are starting to see height and the trenches filled.Nicaragua Day 3.0  

    This evening we had dinner an hour early because the niñas had to prepare for tonight's Posada. There was a procession from each girl's house to the Ranchon. They danced and sang to several songs with homemade Christmas decorations all over their bodies. It was a sight to see!

     Nicaragua Day 3.2

    After the dances they brought out piñatas for each age group to attack with a bat. Once a kid was able to break the piñata the rest dove to the ground to pick up candy. It verged on chaos. Wayne got to hit a piñata and it broke completely, the kids were very impressed.

    Nicaragua Day 3.3

    There were lollipops and hard candies of different fruit flavors, chocolates and bags of juice. We are hyped up on sugar - hopefully we can fall asleep! Big day tomorrow.

    Hasta pronto!

    - Olivia (con Pelo Rubio)

    December 15, 2014: Day 2 by Bianca and Hillary

    Posted by Lauren Rochholz on 12/17/2014 10:12:44 AM

    Greetings from Nicaragua!

    Nicaragua Day 2.0, 2014

    Today was the first full day that we worked on the retaining wall for the slope behind the little boys’ house. We had a late start since breakfast showed up late, but no one minded except for El Jefe (Wayne).  Along with our group there were several volunteers who worked with us, like a student who lives at NPH Nicaragua and goes to college in Jinotepe.  The first task of the day was to move concrete bricks.  They were too heavy for most of us to lift, so others moved the soil that will be used for backfill of the wall.  Then, some of us started digging the trench for the foundation of the retaining wall. We used different tools to break up the soil such as a macana which is a really heavy long stick with a pointed end. Using the macana was one of the most challenging tasks of the day.  While we were working, a group of boys started to gather around us.  At first they were just watching, but as time passed the boys picked up the shovels and wheel barrows and started working with us.  They were so excited to help us and they responded very well to how appreciative we were for their help.

    While some of us continued to work on the wall, others helped the girls with making Christmas decorations for the las posadas this week.  Las Posadas is a nine day celebration, with each day representing each month the Virgin Mary was pregnant with Jesus.  The celebration lasts from December 16th to December 24th, and the children have parades that re-enact the nativity scene and also perform dances.

    Nicaragua Day 2.1, 2014

    Since the older boys left to go on a retreat, we ate our meals with the girls today.  Two or three people went in to each of the houses and we all enjoyed some beef soup with the girls.  A member of our group, Mark, has his birthday today and the group of girls he was eating with found out.  They started singing him birthday songs and cracked an egg on his head, which is a birthday tradition. 

    After lunch, we worked on the retaining wall some more. We finished digging out the trench and made reinforcements for columns that will be part of the wall.  After some rest, we had dinner at the same houses we had lunch at.  The girls were a lot more comfortable with us and opened up to us some more.  Some presented their dances that they will be performing tomorrow and others braided the hair of our group members.


    Bianca and Hillary

    December 14, 2014: Day 1 by Wayne Holscher

    Posted by Lauren Rochholz on 12/17/2014 09:53:59 AM

     Wow we are on second day at NPH Home for Children in Nicaragua. In that time we’ve enjoyed playing with the children.  We also assessed our project.

    Started work this morning before Sunday mass managing to accomplish a hours. We moved concrete blocks and removed barbed wire fence.  Everyone got together for service and then we all ate lunch together.  After service some of the group made necklaces and bracelets with 12 year old girls. The rest of us, gluttons for punishment myself included, played soccer with the kids.

     Nicaragua Day 1

    They’re GOOD. There is so much laughter and joy in the air.

    Their school year works on the calendar year, meaning this is their summer. The students are done thinking for the year, wink wink.

    During this experience of coming back to NPH I have been able to make new friends with our PWOB group.  We may only be together for 10 days but I will remember this forever. I was able to see/talk to my god daughters. They both go to Managua University and are doing great.  I have been able to see the rest of my family here grow. They all appear to be happy and doing great.

    I would encourage anyone that has the opportunity to visit NPH Nicaragua to do it. They have shown me a new meaning of family.

    Wayne Holscher

    December 21, 2013: Day 9 in Nicaragua by Kristen Kirst and Brianne Vanderlinden

    Posted by Lauren Rochholz on 12/22/2013 09:21:01 PM

    Lessons of Love

    The author of today’s post is by two staff members at Seattle University. Kristen Kirst is the Director of Advancement Communication and Marketing and Brianne Vanderlinden is the Assistant Director of Special Events and also a 2007 SU graduate. Each day is written by a different member of the Seattle University community making the PWOB trip to Nicaragua.

    When we arrived in Nicaragua we were assigned three missions: pour concrete to build a sidewalk connecting the homes to the school, painting the school with new paint to improve student pride, and spending time with the pequeños.  Today was the finale of each mission. Sitting with the group this morning adding final touches of blue, we were serenaded with Christmas Mass rehearsals of “Gloria accompanied by the djembe.  We will never look at a sidewalk the same. 10 days has gone so quickly and tonight was an example of the family we have seen here at NPH and the family that we have now become a part of. 

