It has been 11 days since arriving and it feels like we have already done so much.
Seeing Corey, the volunteer coordinator from ATRAVES, waiting for me at the airport completely rejuvenated me even after a very long day of waiting and delayed flights. Like last year, we stayed in a hotel the first night to recuperate from all the traveling before meeting our homestay families. We met the volunteers from Cornell, had a relaxing evening in the hotel, and milked the air conditioner for all its worth.
I was completely estatic when I found out I got placed with the same homestay family – seeing my Nicaraguan mother and sister after a full year, whom I never expected to see again, was a blessing and I am so grateful to be home. The streets are just as I remember them, and the neighborhood welcomed me with again with open arms as I greeted familiar faces and caught up with everyone.
We had two days of orientation in barrio Camilo Ortega, and we’re working in the school and the health clinic again. There are four major projects that we’re working on. The first is a continuation of computer literacy classes that the Penn and Wake Forest chapters implemented last year. Corey had told us that he continued the computer classes since we had left, and we’re now creating a curriculm for high school students. Walking into the computer lab/multipurpose room furnished with desks that Brendan, an individual volunteer whom we worked with last year, had built and computers blew my mind – computer classes have come such a long way from last year when Randall and I scrambled to set-up laptops, tables, and chairs before every class. And they just got a router which means all the computers have internet!
The second project deals with health – we’re working with the promotores (health promoter) to create a comprehensive community health assessment as well as assisting them as they visit patients in the community, and we’re teaching health and sex education classes based off of lesson outlines created by previous ATRAVES volunteers.
The third project is the urban agricultural initative as we continue working in the vivero, which serves as an incubation center for seedlings before they are strategically planted throughout the community to prevent further erosion. Like the multipurpose room, it is mindblowing to see how much the vivero has changed and its progress since we left it last year. The ATRAVES staff and the residents of Camilo Ortega have done such a great job and all of their hard work is clearly evident. In addition, we’re working in a second plot of land in which we hope to grow vegetables and fruit plants that will be used at the school and dispersed throughout the community. I hope to talk with Corey in further expanding this idea and potentially growing enough produce to sell for profit to provide another souce of funding for the school and clinic.
The fourth project is the installation of an electrical system in the health clinic, which is a huge deal since in order for the clinic to be officially certified, it requires a proper electrical system. Camilo Ortega is one of the poorest neighboorhoods in Managua (it is home to displaced farmers who had no other place to go) and almost if not all of the houses are illegally hooked up to electricity since the monopolostic electrical company charges outrageous and unaffordable rates. We have been chipping away at the concrete walls with a hammer and chisel with the guidance of Don Fran and Don Luis.
Among the 11 of us, we have divided into the first three projects as our primary focus and eveyone works on the electrical system. Additionally, we all participate in Kid’s Club, an afterschool program at the school which provides the students a chance to be children as they are often burdened with jobs and responsibilities at a very young age to help support their families.
Returning to Camilo Ortega and surprising the ATRAVES staff and my old students was so great and their warm embrace reminded me why I decided to return to Nicaragua on my second international project. Everyone asked me, “Y Randall?” the other volunteer from Penn, since we were joined at the hip for the entire duration of the trip, and I unfortunately had to tell them that he couldn’t make it even though he really tried. (Te extranamos!) Although the first week was exhausting as we adjusted to the heat, humidity, and mosquitos, I can’t wait to continue working and seeing these projects progress!
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