Lessons learned from my week in Jinotega, Nicaragua
This past week I spent my time in Jinotega, Nicaragua, to assist the Sasle community in making a home for a family in need. I was given this opportunity through the University of Delaware’s alternative break program, and a non-profit organization called Bridges to Community that does this work all over Central America.
For two days out of the week I spent in Nicaragua, my group of 12 and I explored unbelievable crater lakes and the lively cities of Nicaragua. For the rest of the week, we lived in a beautiful home that belonged to a warm and welcoming woman named Benita living within the community. We spent 8 hours of each day passing cinder blocks, mixing cement, painting the roof of a home, and working on the finishing touches with the other giving members of the community.
For a family in need to receive a home from Bridges to Community, a family is nominated by members of their community, which they then pay an amount monthly which goes back into a community fund.
There are numerous amounts of lessons that I gained from this experience, but here are the ones that stuck out to me the most.
The Importance of Family and Community
When building the home, we worked with such hard working members of the community, including the father of the beneficiary family. Could you imagine your next door neighbors helping you build your own home? In Sasle, there was such a strong value of community and helping one another. While we worked, every car or bus that passed by honked or waved at us on the worksite to say hello. Not only is community valued so much in Sasle, but so is family. During our dinner with the beneficiary family, the father told us how grateful he was for us to leave our families for a week just to come and help them build a home. Family is so meaningful to their culture, which made me want to express gratitude for my family even more than I do.
How can We further embrace community and family in Our lives?
Having a sit down dinner with loved ones without distractions is an overlooked moment. Checking our phones when out with others has come habitual. When we eliminate an option to distract ourselves, we can have even deeper conversations with the people we love.
Ask yourself, are you educated on the issues in your community? Spend a little time researching, and see if you can lend a hand to someone in need. Helping others makes us feel so much more connected to those around us and gives us much stronger ties to our communities.
There were many things that the Sasle community did not have, but to them it did not matter, because they know they rich in what truly matters; family and community. The Sasle community was always happy, grateful, and content with what they had. Though some families did not live in what Americans would consider ideal living, the community members never complained because they know that material items do not fill them.
Another thing I noticed during our dinner with the beneficiary family, was that each person took a humbling amount of food and politely made sure that each person had a plate before eating. They were in no rush to consume what was on their plate, and believed that the simplicity of the moment was enough.
How can we further embrace simplicity?
If there are clothes sitting in your closet that you haven’t worn in a while, consider giving them to someone who could make use of them every day.
Instead of spending extra time on social media, which can create extra content in our brains, try connecting with the nature around you, or reach out to someone you haven’t spoken to in a while.
When plating your food, try to take only what you know you need to fuel your body. Eat with friends, and shop locally whenever possible. Simplifying our day to day actions creates an immense amount of appreciation for life.
Many stereotypes and judgments come from things that we don’t understand. Before coming to Nicarauga, I thought I knew what the members of a developing country would be like, but I was wrong. They were the most hardworking, kind and wholesome people I had ever met. Being open-minded to the stories of the people we met was key to having an incredible trip.
I learned that people value different things because of the way that they grown up, and it’s our responsibility as humans to take that as an opportunity to dig deeper. We need to look past our own barriers and listen to the stories of others and maybe even spend time in different cultures to show us just how much we have in common.
How Can we Cultivate Acceptance?
Try to actively reach out to and listen to stories of those that are different than yourself. Listen without judgement.
This will always help you become a more well-rounded and compassionate person.
When I arrived in Nicaragua I experienced culture shock, but surprisingly experienced culture shock when home to America. I felt like I finally realized why so many people suffer from anxiety in the U.S. While in Nicaragua, I never had cell service, so I spent free time playing cards, singing, or bonding with members of my group. When I first arrived, I was in shock at my lack of distraction, but once I embraced it I felt clear-headed than I had ever been.
The night before my flight home to America, I had trouble sleeping because I was already experiencing anxiety about my responsibilities at home. At first, I shamelessly blamed “America” for being so overpopulated, obsessed with technology, money, and other material items, but I thought for a while and realized that we just live in a different culture, and the only way to improve it, is to recognize it and appreciate how far we have come.
Though America might have numerous amounts of distractions, we should take the time to see question giving them a break. Distractions only have power if we give them power.
How can we Improve our Country’s culture?
If you ever experience anxiety after scrolling through Instagram and Facebook, try to explore what it’d be like to journal, meditate, or reach out to a friend.
My week spent with the Sasle community taught me the value of hard work, support, connection, and love. I will never forget those friendships that taught me imprinting lessons that I’ll take with me forever.
Always remember to keep an open mind and constantly push past your comfort zone. There’s so much to gain from being connected to what truly matters.