    One of the special traditions of NPH is presentations by the pequeños as they say goodbye and thank you to their new family members…us.  Returning to Casa Madre Teresa (our home during our visit) from the presentations is a happy yet somber walk. There is the tug of being ready to return to Seattle, but there is also the tug of a newly found home and the formation of special friendships that have just begun. There is something about putting your hands in the soil, sitting with pequeños of all ages, walking amongst their fields, using their tools, and listening to their music that continues to pull you in ways we will continue to unravel as we begin to face the reality of heading home to the US. 

    This morning I [Bri] woke up with such comfort; I felt as if I was home, that I belonged here.  The long days of hard work and intense heat has broken down any barriers that keep me from feeling like an outsider. For most of us clothing choice is determined by the “smell test” and every meal we share is the most delicious food we’ve ever tasted on a simple plastic orange plate. We’ve learned it is much easier to simply eat with our hands. This trip has been so much more than a service trip. It feels like global engagement has taken such a powerful role in the education of our students and it has been meaningful to contribute while also gaining a better perspective of what is going on in the lives of current Seattle University students.

    Today at lunch we sat with the littlest penqueñas.  Before every meal the little girls take turns leading us in prayer. You can imagine what it would be like to hear a 7 year old decide what she’d like to pray for… what she would like to pray for today is her sister to pay better attention during the blessing.

    Love is found everywhere here. You see it witnessed by the boys walking with their arms around one another whether they are heading to the soccer field or to go work.  You see it as everyone gathers to say a blessing for every meal.  You see it in the loving expressions of the tias and tios (aunts and uncles) as they gently nudge the pequeños.

    For us it is holding a pequeño on our laps as we watch the presentations each night in the Ranchon, playing soccer endlessly, pressing their hands into the sidewalk that will be a new path to school for them. Love is found in the shouts of “Hola Hola”, “Buenos Dias”, and “Como Estas” wherever you go.  When language challenges dissolve and a pequeño grabs your hand and laughs out of sheer joy when you mess up a word. Love can be expressed without words and we have truly experienced that at NPH.

    Now to learn how to actually speak Spanish and plan a return trip next year.

    day 9.1

    day 9.2

    December 21, 2013: Day 8 in Nicaragua by Nick Elam

    Posted by Lauren Rochholz on 12/22/2013 09:13:47 PM

    A Day of Light:

    Saturday, Teamwork, Awe, Relaxation and Stars

    The author of today’s post is Nick Elam, a senior majoring in Strategic Communication. Each day is written by a different member of the SU community making the PWOB trip to Nicaragua.


    Today was our second and last tourist day. It was a great way to begin to exit our journey and spend some time seeing more of this beautiful country.

    Our day started out at 8 in the morning, driving through Rivas and San Juan del Sur, to arrive at our final destination, Playa Hermosa. Before arriving at the beach, we got to see a few parts of Rivas and San Juan del Sur, two of the larger cities in Nicaragua. The market in Rivas was chaotic and full of life. Our van, Vincent VANgo, was bumper to bumper with taxis and other cars, as we tiptoed through the market. After leaving Rivas, we drove to San Juan del Sur, a tourist town for Nica that sported a presence of Gringos. It was beautiful all the same, and the bay was a spectacular site. After winding through a few more streets and neighborhoods, we approached the gate to the private beach area, paid our fees and entered the jungle-engulfed rode until we found our day’s paradise, Playa Hermosa.


    This past week has been full of teamwork. It amazes me how quickly our group has developed into a team. We all supported each other, as each person has gone through their ups and downs. Today was in honor of our team and the effort we have committed to; a well-deserved gift.


    Playa Hermosa is beautiful. It is tucked away in Nicaragua’s western coastline and separated from the busy, public beaches in San Juan del Sur. The secluded beach has a small inn, restaurant, massage area, hammocks, bar, surf equipment and few people. It was a day in paradise for us PWOBers. The water was warm enough to stay in for as long as you like, and the waves were large and perfect for surfing. The coast was lined with Nicaragua’s beautiful jungle; you could see every color of green in the tall canopies. I felt like I was in a beautiful landscape portrait.


    Everyone got to do themselves today; we were all together and alone at some point. It was a great time to begin the process of reflection and meaning making for these past few days. Naps in the hammocks, body surfing, and eating some delicious food were a few of the treats we spoiled ourselves with. Before dinner, we made time for a reflection and sharing. For me, it was great to see how 13 people, few of which had known each other before, came together to give ourselves to another community, and ultimately form our own. This group is truly a gift.


    After dinner our night ended with some light, both above us and below us. It was a clear night, one of the few that we have seen in our time in Nica. The stars here are impeccable, nothing dilutes their brilliance. To bring more light to our day, the ocean had another treat, marine phosphorescence. As you waded through the water at night, looking at the stars, you could see little particles of light shining in the water. The world has a funky way of illuminating beautiful adventures such as this.

