February 26, 2021
I got to go to Nicaragua with El Porvenir in 2016 as part of a group from St. John’s. Iris and I were the two teenagers on that trip, and I remember fondly the two of us spending much of our time entertaining the rest of the group with silly jokes. But the experience of helping to build latrines for the small farming and beekeeping village of San Jose Dos near the town of El Sauce was one I’ll never forget.
Moving bricks under the Central American sun was laborious, but the folks from San Jose Dos who were working alongside us worked way faster! It was really great to get to meet all the families and especially the kids at the local primary school–at St. John’s we later raised enough money to help the school install a proper hand-washing station. At meal times, we ate at the home of one of the community leaders (Nicaraguan rice and beans, aka gallo pinto, were usually involved), which always hit the spot after a long day’s work, and we learned about the history of the community and about their ongoing health promotion and education work that is part of the latrine project.
Also, before the trip, we had collected donations of baseball equipment–baseball is a beloved sport in Nicaragua–and we were able to give it all to the local youth teams which had hardly any gear to play with. The kids prepared speeches and poems and sang us the Nicaraguan national anthem. That was a great day.
Taking part in El Porvenir’s wonderful work also inspired me to learn more about their principles for sustainable development, which I shared in a TEDx talk at my school. I feel grateful to have seen firsthand the impact that development work can have when carried out with knowledge and care and community-level input.
–Isaac van Aelstyn