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

Posted by Lauren Rochholz on March 31, 2015 at 10:03 AM PDT

[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.

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 March 31, 2015 at 8:03 AM PDT

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.

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.

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 March 30, 2015 at 8:03 AM PDT

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.

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.



March 25, 2015: Day 5 In Belize by Luke

Posted by Lauren Rochholz on March 30, 2015 at 8:03 AM PDT

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. 

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 March 25, 2015 at 11:03 AM PDT

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.


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!


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.

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.


March 23, 2015: Day 3 in Belize by Ryan

Posted by Lauren Rochholz on March 24, 2015 at 2:03 PM PDT

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!

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…

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.

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 March 23, 2015 at 3:03 PM PDT


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. 

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.


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.


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.



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 March 20, 2015 at 9:03 AM PDT


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 January 14, 2015 at 4:01 PM PST

 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. 

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.


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!



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. 

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 January 14, 2015 at 4:01 PM PST

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, plantain chips and fresh fish.


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