How we made a difference in Nicaragua
For two and half weeks recently, I gave most things up in my world and had a life changing experience.
Over the past 10 years a small group of students from West Vancouver Secondary School have taken part in the Global Education Program, led by teacher Greg Cormier, and travelled to Nicaragua for a very special school trip. It not only encompasses learning and discovery, but most importantly, year-after-year has given back to a small community that requires and welcomes assistance.
There are so many things in life that we all seem to take for granted every single day. Life in Nicaragua was completely different from anything that I’ve ever experienced, and it made me realize how much our lifestyles in Vancouver are different. For example, it was important to do simple things like checking for tarantulas and scorpions every step of the way.
As part of the preparation over the last year, we held multiple fundraisers for the volunteer projects that were planned for and took place during our trip. We were also very fortunate to bring along donated supplies that we collected prior to our trip that included medical supplies, simple vitamins and sports equipment.
Whilst in Nicaragua, we travelled to Managua, Granada, and the island of Ometepe. The biggest reality check for me and the most eye-opening part of the trip was the six nights spent with our homestay families in the village of Balgue.
Upon arrival, I was breathless and shocked at the same time, but we had no choice but to settle into our new environment. It made me instantly think and compare our current situation to my home in Vancouver. Our bedroom at the homestay was simple - two of the walls of our room were old dirty bricks, one wall was made of plastic, and the other was a thin curtain. We had dirt floors, and the bathroom was an outhouse that was a five minute walk from the house. The shower, which only had cold water, was a tiny space made of sticks and rice bags, and there was no hot water.
My first reaction made me think about how much better their lives could be with a flushing toilet, a bigger house with real walls everywhere, and somewhere to do laundry other than with a bar of soap on a rock.
However, it became very clear to me that family was the most important to them – something that I definitely appreciate more now that I’m back home. They weren’t concerned about having the newest iPhone, those winter boots that you just can’t live without, or the latest fashion accessory. It made me realize how easy it is to lose sight of what is most important to you when you live in a society where material items can override the things that you should be most thankful for.
I also think we take education for granted here in Canada, and it’s something that we should look at as more of a privilege. Through multiple conversations, I discovered that our homestay mother had nine siblings, and due to financial struggles, each child could only go to school until grade six. Her dream never wavered and she still hopes to expand her education someday, but her first priority is making sure that she will be able to afford an education for her two-year old son when the time comes. Putting it into perspective, the only price required to attend school is to pay for your own school supplies, however, this is still a huge struggle for a family living on a mere two thousand Cordobas (roughly eighty-five Canadian dollars) a month.
I love music, and one of the most memorable things that I learned is that music truly is a universal language. It was an extra effort, but I was so happy that I brought my guitar to Nicaragua, and was completely amazed by the interest that everyone had in it. It made me realize how fortunate I was to have taken music classes both in and out of school and the joy it brings to any situation.
Our plan for the coming weeks and months is to visit different elementary schools and high schools to share stories about our trip. We are also already working to come up with a project for next year's class to work on in Nicaragua.
After witnessing first-hand the interest and passion that people in the village had towards music, I would love to see them making their own music on their own instruments. Since this was a large part of my experience in Nicaragua, I am proposing a project that relates to music. My dream is for a music program to be launched at their community center.
I hope to return to Balgue one day, and it would bring me great joy to help provide the locals of all ages, especially the children, an opportunity for music education. It would be a wonderful thing to have many people directly involved directly with music.