    The light in this day (the sun, stars, and phosphorescence) speaks to how brilliant and bold this journey and place truly are! …So grateful to be a part of it!

    day 8.1

    day 8.2

    December 20, 2013: Day 7 in Nicaragua by Maria Hernandez

    Posted by Lauren Rochholz on 12/22/2013 09:07:37 PM

    The author of today’s post is Maria Hernandez, a graduate student with the College of Education’s Psychology program. Each day is written by a different member of the Seattle University community making the PWOB trip to Nicaragua.

    Today has definitely been a day of ups and downs for the group. After the amazing and relaxing day we had sightseeing yesterday, everyone woke up feeling really tired. On top of that it seemed that today was the hottest day we’ve had here so far. Still, we dragged ourselves to the worksite and continued our work knowing that after today there is only one more work day before we leave.

    Our word of the day today was gratitude and it came in handy anytime we were complaining about the hard work we were doing. Needless to say, we got through the day and were able to finally finish the entire sidewalk project!  Although I did not help on the sidewalk project today it was still a great sense of accomplishment to know that I had been a part of the end result. We were also able to finish putting the first coat on the second school building. After finishing with both projects we came back to the volunteer home covered in paint and dirt. On top of that I felt like my clothes were completely stuck to my skin from the humidity and sweat. Not a pretty picture
    day 7.1

    However, the day was made complete when we went to dinner with the girls today and played a great game of cards. Afterwards, we were able to watch them practice for the night’s holiday presentations. It never ceases to amaze me how the pequeños at NPH come together to do performances that showcase the variety of talents they have including dancing, singing, and playing instruments. It is great to see how the older and younger kids unite on these performances to bring happiness and smiles to the huge family they are a part of, a family of which I feel more and more a part of every day I spend here. 

    day 7.2

    December 19, 2013: Day 6 in Nicaragua by Helen Packer & Lindsay Mannion

    Posted by Lauren Rochholz on 12/21/2013 08:13:43 PM



    The authors of today’s post is Helen Packer, a Junior Humanities for Leadership and Creative Writing major, and Lindsay Mannion, a Senior Humanities for Teaching and Spanish major.  Each day is written by a different member of the SU community making the PWOB trip to Nicaragua.

    Today was our first tourist day and a chance to explore some of the cities close to NPH. On our list: el Volcan Masaya, el Mercado Masaya, la Laguna de Apoyo, and Granada. At 8:30 fourteen of us piled into a little white van.

    Laguna de Apoyo provided the chance to check off a bucket list item we didn’t even realize was on our bucket list. Apparently, after thousands of years volcanos collapse and form lagoons. That meant that we were all swimming in an old volcano.

    By the time we reached Laguna de Apoyo the van had started to feel like a real Nicaraguan bus. We were now holding sixteen people, after we picked up Audrey’s friend Fatima and her brother Freddie. Our van (nicknamed Vincent Van-Go) teetered down the steep incline to La Abuela, where we stopped for lunch and swimming.  La Abuela looked out right over the water and our sixteen person table sat right up against the dock, precariously close to the edge. After being packed tight into the van, everyone was excited to jump into the water.

    day 6.1

    The water was cool and refreshing in comparison to our sweaty days of work. We cooled off and laughed about the fact that we were swimming in an old volcano.

    In the second part of the day we drove down to Granada and took a boat tour around Lake Nicaragua. The lake contains a lot of tiny islands, mostly filled with private houses. On one tiny island, which was about the length of our small tour boat, we met a family of monkeys and became better friends than we were intending to! The mama monkey, Lucy, hopped aboard our boat, prancing up and down the aisle in search of food. She jumped up on to Fatima’s lap and climbed from seat to seat, jumping on people’s shoulders. Our guide gave Lucy some crackers to snack on and she wiped her hands on Helen’s shoulder. Helen wasn’t too happy about that. Lucy posed for some selfies with Sam.  When it was finally time to go, she seemed hesitant to leave the boat.

    day 6.2

    We finished the day with a several-hour dinner in Granada. After all the days of hard work, it was nice to have a day off, even if it was packed with activities.




    December 18, 2013: Day 5 in Nicaragua by Kyla Terashima

    Posted by Lauren Rochholz on 12/20/2013 01:34:49 PM

    The author of today’s post is Kyla Terashima, a Sophomore Nursing Major and Spanish Minor at Seattle University. Each day is written by a different member of the SU community making the PWOB trip to Nicaragua.

    Waking up today was a struggle to say the least, with all the work we have done our muscles ache with every movement and our skin is burnt red from the scorching Nicaraguan sun. Yet the beauty of NPH is the pequeños keep our spirits high and make the back breaking work well worth it.

