January 7, 2015: Nicaragua Recap by Jane
Posted by Lauren Rochholz on Wednesday, January 14, 2015 at 4:32 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