At Coco Loco and Waves of Hope we are grateful and very fortunate to have awesome interns and guests consistently on the ground helping us out with our programs and initiatives – this is one of the reasons we consider our organization to be highly unique.
In particular, the last seven days was truly unforgettable and I’d like to share my experience with all of you…
This is our third year hosting an Alternative Spring Break for Case Western University but this was my first year being apart of it. Last Saturday we welcomed 13 university students and their awesome hosts Billy and Angela (both former peace core volunteers) back to Coco Loco for a week of service, culture and local experiences. For any Alternative Spring Break, we want to ensure that the students get their “hands dirty” so to speak, truly bringing change to our community, but beyond that, we try to give them a chance to experience our amazing community and culture and build friendships and bond with people that come from such a different world than the one we all know.
The week started with a community walk where the students received some basic info on how a typical nica family lives in the campo (country-side) and a background on our community. This tour was led by our new Waves of Hope ambassadors Kathja Chevez and Carlos Vilchez (both English scholarship students) and ended with Spanish lessons for the group. That was the easy day….
Monday morning came quickly and we were on site early, ready to go. The students’ task was to finish two concrete floors in two new homes we’ve been working on. These students showed early that they weren’t here to joke around — to the point that by 10am I had to ask them to relax as I was worried they were going to burn out.
By the end of the day we had finished the first house and we finished the second one early on Tuesday. That left plenty of time to finish the school water project, which we completed Thursday. This project involved a lot of ditch and concrete work in the hot sun but it didn’t slow this crew down and it was very exciting for us to finally see running water at the school! We also got the trench down and electrical lines laid for the new classroom and 46 fence post holes dug- phew!
Within the next two weeks we should have a fully and finished secured elementary school complete with a new computer lab and library (and yes please send us Spanish books!!).
Our uni group also spent hours with our community kids mentoring them in English and sports games and shared an afternoon with local youth at Coco Loco as part of our cultural exchange program. While the language barrier was a struggle for a few, it was really special to watch them all find their way and to communicate using hand gestures , drawings and smiles.
Each night the group would sit together in a circle to reflect on the day’s events and discuss highs and lows. Ben and I participated in many of these sessions and we were really impressed with the comments from these students. We struggle at times with the fine line between poverty tourism and actually creating change and it was very refreshing to hear these young students making comments such as:
- I though I was coming down here to pour a floor and make a difference, but this community has had a stronger impact on me then I could ever imagine to have on them
- It’s incredible how sweet and genuine people are here and how easy it is to form a bond with them
- they have so little and are so poor but they are always smiling
One of the best questions I heard all week though was this…
If you met Carlos walking down the street in Ohio and he approached you, how would you react? Especially if you knew he was an illegal immigrant?
I found it really forced students to reflect on their experience here in Nica and to remind them to bring their love of the community and the people they’ve met back home with them.
If you are interested in having a transformative experience such as the one above, please get in touch… firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to welcoming you.
That’s all for now…