"Eres un universo de universos y tu alma una fuente de canciones." -Ruben Dario
Ruben Dario is ubiquitous in Nicaragua. His likeness in statue or picture form greets one regularly. Our students studied his poetry in preparation for their trip. Little did they know that they would come to embody one of his most famous lines through their experience in his country.
"You are the universe of universes, and your soul is a fountain of songs."
The stewardship piece of the trip is a distinct centerpiece. After a day of getting acclimated and oriented, the program transports students to a cramped community center on the edge of the main dump of Managua, a city of over a million people.
There they sifted sand and mixed cement by hand, sanded repurposed chairs to be painted, cemented over cinder block walls in preparation for painting, and sawed wood for bookshelves, all the while mingling with the children of the center and the local community.
This experience is by far the most robust yet most impactful part of the trip. Yes, the physical labor is a part of that, but it is the juxtaposition of personal worries and fears brought from home with this unfamiliar environment that, to quote one student, "Pops their bubble," and builds empathy, perspective, and gratitude.
The trip then moves to the countryside, and a setting becomes a small organic farming community of 45 families. The change of pace in La Garnacha is palpable from the moment they arrive. The hard work continues, but again, an unfamiliar setting washes over them and leads to an assessment of their own lives and a rejiggering of what one previously thought was important.
They were stewards of their future and the future of those they encountered, and they also were impressively present in each moment and in each experience that came their way.
The represented themselves, their families, and the community in a fashion that had the teachers on the trip welling with pride.
And this brings us back to Dario's quote. Our students were a "fountain of songs." Their souls sang as they embraced their immersion into another culture.
They were gracious and caring. They were open and kind. They took care of themselves and each other. They played and laughed and shared and worked and contributed in a way that left them exhausted yet full.
Our Nicaraguan Global Works guide, Jorge, commented on the levels of commitment and care our students showed through bringing over a 100 books to donate and buying over $600 in supplies while there. Supplies purchased directly based on the needs of the groups we were serving.
Alicia, also a Global Works guide, poignantly shared a quote by Margaret J. Wheatley with us in our closing activity that embodied the reason for our trip and unwittingly tapped into the motivation for many of things we do with our students here at Woodland.
"If we take the risk to step into a world very different from our own, we discover that our particular way of seeing is incomplete. That there are many more ways to see and interpret what's going on in life. We can discover that judgments and assumptions often limit our ability to see new possibilities."