February 2nd, 2018
Employee Volunteer Travel: Help Them Help Themselves, Nicaragua
Jessica Seda, Operations Specialist at Eagle Creek, traveled to Nicaragua to assist the Help Them Help Themselves (HTHT) organization in re-establishing eco-friendly gardens for two underprivileged elementary schools, leading to be an incredibly eye-opening and life changing experience.
My recent trip to Nicaragua was such an adventure! Nicaragua is a country that is extremely geographically diverse, making it a must-see destination complete with awaiting adventures to lakes, volcanoes, and beaches. My kids and I were fortunate enough to experience some amazing sites, such as Masaya Volcano, Apoyo Crater Lake, and the Isleta’s in Lake Nicaragua, among many other exciting places!
However, the main highlight of our trip was the time that we spent volunteering at two village elementary schools in one of the poorest communities in Nicaragua, through the organization Help Them Help Themselves (HTHT). The organization is solely dedicated to helping provide an environment where children in these villages can feel safe, as well as receive proper health care and education to help them receive a better future.
The two schools we visited were both structures created by the HTHT organization. Both schools consisted of one large room and two teachers each teaching multiple grade levels.
On the first day that we arrived to the Rosario village school, we were welcomed with huge smiles and even received an impromptu performance from some of the students, which was so sweet! Then, my team and I headed straight to work. I had been in contact with the HTHT organization for a few months prior to arriving, so I knew what tasks they had in store for us.
Even though some in our group opted to remain inside the classroom to spend time reading with the kids, the main goal that HTHT asked us to focus on was to help complete construction on their sustainable gardens. The schools had had gardens in the past, but they were made without barriers against local pests, such as iguanas and snakes, so the gardens were slowly being eaten away to nothing. The organization decided to try to combat this issue by splitting the project up amongst different volunteer groups, ensuring the schools would once again create their own fresh produce.
The construction of the concrete garden beds was handled by a different group of volunteers that were there many weeks prior to us. Our project consisted of adding the soil and manure, mixing it, and planting the seeds into the garden beds.
When the teacher called the kids in for lunch, we were so humbled that they also offered some to us. Their lunch is a government provided meal and only consisted of mainly corn-based products. It was such a kind gesture! As our group was made up of five adults and four kids, we said we would all share a small plate, as we didn’t want to take any of the food away from the students. We were told that at times, lunch was the only meal some of the kids would receive in a day.
After the work was done, we headed outside to play. The happiness that exuded from these kids was so endearing. Some of them played soccer, while others decided to play a version of the game, Red Rover. We were so impressed with how confident, sweet, and kind all the children were. It was truly a humbling experience and I’m so glad that my own kids were present to take part in the experience as well.
The second day was very much like the first at the next school, as we also helped to plant seeds in the gardens. However, it was unique in that it was Nicaragua’s Day of Independence, so the kids had the day off from school. However, a large portion of the community, including both kids and parents, showed up to spend time with us, which was such an amazing gesture! We again worked in the gardens planting seeds, and a large group gathered around to watch the process. Many of the local kids got involved by getting their hands dirty mixing soil and planting the seeds. Once the planting was completed, we again spent time playing with the kids and interacting with the locals. We played hopscotch and my kids realized that they played similar games on the playground! HTHT also had school supplies that they allowed us to help deliver to the schools and to each individual child.
We left the school that day truly hoping and praying that all the kids will stay in school and end up pursuing a college education. We had asked several kids what they wanted to be when they grew up and many answered with “doctora”, “secretaria”, or “profesora”.
I’m so glad that my kids were able to see that no matter where you live or what you have, kids are kids! They love to play outdoors and just want to have fun! Although these kids didn’t have an abundance of toys or electronics, they still had full and happy lives because they had goals and dreams for the future! We all left Nicaragua feeling so blessed and with hopes to volunteer again on our next adventure!
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