    Despite the aching of our bodies, anticipation for tonight’s posada was in the air and it did not disappoint. We joined the pequeños in a night of singing, dancing, and piñatas. Piñatas in the states may seem like a time for candy and some harmless fun. Here at NPH though, piñatas are serious business. The boys have no problems diving onto each other for a small dulce or fighting over whom next gets to take a swing at the life-size paper tinker bell. However, in this simple moment of whacking a paper-filled box, relationships are formed. We share smiles and broken conversations with the pequeños, learning more about them each day and them learning about us. Screams of joy and laughter continue to fill the ranchon until the last piñata has been torn to shreds. I don’t think a single person left without their hearts filled, even the often shy tias, who oversee the girl’s houses, couldn’t help but crack a smile and join in on the fun.

    Day 5.1

    As the stars and moon shine bright in the clear sky it’s obvious to me the pequeños of NPH have become our family. They barged their way into our hearts and have made no plans to leave. While our skin tones and cultures are different, we have all found a place to call home here at NPH. Con mucho querido, buenas noches from our family to yours.

    Day 5.2

    December 17, 2013: Day 4 in Nicaragua by Sam Asher

    Posted by Lauren Rochholz on 12/18/2013 04:31:22 PM

    The author of today's post is Sam Asher, a Junior Theatre Major at Seattle University.  Each day is written by a different member of the SU community making the PWOB trip to Nicaragua.

    I can’t promise this to be the most fluid blog anyone’s ever read; today we poured concrete and my arms feel like they may fall off any minute. Be patient with my mind as it bounces from place to place in describing the experience of this wonderfully sunny day at the NPH Campus, Nicaragua.

    Our team woke up before 7AM today so we could hit the worksite by 8AM. We had the biggest concrete pour of our project today and successfully completed it. This left our whole team ready for a siesta by the time 4PM rolled around. Granted, the peqeunos we were working with were a little bit annoyed we couldn’t finish the entire sidewalk that evening. However, after about twenty minutes of “No podemos trabajar mas,” they got the idea that we could not and would not continue. Sometimes you have to know when to quit.

    Day 4.1

    Regardless of how tired our bodies were, we had a visitor for dinner this evening. At 6PM we all checked in with each other over a cup of coffee. At 6:30, Marlon Velasquez – the national director of NPH – came to share a meal with us. During our time together, he explained that NPH was built on the foundation of being a family, not an orphanage. Respect to this property, land, and community was built through hard work by the pequeños for the pequeños. He told us how visitors come and go, but the ones who have the best time are the people who interact most with the kids. If you talk to the pequeños about the right things you’re “in,” but if you give them the tiniest ounce of pity… well, you’re probably “out.”

    Even though my Spanish is broken, useless, and sometimes flat out wrong, I feel like I’m a part of this family. After three days of mentally exhausting myself to get words out, I think the peak of speaking a foreign language has started. They call me “Harry Potter,” and tell me I know Spanish well, I’m just too afraid to use it. Que bonita, Nicaragua.

    Day 4.2

    December 16, 2013: Day 3 in Nicaragua by Audrey Farber

    Posted by Lauren Rochholz on 12/18/2013 04:26:32 PM

    The author of today's post is Audrey Farber, a Senior Philosophy major at Seattle University.  Each day is written by a different member of the SU community making the PWOB trip to Nicaragua.

    Today began with our daily discussion on the word of the day. It was determined that our new word would be “devotion”, and with this word in mind we were to go about the day devoted to the present moment and in full participation with the work at hand. In the midst of discussing this word we were interrupted by the sight of cows walking past our door to the pasture that PWOB fenced using Neam trees during last year’s trip.

    After breakfast we headed out to our worksite. The group divided into two so that we could continue working on the sidewalk and begin work painting the school house. The school house is being painted a beautiful blue color that resembles the blue portion on the flag of Nicaragua.

    However, the highlight of the day came after dinner. Today was the first day of La Posada, which is a Christmas tradition that NPH practices where the children and staff reenact the night Mary and Joseph were seeking shelter and were denied many times before being accepted into an Inn. We were honored to experience a night of this very special tradition which included dancing and piñatas. The children presented choreographed dances in costumes to Christmas themed music, and afterwards they all enthusiastically tried to get the most candy from newly hit open piñatas. The night ended with yummy candies and cheerful smiles all around. 

    Day 3

    December 15th, 2013: Day 2 in Nicaragua by Wayne Holscher

    Posted by Lauren Rochholz on 12/17/2013 05:31:09 PM

    The author of today's post is Wayne Holscher who is Facilities Resident Hall Maintenance for the Bellarmine and the Douglas residence halls.  Each day is written by a different member of the SU community making the PWOB trip to Nicaragua.

    We started the project today after breakfast. We are building a sidewalk to replace a trail which is often like a slip-n-slide in the rainy season. We picked up our tools to start building the forms; Antonio, Vladimir, Victor, and Ricky, a group of kids completing their Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos year-in-service kids jumped in and worked alongside us. I think the main reason they were helping us was to get the project done quicker so they could play and win soccer and volleyball sooner.

