Hello all…I returned to Albuquerque on Tuesday after having spent 5 weeks in Nicaragua–the first 3 spent taking a class on sustainable development (already excited about planning next year’s project!) and the last two participating in the Nourish project. Looking back on my time in the community of La Solidaridad, I wanted to briefly reflect on my experiences there:
First off, I was extremely impressed with William, the community’s de facto leader, who would guide our daily activities. In his mid-twenties, this young leader, who has held this role since he was a teenager, has a lot on his shoulders. Each day, as we entered La Solidaridad to begin working, William would be approached left and right by community members seeking his help. As far as the roofing aspect of the project is concerned, it was left to him to decide which families within the community were in the greatest need. Though it was surely difficult for him to have to turn down friends and neighbors, he made his decisions based on what would bring about the greatest change for the people of La Solidaridad. Had it been left to us students to make these decisions, the same would not have been the result. During my two weeks alone, I was approached almost daily by community members asking for help with their homes, saying their homes had been overlooked by the project. However, those of these homes that I saw were in much better shape than those that William had selected for us to work on. I began explaining to those asking for assistance that all final decisions would be made by William and not us extranjeros, as he had a far greater grasp of the community’s needs than we ever would. All respected his authority.
The sense of community in La Solidaridad was extremely powerful. For some time, members of the community had been expecting the arrival of “Plan Techo” and were aware of which families would be helped. As each family had to provide workers as a condition of their receiving building materials, many would recruit volunteers from the community, as many families, for example, did not have young men within the household to help with the roofing. Most of the time, individuals stepped up to help their friends and neighbors without question.
La Solidaridad was also very welcoming to us extranjeros. They welcomed us into their homes, shared their stories with us, and took care of us in the Nicaraguan heat. It must have been terribly obvious how unaccustomed us desert-dwellers were with the humidity. Someone was always instructing us to stand in the shade, and, as Sam H. mentioned in the last post, some families bought us drinks. I can recall my grandfather saying, “Those with the least to give always give the most.” That was true of La Solidaridad.
To illustrate just how well they were keeping an eye on us, I offer the following: Working at one particular site was especially muddy following the rain. Having been in the country longer than the 5 new arrivals and having experienced plenty of mud trekking in the jungle, I felt it my place as a leader to show them that getting a little dirty wasn’t going to hurt them. I dipped my Teva-sandal-wearing foot into some pretty disgusting goop. Not sure I would call it mud. I was just fine, ha, I had proven my point! Then, within about 30 seconds, a little boy runs to my rescue with a bowl of clean water to wash off my foot.
It was wonderful to work in such a welcoming community in which we felt safe and at home during our first summer project. During the 2 weeks I had at the project, we helped 14 families. The remaining five Nourish at UNM members will go on to do much more. Thanks to all who helped make this project possible and continue to support us! Muchísimas gracias a todos