A Volunteer At Home - My Family Travels
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My favorite and most meaningful trip started on June 9th, 2012, my first day of volunteering in Nicaragua. A few months back my friend proposed a plan that her, my father and I took a trip down to Nicaragua to volunteer and experience the culture. In the end, my friend couldn’t make it and I immediately began to dread the thought of volunteering and being alone with people I didn’t know. Although I wouldn’t be accompanied by a friend, we had found a program online called Comunidad Connect that was local to Nicaragua and I decided to give it a shot.

Finally, the day of my volunteering came and after saying my goodbyes and receiving good lucks; the Comunidad Connect team headed to a coffee farm in the mountains of Jinotega. For the forty five minute car ride to the farm, I sat in the back seat trying to stay positive about the upcoming volunteer time while feeling nauseous from traveling on one of the worst roads in Nicaragua.

The first week that I spent in the small town in the mountains of Jinotega was amazing. I worked with a brilliant woman who was in charge of many eco-friendly organizations and through her got to be a part of community clean ups, I taught English to little kids and adults, we planted trees and painted the public well and bathroom. The best part of working with the people was their appreciation for my help and how happy they were about their lives. It gave me a positive attitude about life and a sneak peek into how a completely different culture lives.

After a great week in the mountains, I traveled down to the border of Nicaragua and Costa Rica and stayed in a little beach town called San Juan Del Sur. I stayed with a lovely host family who gave me a sample of how a Nicaraguan family functions and how siblings interact in their close family. My time in San Juan del Sur coincided with a week of celebrations for their patron saint.  To honor him there were several traditional dances performed and live music playing everywhere. It was all so very exciting to be able to experience the culture in Nicaragua.

Besides learning about culture, I also got to work with a girls’ volleyball team. I had never been a volleyball coach but I had played for two years on a team and loved the sport. In the afternoons I taught an English class to a group of ladies who belonged to a support program called Casa De Mujeres, (House of Women.)  I got to know them very well and really enjoyed teaching them something new.

When I was not teaching, I would go out and walk around in the hot sun and savor the experience of my surroundings. The feeling of being relaxed, positive and in control of my life was a new experience for me and being in San Juan meeting new people and teaching them something valuable allowed me to feel that way.

Arriving back home I still couldn’t believe how I had spent my last two weeks in Nicaragua. It was hard for me to take in everything I had done and the people I had met. Living on my own without family and challenging myself to do something new every day was terrifying yet amazing. It was one of the most enjoyable and exciting trips I have ever been on and I was already planning how I would go back next year. 

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