    PWOB sidewalk

    As we suspected, they did want to play soccer and volleyball, and they did win…at everything. We have noticed with volleyball they just wanted to keep the ball in the air, even if that means kicking or head butting. No rules, just fun. The kids of NPH just want to have fun and we are reminded that this is easy to forget.

    Later in the evening we shared our thoughts on the Ronald Rolheiser reading from his book, The Holy Longing. We split up into small groups and took games and toys with us to dinner at the girls’ houses. It was a lot of fun. I got to know Abigail and helped her with her English. She read to me to practice before she starts at the university this fall.

    December 14th, 2013: Day 1 in Nicaragua by Matthew Pyrc, SJ

    Posted by Lauren Rochholz on 12/17/2013 05:24:56 PM

    The author of today's post is Matthew Pyrc, SJ who works at Seattle University in Campus Ministry and is the Jesuit in residence in Bellarmine, 6th floor.  Each day is written by a different member of the SU community making the PWOB trip to Nicaragua.

    After almost 17 hours of traveling, we arrived at Jinotepe, Nicaragua, the home of Nuestro Pequeños Hermanos, NPH. Professionals Without Borders, PWOB, is a group of staff, faculty, and students from Seattle University. We currently have 13 people in Nicaragua working at NPH, a community of about 200 youths who have been orphaned, abandoned, or were at risk. Today was our first full day and we eased into it after a tiring 18 hour journey. Breakfast consisted of eggs and cheese and the wonderful flavor of fresh bananas, the taste of which you can only get from Latin America. We all agree they just are not as good back home!

    The morning was spent taking a tour of the campus. We toured the dorms, the clinic and school and saw a pig being slaughtered. That will probably be tomorrow’s dinner. We were impressed with the growth of the fence built by PWOB during last years’ service trip. The fence was constructed to corral the cattle using posts of wood that sprouts into trees…and they were beginning to sprout!  We think it’s funny that the project was called ‘pasteurization.’

    After lunch we joined some of the girls in making piñatas for the Christmas Posada festivities that begin this week. Many of us are discovering how exhausting it is to try and communicate in another language, whether we can speak a lot or a little. However, soccer, or futbol, is a universal language and our game with the girls taught us a great deal about ball handling skills, true grit, and how to have fun playing in the pouring rain. The day concluded with Mass, dinner, and a friendly game of volleyball with the boys from NPH. 

    The people here are wonderful and very welcoming. Some of the students have been learning English and they are enjoying the opportunity to practice speaking with native English speakers. The journey is just beginning and we are expecting the arrival of the last three members of our group tonight. We will take turns posting here this week sharing a highlight or two from each day. Here’s a photo of Seattle University Senior Audrey Farber and the piñata making. 

    PWOB Pinatas

    A Look Back: PWOB in Zambia

    Posted by Lauren Rochholz on 9/20/2013 03:52:37 PM

    Working in Zambia has become the core of PWOB’s service trips, so take a walk down memory lane with us as we relive past trips to this amazing country.


    PWOB’s first ever trip to Zambia was inspired by the work being done there by Fr. Bert Otten, SJ, who is never at a shortage of worthy projects. Professionals Without Borders worked with Fr. Otten and several other organizations to establish a network of priests and administrators in Zambia to carry out Seattle University mission-related projects.

    Four staff members and three students traveled to Lusaka, Zambia to begin the primary project of the trip, the renovation of restrooms, showers, and waterworks at the Munali School Special Unit for the Deaf and Blind. The group also assisted the Engineers without Borders group of students in Chirundu, on the Zimbabwe border. Steve Szablya led a project to build a human-powered electrical generator at this location, and the rest of the team helped to construct a waterwheel that is now used for lifting water off the banks of the Zambezi River for washing and bathing.


    In 2010, the PWOB team devised an open-source wind turbine design that could be easily built and operated on location in a developing country using solely components, materials, and tools found locally. The wind turbine would be used to bring electricity to users that are disconnected from the power grid.Working on the Water Wheel  

    After a combination of lucky breaks and clever improvised engineering, one hurdle after another was cleared. After six days of intense woodworking, measuring wind speeds, and putting together the generator parts, the wind turbine was complete. The eight-foot diameter wind turbine was spinning proudly in a strong African breeze atop an 18-foot borehole pipe located on an earthen dam.


    PWOB’s third trip to Zambia included 12 members who worked on two main projects during their two weeks in and around Chikuni. Working with the Jesuits at the Mukanzubo Cultural Center, the team spent the first half of their trip building a storage unit for Mukanzubo’s artifacts and the second half building a medical clinic in Chipembele. These new projects allowed the group to work side by side with Zambians learning new skills and having unforgettable experiences.


    The Seattle U PWOB volunteers were on the ground for two full weeks on our third service trip to Zambia; half of them left for Zambia in mid-June and returned at the end of the month, the same day the second group left, resulting in one month of total work in Zambia from PWOB volunteers. Joyce Allen led the first group of students to install shelving in the Mukanzubo Cultural Center; they also documented and stored the center’s collection in order to preserve the heritage of the Tonga people.


