Dear Reader: This page may contain affiliate links which may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Our independent journalism is not influenced by any advertiser or commercial initiative unless it is clearly marked as sponsored content. As travel products change, please be sure to reconfirm all details and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.
Nicaragua is a small country in Latin America that most of my friends couldn’t locate, let alone pronounce. I first found out I was going to Chontales, Nicaragua in March by receiving a phone call from Angelita Rodriguez, member of the volunteer organization, Amigos de las Americas. I left on June 16th with a thousand questions and a stomach ache. I didn’t know what to expect.
Amigos de Las Americas assigns volunteers to a community and family in country and I finally ended up in Puerto Diaz, a town of 1300 people on Lake Nicaragua. My host family was the Jaime-Sandoval family and they rocked my world for six weeks.
It took me a while to figure out who was actually living in the house. It turned out to be 17 people crammed into a small house. Ten of those were children all under the age of 16. Elbis, Robertson, Chuga, Junior, Enrique, Anaysi, Katuska, Jordania, Welbing, and Solange all lived under the same tin roof and last name but with different parents. It took me a long while to figure out all of their names but now I could never forget.
When there is a baby in Nicaragua, the entire family takes care of it. Elbis was one of the happiest babies I’d ever seen. He was always giggling and gurgling and was generally in the arms of someone in the family. He had no shortage of attention and of love. I later discovered that his mother was generally in Managua four hours away most days. I learned that a baby should be born into this world with endless love and adoration.
The middle children loved to play with their little wooden tops called “trompos.” They were masters and could do crazy tricks with them. They tried to teach me how to do the basics and found it hilarious to find that I could do nothing of the sort. They were patient teachers and always included me in their “trompo” games even if I was terrible, thus, they taught me how to become a good teacher with patience and kindness.
Their other favorite game was to play hopscotch in the street using bracelets or trash as markers. They insisted that I play with them every other day. I began to master it even though I never fully understood the rules and they always had to guide me to the finish. These children showed me how to play with fairness and grace better than anyone else had.
Most afternoons, the entire group of children hunted down a ball and bat to play baseball in the street. They had an entire team ready at a moment’s notice. This showed me how to spend an entire afternoon with little or nothing. Toys are not needed to kill boredom, but creativity is.
Throughout all of this, I realized that the house never felt small or crowded. It never felt large and empty as my house sometimes feels. It was at a constant comfort. I had little boys climbing all over my back, or Katuska and Jordania laughing at my Spanish, or Solange sharing music with me, or Welbing drawing with me. They showed me what family means in Nicaragua and allowed me to be a part of it for a short period of time. They taught me that with the right people around, anyone can get through anything. This Nicaraguan family taught me how to live with joy and love. My family in Nicaragua took me in a new direction in life.