The Impact of my First Service Trip to Nicaragua by Dan Buchholz

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My name is Dan and I am a 17-year-old high school senior from Long Island. My family, consisting of my mom, my sister, and I, went on the Nicaragua trip in August. We learned about the trip through of friend of my mom and decided it was something we wanted to experience for ourselves.

I didn’t really know what to expect. I had never done any volunteer work outside of our local community, much less in a third world country. What I found in Nicaragua was a culture of friendly people, great food, and a beautiful landscape. Everyone we came in contact with was warm and welcoming. The language barrier didn’t matter much. My sister and I really enjoyed using our high school Spanish in an attempt to communicate and we were surprised that it wasn’t that hard.

The poverty in the rural communities was evident by the housing. Many homes consisted of a tin roof and plastic hanging down for the outside walls. So it was really rewarding to be participating in the building of a structure that was going to change someone’s life in such a significant way. I was amazed to see firsthand how the houses are built with little equipment and a lot of physical strength on the part of the homeowners and volunteers, and I was glad to be a part of that process. It was something that really made clear to me just how fortunate I am.

Beginning Work on the Foundation of a House.
Beginning Work on the Foundation of a House.

As part of our trip, we were exposed to different aspects of the Nicaraguan way of life. We visited a paper cooperative where women make paper using recycled paper and organic items like bananas and onions. They spend all day long working to produce about 125 sheets of paper each, which can take anywhere from a day to several weeks to dry. We also visited a family whose income comes from selling the pottery they make. They use the traditional method of forming the pottery on a wheel powered by their legs/feet – no electric pottery wheel here. Though the people of Nicaragua in general have a laid-back and relaxed demeanor, we could see how hard they work.

Making Paper at the Women's Co-op.
Making Paper at the Women’s Co-op.

Although I really enjoyed the whole trip, I think my favorite part was playing with the little kids after the church service we attended. We were just playing a simple game of kicking the ball back and forth, but I could see they were so happy for the attention and were having such a great time.

I am really happy that my family and I took this trip. I came away with a lot of great memories of all the things we did and saw and learned, the local people we met, and the many volunteers we worked with. I am so glad I had the opportunity to be exposed to a completely different way of life. After seeing what it is like to live in Nicaragua, I came home with such an appreciation for the simple things that I took for granted, like a soft bed, a hot shower, and comfortable temperatures.


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