Nicaragua Service Immersion Trip
Service isn’t just an abstract idea at OLP; rather, it is ingrained and deeply rooted in everything we do as a school. Students don’t just learn about service, they have the opportunities to put their faith into action! In fact, 1 in 10 OLP students will choose to have an extended immersion experience. OLP students and faculty did just that with a recent trip to Chinandega, Nicaragua. The OLP team joined the Amigos for Christ organization for a week-long service immersion experience that was truly transformative.
Our students and faculty had a wonderful time getting to know each other as well as the Nicaraguan community members, all while working hard on a series of community improvement projects. They built bathrooms with the local families, played soccer games with teenagers from the neighborhood, built septic tanks, and dug trenches to lay piping from bathrooms to the septic tanks. Student Valeria Chavez ’19 shares her faith-filled and powerful narrative of the trip below.
If you were to ask one of the 18 girls who went to Nicaragua about their experience, answers would generally vary from, “Oh yeah, it was great,” to, “It was amazing, one of the best experiences of my life.” Yet it is hard to explain the magnitude of what we experienced in casual conversation or small talk. We hope that this article provides the OLP community with a glimpse of our time in Nicaragua.
Most of us went on this trip because of the wonderful stories shared with us by the girls and teachers who went last year. Those of us in Ms. Cabrera’s English class last year saw the video from their trip and watched in wonder. We heard over and over that “you have to be there to know what it’s like,” and we wanted to see for ourselves. Of course, ‘Serving the Dear Neighbor’ also played a big role in our desire to go on the trip. The service component of this trip connects to so many other aspects of our experience at OLP.
Our goal was to serve the people of Nicaragua who live in poverty by building a modern bathroom for each household in the community. We were divided into groups of three or four students, one teacher, and a member of the Amigos for Christ staff. Each group worked in a different household and served a different family.
Our experiences with these families were enlightening. We were invited to share meals with them, we played with their children, we joked around with the masons, and we discussed our lives. We saw all of these families living as simply as we could imagine and all we felt was admiration.
Adriana Carmona ‘19 stated that, “It was a very eye-opening experience and I learned that living simply is all we really need.”
Indeed, the people we were with were living in poverty, but their optimism was infectious and their hope gave light to our souls. When the work day was starting to get long and our backs were aching from shoveling dirt for hours, we could look up and see a mother bathing her baby in the sink, both of them smiling. We could see the sisters making a treat for us in the outdoor kitchen. We could see the masons working ten times as hard as us and being thankful for the work. We were able to realize the power of simple human connections, and we came to love the Nicaraguan people for their hard work, their smiles, and their hope. That love drove our work and everything we did. That love helped us put up with mosquitos, heat, backaches, dirt, fatigue, and anything else that might have bothered us.
The lessons we learned were substantial. Mariana Pazzi ‘19 said that she learned that, “We don’t need much to live and be happy. I was happier there than I was at home with all the comforts in the world.”
Letting go of things that consume us like homework, social media, and everyday responsibilities put our hearts at ease and allowed us to become truly immersed in our tasks and lives there. Going home was a bittersweet experience. We missed our friends and families, but returning home meant returning to regular life and leaving our new community behind. Every day would no longer be an adventure, and each moment would not be spent doing something as tangible as building a bathroom for a family in need. Yet we will live in gratitude that we were able to go through such a life-changing experience and we will continue to be inspired by the love, strength, and hope of the Nicaraguan people.