We’re collecting statements from AMIGOS Seattle Chapter veterans, parents and Spanish teachers that highlight the impact AMIGOS has. Below is a letter that Stephanie, a 2016 participant, shared with her family, friends and supporters after she returned. Check back soon for more testimonials or email firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to share your story!
Dear Family and Friends,
Many of you have inquired about my summer spent in Madriz, Nicaragua so, I figured it is about time that I get back to all of you. I cannot thank you enough for donating to this trip and helping to make it possible. My trip had its ups and downs but I would do it again in a heartbeat. I had a few expectations and goals and every single one of them was surpassed.
I spent most of my time in the small, rural community of El Socorro. The community had less than 400 people and was a 30 minute walk from the nearest town. I lived on a beautiful grape vineyard that consisted of three houses. My partner that was assigned to me when I arrived in country, Maya lived with my host grandparents in the main house. I lived with my host parents and three sisters in another house. My host mom and dad were very sweet and curious about my life in America. My host mom would sneakily wash my clothes for me even though I told her many times I was perfectly capable. She taught me how to hand wash my clothes, make tortillas, and took care of me. She always had a cute little smile on her face, hugs to give me, and never let me watch the stars alone. My three little sisters never failed to put a smile on my face. They danced and sang all day and even got me to join in. We were surrounded by grape trees and many other types of fruit trees. There was cows, pigs, chickens, goats, dogs, and cats. My host grandpa made sure we learned everything there was to know. He taught us about farming grapes, milking cows, making bricks, and even killing a chicken or two. He fought in the Nicaraguan war many years back and always loved to share stories. You could see the love he had for his family in everything he did and he always made sure everyone was taken care of. He even put his daughter through university which is rare for women. My host family was one of the highlights of this trip, it was a perfect match. Maya and I still talk to them today and I even got a call on my birthday so they could all sing to me.
The two main goals for all volunteers are to implement a community based initiative project and host camps for the local youth every day. AMIGOS provided Maya and me with $500 for El Socorro. This is about 14,480 Cordoba (the Nicaragua Currency) which is a lot of money. The community decided that we could actually do two projects instead of one. After many meetings with the community we decided to rebuild the latrine at the school and to purchase instruments for a band at the school. New materials for the latrine were purchased and a few dads volunteered to do the labor. This was needed because the old latrine was not made of durable material and had begun to fall apart. There were many holes so the children did not have privacy when using the bathroom. For the band we purchased about 7 assorted instruments from drums to a xylophone. The school in my community was one of the few without a band. Now, with practice and instruction from a teacher that offered to volunteer they can participate in parades and local events. I got to present the instruments to the students on my last day in community and I was so glad to see their excitement. For the kids camps we covered topics such as health, mosquito borne illnesses, creative expression, and gender equality which they do not learn about in school. Of course we had to play lots of games to help keep them entertained. This was one of the most challenging parts for me during the first few weeks with my Spanish that had failed to improve. My supervisor helped with all problems and kept me motivated. I really enjoyed getting to know the youth and we had a blast hanging out with them every day.
One of the things that I am most proud of was how I immersed myself into the culture. On all of my evaluations by my supervisor I was ranked highest on cultural immersion. I stepped off the plane in Nicaragua ready to try anything and that is exactly what I did. I was there watching when the pig gave birth and carried the new piglets to their stable. I swallowed every bite of soup that consisted of cow intestine. I jumped at every invitation for coffee or dinner at someone’s house because those led to the best conversations. I was convinced that I would never dance with my host family but by the end I had learned the dances and joined in. I attended two different churches because I was so curious to see what it was like. With each of these little things I began to understand and experience the Nicaraguan culture. The culture exchange never stopped at my house, there was always a conversation being had about ghosts or the so called glorious American life. When I asked my host grandma why she wanted to have AMIGOS participants a big smile took over her face. She said that she loved the conversations we had and that since we had arrived her family had become more united. Every night we all hung out at her house riding bikes, playing with jump ropes, watching horror movies, or just chatting. I loved to pause in these moments and look around, that was one of my favorite views.
This summer was truly life changing for me. My understanding of the world around me has grown and my perspective has shifted. The once shy, very quiet girl you had to come to know has broken out of her shell. Let’s be honest, speaking in front of a large group in English is SO much less nerve racking than doing it in Spanish. I have grown as a leader and have learned many problem solving skills. The love and passion I have for travelling has been sparked. I have a love for the Spanish language that is beautiful and can provide me with so many opportunities. This trip shaped my goals for the future including my goal to study abroad while in university. I am so thankful for this trip and for all of you who supported me.
If you have any questions feel free to call, email, or text me! Also, please spread the word and share my information with anyone you think may be interested in a trip with AMIGOS de las Americas. There are about 6 other countries that they travel to and they have options for shorter trips.
If you would like to see more pictures from my trip, I have an album on my Facebook account filled with pictures.
Thank you and much love,