    Steve Szablya and his team recomissioned two large water towers in Chikuni to provide water to the local hospital. This will allow the hospital to open their new natal clinic and surgical theater. Steve and his team also continued to work on the brick wall in the Chipembele community that the first group started constructing, as well as removing the cross connect between the reservoir and the well at Mukanzubo.Zambia2012CalMikeandKillian


    This year will mark our fifth trip to Zambia, and PWOB couldn’t be more excited to celebrate this anniversary. We have built amazing connections with communities in Zambia, and hope to continue to build a better future there and everywhere PWOB has service trips for years to come.Waterwheel

    PWOB Helps Liberty Children's Homes with Security

    Posted by Lauren Rochholz on 8/7/2013 11:45:00 AM

    Dec 14, 2012

    Liberty Children Fundraiser for the kids


    Liberty Children’s Home continues to face financial challenges, which have been compounded recently by a series of burglaries. It has created additional expenses for the charity foundation to replace the stolen items as well as to implement and maintain new security measures. Fortunately, they received assistance from the Seattle based organization, Professionals without Borders, which has installed alarm systems on three buildings. But there’s still a great need for funding at the children’s home. The director, Delfina Mitchell told News Five today that they are having a major fundraiser at the Bird’s Isle on Sunday and hope to raise thirty thousand dollars.


    Delfina Mitchell, Director, Liberty Children’s Home

    “We have a fundraiser which we are marketing as a family fun fest. It’s going to be a lot of fun. It’s going to be a Bird’s Isle and we’re gonna have lots of rides, games, food drinks, lots of activities and we’re going to end the day with a concert by some local artists. Why we’re doing this is to raise money so we can continue our work. You know recently we had a series of break-ins which meant that we had to institute additional security measures to make our campus safe. Because of those additional measures, we’ve had to put up additional lighting, security and all that. It’s going to cost us more money every month in utility bills, paying for security and all that and we are strapped for money as it is so we have to do something to increase the money so we can take care of the additional expenses that these thefts have incurred. The fundraiser, anybody that comes out will have a great time. We have lots of neat games, lots of great prizes that have been donated to us. I think it’s going to be a fair like no other because of the things that we have as giveaways, the prizes that we’ve gotten. The fair is going to be from ten a.m. to eight p.m. there is free entrance from ten to twelve, no charge. After twelve o’clock we’re charging five dollars for adults and two dollars for children. Santa Clause is going to be there from twelve to three-thirty with a gift for every child so bring your child out to meet Santa Clause and get a gift. I also want to say, take this time to not cook Sunday dinner because we’ll have turkey dinner, barbecue, stew chicken and rice, lots of pastries so come on out and have a good time. Start the Christmas season. Listen to the Christmas season and come out and support our children.”



    Cal Ihler, Professionals without Borders

    “We came to Belize looking for a place to do service work and came to Liberty and just were so struck by how the children were taken care of so well and the needs that they have. So for this particular trip, we heard that they were being broken into and computers were being stolen, clothes were bing stolen and it was not only affecting the staff, but the children too. And so we started doing fundraising to find some generous donors. They donated all the alarm equipment to us so we came down and installed alarms in their office, library and learning center. And so we’re pretty happy and grateful to be able to come down and help out.”


    Professionals without Borders previously installed a water irrigation system at Liberty Children’s home and have plans to return in March of 2013 with ten students from the Seattle University to do further improvements on the water system and replace the gutters on the learning center.

    Click here for the original article on Channel 5 Belize's website. 

    SU Women's Soccer to Belize 2013

    Posted by Lauren Rochholz on 8/7/2013 11:40:28 AM

    Belize for Spring Break with Seattle University Women's Soccer

    Courtesy of (Official Athletic Release)

    Release: Wednesday 04/03/2013


    Seattle University women’s soccer head coach Julie Woodward alongside two of her student-athletes,Stephanie Verdoia (Salt Lake City, Utah) and Renae Russell (Lake Forest, Calif.), traveled to Belize over Spring Break for a service trip sponsored by Seattle U’s Professionals Without Borders (PWOB). Furthering Seattle U’s mission of educating the whole person, the group helped those in need at Liberty Children’s Home, an orphanage currently housing 28 children who were abandoned, abused, or afflicted with HIV from the ages of four to 14 years old.

    This was the third year in a row that PWOB journeyed to work with Liberty Children’s Home, building upon and repairing water filtration systems they had previously built during past trips. The filtration systems have allowed residents to repurpose laundry water for use in the garden and to clean pig pens, which helps provide food for the children. The team also helped add security improvements to the home.

    Renee Vandermause (Madison, Wisc.), who played her final season with the SU women’s soccer team in 2012, has also previously been involved in PWOB trips, including trips to Nicaragua and Zambia, and past trips to Belize.

    As it was the first trip of this kind for all three, their experience was unforgettable and can only best be told in their own words. The following are first-hand accounts from Woodward, Verdoia, and Russell.

