3-6-15  |  Volunteers

Growth & Change: La Lumiere Volunteer Testimony

BY: Anina Hewey

This post was written by La Lumiere School students who volunteered in Nicaragua on a service trip in March 2015. 

I don’t think any of us knew what we were getting into when we boarded the plane to Nicaragua. Our generation has been exposed to poverty in other countries very minimally, and mostly through media which distorts our view of how people really live. Being in Nicaragua has taught us an incredible amount about not only the wonderful people who live in San Jose de Cusmapa, but about ourselves as humans as well.

La Lumiere volunteers hard at work on a garage for Cusmapa’s Center

When we boarded our first flight out of Chicago, the temperature read -6 degrees Fahrenheit. Obviously upon exiting our final connection into Managua, the first thing any of us noticed was that the temperature had risen about 85 degrees since then! The first two days of our service trip were spent touring the country a bit, experiencing such wonders as the delicious cuisine, stunning views, and colorful markets.

The following day, we boarded our bus to Cusmapa. Over the span of one day we trekked for 6 hours into the mountains to finally end up in the capable hands of Doña Nora, who has cooked our breakfast and dinner and kept the house for us all week.  We were excited to meet the children at Fabretto and begin doing the physical work for our service project. Our group toured the town and met locals who explained their work and tenure in the town; some have lived in Cusmapa since Father Fabretto himself built the town and began his work.

Children play outside of their home in Cusmapa

The students in our group worked with enthusiasm on beginning our project by digging deep trenches for a foundation, clearing contaminated soil using pick-axes and shovels, cutting wires, sifting sand for concrete, and many other difficult tasks. When someone became tired, they went to play with the kids. My first experience with the children was when a young girl of about ten ran up to me and gave me a big hug. I have yet to see one of these little students not smiling. In a nighttime meeting with our service group, we experienced many sore muscles and the inconvenience of sunburn, and pondered the question: How can they be so happy when they live in poverty?

Since that first night, I have witnessed the growth of each member of our crowd, even the chaperones. Not only have we grown closer to one another and our own selves, but all the young men and women I work beside have grown closer to the country, this town, and its people. We can each admit to the moral difficulty in turning away a child or beggar who will look into your eyes to ask, “Regalame” to the sunglasses on your head, the shoes on your feet, or the bracelets on your arm. We work to set the example for all who watch us. We feel dignified in the work we have put into the garage, knowing that our reward is the knowledge that we helped this organization working for the greater good. In that same sense, we wish to pave the path of production and hard work for the students so that they may eventually make a living working with their hands or in any way they can. I feel confident that we have already changed lives. For example, today we cut wires nearly a centimeter thick using a pair of clippers that could chop a tree down. A boy no more than six pushed my partner Conner out of the way and proceeded to cut wires until he could no longer open the clippers. That’s change.

Fabretto’s Cusmapa Education Center

We hope to change lives- that was our goal when we travelled 2,000 miles to a foreign country to cover ourselves in dirt and run around with kids that can dribble a soccer ball in circles around our feet. We hope to provide a better future. In turn we have learned so much about what it means to exist happily making a living under a tin roof with a stone fireplace and about $1 a day. And we have also learned that San Jose de Cusmapa in Nicaragua is not the only place on Earth that could benefit from change. Our own lives will never be the same, so we make it our continuing goal to bring our newfound knowledge and humble spirit home to our families, friends, and communities in the United States and across the globe.

Local Press: LaLu students visit Nicaragua

Thank you, La Lumiere! If you’d like to learn more about volunteering in Nicaragua, please visit our Volunteer Page.

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