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