    JULIE WOODWARD: “Our service trip to Belize was an amazing, humbling, and beautiful experience.  Being able to share it with Steph and Renae was extremely special and continued to remind me what a great place Seattle U is, not just for student athletes, but our campus community as a whole.  We were able to help others, meet some wonderful people and experience another country’s culture.  It is something I will never forget.”

    STEPHANIE VERDOIA: “The mission of Professionals Without Borders is to ‘empower students to serve and lead sustainable service projects that help people in need’. Seattle University facilities employees lead groups of students around the world to make these projects happen. Ten of us made the trip down to Belize including three facilities employees, Coach Woodward, an employee from admissions, and five students. We worked at an orphanage called Liberty Children's Home, a place where Professionals Without Borders has made several trips. Our main goal was to fix the gutters on their school building, but we also temporarily fixed a leak in their boys’ dormitory. Professionals Without Borders is an organization that takes pride in creating strong relationships with the people they help, and finishing the jobs they start.

    While in Belize we got a few days to explore and see the sights, but undeniably the best part of my experience was spending time with the children at Liberty. At the beginning of the trip I expected to feel some strong emotions while working at an orphanage in a relatively poor country. I definitely did, but they were opposite of what I expected. I did not worry or get upset but instead I was overwhelmed with happiness and affection. I felt this way because the environment that Liberty has created is welcoming and warm. This amazing group of kids showed me how to move past hard times in life and what family truly means. The children look after one another and treat each other as brothers and sisters, and are surrounded by caregivers and staff that love them and always want the best for them. The kids were truly happy no matter what circumstances put them there.  They were a special kind of family, and they made us feel like we were a part of it. 

    Being a part of the soccer team at Seattle University has allowed me to create my own unique family up in Seattle. My teammates are like my sisters, and I cherish every moment I get to spend with them on and off the field. The children at Liberty reminded me that no matter what obstacles you face in life, the people that help you through them are the most important. Thanks to Professionals Without Borders I not only explored a new country, but I was reminded of the priorities I want to uphold throughout my life.”

    RENAE RUSSELL: “Going to Belize was an amazing experience that I will remember forever. Being at the Liberty Children's Home and playing with the kids was definitely eye-opening. The kids there have a lot less than what we have here in America, yet everyday they would be outside playing with huge smiles on their faces. Our group stayed overnight at the orphanage for the first two nights and then we moved to a house down the street for the remainder of our stay. We slept in one of the dorms that was across from the kids dorms, and I will never forget the second night, when we could hear the kids singing Miley Cyrus' ‘The Climb’ and Michael Jackson's ‘Man In The Mirror’. It helped me to realize that we do not need much to be happy. The main reason for our trip was to take down the old rusted gutters on one of the buildings and put new ones up. The gutters emptied the water into water storage tanks until they needed it. It felt so good when we finished, knowing that we contributed to helping the children's home. While we were working some of the kids would come over and help hand us tools and just hang out. We had a lot of time where we could play with the kids around the orphanage and we learned so much about each of them individually. When it came time to say goodbye to them at the end of the trip, we found ourselves at a loss for words; we could not express how much we were going to miss them and how much of an impact they had on us. The kids were wonderful and they all found ways to touch our hearts. 

    There were also a few days where we were able to go experience some tourist attractions in Belize. On the first day, we visited the Mayan temples, and we spent the second day at the island Caye Caulker, where the water was crystal clear. One of the nights, the lady that runs the orphanage invited us to her beach house, which was absolutely amazing. Her house did not have electricity or running water, which was another new experience for me. On our last full day in Belize we went on a three-mile hike in a cave where we climbed up waterfalls and jumped down them into large pools of water; as scary as it was, I would most definitely do it again! 

    Overall, Belize was absolutely amazing and I am so glad that I got to go. Hopefully I will get the opportunity to go again next year because I miss it already.”

    Click here to see the photo gallery on

    Click here to see the original article.


    Christmas in Nicaragua

    Posted by Lauren Rochholz on 2/4/2013 04:04:26 PM

    Nicaragua Group Shot

    Kimberly Friedrich-Feeley recounts PWOB's December trip to Nicaragua

    After a brief hiatus, PWOB returned to Nicaragua in December of 2012. While PWOB’s third trip to Nicaragua, it was the first with its new community partner, Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos (NPH). Led by PWOB member and Seattle University faculty Audrey Hudgins, the team of seven students and one staff member spent 10 days working alongside the young men and women of NPH Nicaragua, Casa Padre Wasson. 

    Casa Padre Wasson, one of many NPH homes for youth in Latin America and the Carribean, serves approximately 250 children and adolescents, or peque
    ños, from across Nicaragua. Nestled on a lush property near Jinotepe, Casa Padre Wasson is a haven for the youth that call it home. It took very little time for the PWOB team to recognize the strength and importance of the family that NPH Nicaragua has formed for its pequeños. To some it is the family they needed, to others, the family they’ve never had, one which the team was pleased to join—if only for 10 days.
     On the ground in Nicaragua

    From day one, the team got to work on its primary project: constructing a much-needed post and wire fence around a pasture for the compound’s herd of cattle. With help from a crew of machete-wielding pequeños, the perimeter was cleared and marked for digging. Armed with shovels and macanas, the PWOB crew worked side-by-side with the pequeños digging holes, tamping and placing posts, and stringing barbed wire. Many hands made for light work and the patient pequeños proved to be invaluable teachers for our unskilled group, helping make the project a huge success.  

