Friday, November 14, 2014

Mark Lester presenting at Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice

CGE-Central America co-director, Mark Lester, will be at the Ignatian Family Teach In for Justice this week.  The Teach-In is an event of the Ignatian Solidarity Network.  He will be presenting a session entitled, "Incarnating Ourselves in the Reality of the Oppressed Majorities: Essential for Sustainable Development."  
His abstract states: Statistics and studies on the poverty, landlessness, and unemployment in the global south abound. But more important is "incarnating ourselves in the reality of the impoverished majorities," which implies understanding their current survival strategies. When we are able to see the world from their perspective, their current approach does make sense. This is then the key to opening the door for a mutual collaboration where we can discover how we can truly support them in attaining a level of greater empowerment. In the process we, too, are changed.

Thank you, Mark, for always carrying the CGE message of solidarity to wider communities.  Good luck!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Learning expericies in Guatemala!!

We left Guatemala, but here it is a reflection from one of our students.

Now we have moved on from Guatemala, but in no way does that mean that its impact has not left our minds. I hope that I accurately speak on behalf of everyone in the group by saying that our eyes were opened and awareness increased and knowledge enhanced. After reflecting on my time in Guatemala, there are three things that I personally learned; things I was looking forward to learning and others that were unexpected.
                  First, I learned, or rather, unlearned all of the false stereotypes associated with Guatemala. In our small group discussions, it became apparent that everyone had experienced a situation with friends or family that warned of all of the many perils of traveling to “such an undeveloped and dangerous country’, which were entirely untrue. The people of the country are brilliant: botanists, astronomers, philosophers, teachers, doctors, and doers. Everyone that we spoke with played a vital role in our growth, and everyone left their print in our hearts.
                  Second, I learned about the perception of the rest of Central America, the neighboring countries, and the United States. I understand this is a broad and rather intensive topic, so I am not going to elaborate, but what I learned, and what heard both shocked and surprised me, as well as intrigued me. There is an authenticity to hearing how someone feels they are being treated by their government that you cannot get from a textbook or a professor.
                  Last, I learned about the Mayan culture; a culture that is vastly overlooked for their contributions to society, science, and the identity of Guatemalans. The language, the music, the ceremonies, the food (oh yes!) and the stories are captivating. The Mayan people have been through so much in history; from the last thirty years and dating back to the conquistadors. Their resilience and compassion is incredible.
                  As one adventure wraps up another is about to unfold in Costa Rica. An entirely new culture, history, and people have the chance to teach us anymore, and we are all excited for that. However, it is impossible to forget and overlook all of the amazing and monumental lessons learned from Guatemala.

by Aaron Smith

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Bienvenidos to our Central America semester program!! Off to explore social change together!

We are excited to welcome our new semester students in Central America. They are 11 amazing young women and men, from all walks of life, with diverse experiences and unique lenses. In these couple of months they will set out on a journey as a community to explore Guatemala, Costa Rica and Nicaragua. Following our experiential education model of experience-reflection-action students will interact with people from a diverse cross section of local society and learn about social change, justice, peace and community engagement in the region, as well as their role as global citizens.

We share some pictures of their first experiences in Guatemala. As part of their orientation week they had some time to learn about each other,  their unique identities, their educational biographies and learning styles. Now in their second week they are each paired with a Spanish professor for their intensive one-on-one Spanish classes. Throughout these 5 weeks they will also be learning about the history, economic, social and political reality of the country. We will make sure to keep you all posted !

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Ignatian Colleagues to Nicaragua

A Pilgrimage is the term some Ignatian Colleagues call their travel to Nicaragua. It was a time to build community among each other and listen to a wide range of Nicaraguan speakers, including the Vice- President of the UCA, the Jesuit university in Managua to members of the women´s cooperative Heroes and Martyrs. The trip also included worship and learning about the challenges and the signs of hope in a country that has experienced major social change.  Here is a brief photo journal shared so kindly by Kristina Fisher.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Ohio State University Nursing students learning about health care in Nicaragua

In May 2014 CGE Nicaragua had the pleasure of hosting a group of Nursing students from Ohio State University who came  to the country to learn about Nicaragua's health care system. Their program included numerous visits to Clinics, hospitals and non governmental organizations working on issues related to health care. Students wrote a blog about their daily visits. We share the blog with you all with information about their learning throughout the trip.

