Last fall, a recruiter from GIVE (Growth International Volunteer Excursions) came to LMU and spoke to my communication studies class. He talked about GIVE’s mission of creating sustainable change and discussed their different volunteer trips to Tanzania, Thailand, and Nicaragua. His enthusiasm was contagious, so I decided to attend the information session the following day. I am passionate about service and had always wanted to go on a volunteer trip, so I figured a GIVE excursion would be a great opportunity. After talking to the recruiters about my options, I chose the Nicaraguan excursion because I took Spanish for four years in high school and love learning about that part of the world.
On the first travel day, I flew from Washington, D.C. to Atlanta and then from Atlanta to Managua, Nicaragua with other GIVE volunteers. My fellow volunteers came from every corner of the country, and I loved being able to meet new people from so many different places and backgrounds. Once we landed in Managua, we took a three-hour bus ride to Jiquilillo, the site of our first week of volunteer work. We spent the first week volunteering in Jiquilillo and the second week volunteering in Little Corn Island.
In Jiquilillo, we worked on a variety of projects, including building a new playground for the local children, furnishing homes for the community, and clearing land to allow new houses to be built. The educational component of the volunteer trip was tutoring the local schoolchildren in English. We also gave swim lessons to the children in the nearby estuary. We had the option to do volunteer work in the morning and tutoring in the afternoon, or vice versa. We also took a day trip to Cerro Negro, an active volcano, and got to go sandboarding.
I loved both the work and educational components of the trip and really enjoyed interacting with the local community. When we would volunteer at the worksites, locals would often join us and want to be a part of what we were doing. I loved knowing that the community members of Jiquilillo were genuinely excited about GIVE’s volunteer projects. Getting to work alongside these people was a rewarding experience, and witnessing their optimism, positivity, and passion was truly inspiring. Tutoring the schoolchildren in English was also incredible. The children of Jiquilillo were so passionate about learning English and loved hearing about American culture. Their endless smiles, laughter, and excitement brought me so much joy, and it was difficult saying goodbye to them at the end of the week.
For our second week of volunteering, we drove from Jiquilillo to Managua and then boarded a small airplane to Big Corn Island. Once we landed in Big Corn, we took a Panga boat to Little Corn Island. On Little Corn Island, we focused on the educational component of the volunteer trip and continued to tutor the local children at Little Corn’s Reading Room.
After two incredible weeks in Nicaragua, it was time to say goodbye. We flew back to Managua and then boarded our connecting flights to the United States. By the end of my trip, I had made new friends and new memories that will last a lifetime. The educational component of the volunteer trip was my favorite part and will be an experience that I will always treasure. Being able to interact with the schoolchildren and teach them English was something I looked forward to each day and was the high point of my excursion in this beautiful country. I will also miss the spectacular sunsets on the beach and the delicious coconut rice and fried plantains that were commonly served.
I loved being immersed in the Nicaraguan culture and hope to go back and visit one day. The most important thing I learned from my volunteer trip is that it is important to give back and help others. Service is an integral component of LMU’s mission of promoting social justice, and I felt very connected to my school during this excursion. My GIVE trip has inspired me to continue to volunteer in my own community, and I hope to go on another volunteer trip sometime soon.