    Rest times were equally satisfying. When not working, the team spent time eating, playing, and socializing with the pequeños. Whether playing soccer, giggling, singing songs, or catching a quiet moment to chat, it was these personalized experiences which formed lasting memories for each member of the group.

    After a rewarding first trip, we hope to continue partnering with NPH Nicaragua and look forward to future projects at Casa Padre Wasson. To learn more about Nuestros Peque
    ños Hermanos International, please visit        Completed fence

    On the Ground In Zambia

    Posted by Katherine McKenna on 8/1/2012 09:21:45 AM

    Cal Ihler shares his experiences in Zambia as they happen...

     June 30    

    Mike and I have made it to the Chikuni Mission in was a long journey, but all is well. From the airport it was a three hour car ride to get here; we left Seattle on Thursday at 1pm and arrived at Chikuni on Saturday at 7:30pm. There is a nine hour time advance here, so at home it would be Saturday at.... Oh, you figure it out, I'm too tired! We will be adding photos over the next few days and are very glad to be here. 


     July 1    

    Anyway, my first day here was really nice and I am appreciating everyone’s efforts. The locals do quite a bit of dancing to Mark and Mikedrum music and you know you are really in Africa. The weather is good and we got right into two plumbing projects, and we made some headway on both. First project: The hospital tanks project may work well (we want to re-utilize two abandoned large water tanks for the local hospital so they can have water throughout the day and open up a neo-natal unit but there are no parts available (it is holiday here) until Wednesday, and it is a 1 1/2 hour drive on really rough roads to the nearest plumbing supplier. It is amazing when thinking about the rarity of materials and the scarcity of them. Second project: We also dug up some piping for the Chikuni Mission compound and are looking for a cross connection that is contaminating the water to the houses here. We do have a plan that may work but it will depend on available materials and the time we are staying here. There are several other projects that are going on that I am not involved with. We are staying at the Jesuit compound, every morning we get a good breakfast and then have lunch and dinner at the Mukanzubo Cultural Center. The Jesuit compound is very clean and we have toilets and showers... and our own bedrooms!! These are really very nice facilities when compared to the PWOB Belize trip. The best part is I am not a leader and do not have to organize anything...hurray!!! 

    Thank you all for your support of our PWOB efforts.


    July 5 

    Today went well, the hospital tank’s water supply line is connected and some water went into the tanks before we stopped work for the day. Tomorrow we will need to flush the two tanks we are bringing online and install a 2" valve to isolate the old tank. Cal, Mike, and KillianMaterials here have been the toughest challenge but all here have a great attitude and it is nice to work with the Zambian people, they are so polite and friendly. (Mike is still looking for the "darkside" of the culture but hasn't been able to find anything... he keeps trying in his own socially gregarious ways :).) Another project we are working on is the water line cross connection for Mukanzubo; the water supply for the community is fed from an underground well (safe to drink water) and a local lake (bad to drink water). We are separating the two sources so the drinking and food water will be from the well and the irrigation water will be from the lake. There is another water tank that we are connecting a float to for automatic start/stop of the pump so it will not run all day. There are some humorous things that happen each day but I am probably too focused on the work to notice. At the end of each day we are very tired and appreciative for the team’s camaraderie and the good Zambian (cooked over a fire) food. 
    We all are very grateful for everyone’s support of PWOBs efforts to help others.
    Thank you all so much.


    July 6 

     Recommissioned Water TanksHello Friends
     Another very productive day!!! Mike and I brought the two new hospital water storage tanks online…it took us  till 9pm and it was dark but we were successful! We also replaced a tub/shower fixture at the Jesuit house and repaired two water lines. All piping is very old here so you touch one thing and it leads into several other repairs along the way, and the challenge is to find parts! Several times I have gone to the “scrapyard” that has old parts and piping and searched for pieces of pipe or fittings… there are two local sources that may have old rusty parts that we can recondition to use, one is Father Gabriel’s work yard and the other is the hospital’s shipping storage container, some of these parts are buried under brush and haven’t been used for years but we are very glad to have access to them, it may take awhile to find the part but most of the time we have been lucky. We also have a Zambian plumber friend named Killian, he has been a great help to us, and he is tireless and very motivated. Steve and Byron went into town today and had to go to at least three stores to get simple plumbing parts, and electrical wire. By the way we also installed a start/stop float for the Mukanzubo community water tank and Byron did an excellent job of figuring out how to wire it without any diagrams! All is well. Thanks to all of you for your support!
    Cal Ihler