Below one of the entry's of student Leah Jackson on Day 4 (5/9/13)

"We departed for a meeting at The Association Nicaraguense Personas Positiva Luchando por la Vida (ANICP+ VIDA), which translates to Nicaraguans living with HIV and AIDs. More specifically it is an organization working towards increasing knowledge, understanding, and prevention of HIV/AIDs in Nicaragua. Julio Ceasar Mena, director of the establishment, greeted us with open arms and an open heart sharing his story and vision for the future. This man was the epitome of inspiration. After being infected with HIV from an infected blood transfusion, he was subsequently diagnosed in 1992 and told he only had 5 years to live. After a brief bout with grief he became involved with ANICP+ VIDA and has since devoted his life to spreading the word about HIV and implementing courses of action for prevention. He was a very open, welcoming, warm-hearted man with knowledge and good intention. I’m sure I speak for the rest of the students when I say that meeting and talking with him to day was an honor". 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Ignatian Colleagues to El Salvador

                       Ignatian Colleagues to El Salvador 

On Feb 7th a program for Jesuit administrators known as the Ignatian Colleagues Program  journeyed to El Salvador to explore new dimensions of Ignatian Spirituality. The Program includes a one week immersion experience that brings administrators to El Salvador or Nicaragua. The experience offers participants a rich opportunity to learn more deeply about the role and the specific impact that a Jesuit university can have on a society.  Following are pictures of some of the highlights during the groups stay in El Salvador . 

Monsr Romero´s tomb in the basement of the Cathedral

The Rose Garden where Jesuits were killed
Divina Providencia Chapel

Remembering Rutilio Grande 

Meeting with the former Mayor of San Salvador Mr. Mario Valiente

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

"Our week in Nicaragua..lives led to help in the fight for justice"

In January of 2013 Boston College Presidential Scholars visited Nicaragua. We share with you one a reflection of one of the students and what they learned while in Nicaragua.

Sophmore Scholars Experience in Nicaragua

Ex Libris. The newsletter of the Presidential Scholars program, Boston College
By Paul Davey, A&S’15

It is difficult to adequately express the experience the  sophomore Scholars had in Nicaragua this past January. While  I could tell you what we did each day during our week in the country,  it wouldn’t be able to reveal how deeply our experiences moved us. Instead, I’d like to present just a  few of the moments that made this such a special, heartbreaking, and altogether beautiful week.

 On our first full day in Nicaragua, we visited the Managua office of Un Techo para mí País, an organization that builds transitional housing for people living in dire poverty across Latin America. After learning about Techo at   the office, Sabrina, a volunteer not much older than us, took us to a nearby barrio, where we met with a family who live I one of Techo’s houses. At first, it was one of           the most nerve-wracking experiences of my life – as an American tourist who speaks no Spanish, I did not want to be an unwelcome visitor in the home of someone whose life is so different from my own, and, frankly, I was scared of going into a neighborhood unlike any place I had ever experienced. After just a couple of minutes in the barrio, though, I realized there was no reason to worry. The people that we talked to were incredibly welcoming, and their gratitude for what they had in life was nothing short of astonishing. Despite living with several children in a plywood house no larger than my dorm, the mother of the household showed immense appreciation towards Techo for providing her family with the opportunity to own this home. Equally touching was seeing  the connection made betweenthe children of the barrio and our group, especially Fr. Andrea Vicini, who accompanied our class to Nicaragua. The kindness of these children, who freely accepted a group of visitors from another culture, was truly touching. As the smiling children chased our bus down the dirt road out of the barrio, I think we all sensed that it was an experience we would never forget.

Later in the week, we had the chance to visit Nica HOPE, a charity that operates near the Managua city dump. Several thousand people, many of them children, work all day in toxic conditions at the dump for very little money. Nica HOPE provides supplies and support for children in the community to help them attend school instead of working in the dump, and offers computer and vocational training to help them attain jobs outside of the dump. After learning about the work that the charity does, we had the chance to make bracelets with young women from the community who have learned through the program how to make jewelry and become independent artisans. The chance to work together, even in such a small way, with people our own age let us have a peek into the lives of people just like us who happened to be born in another part of the world. It was upsetting to think that these girls had it better than most in their community, but seeing firsthand the positive impact that projects like this can have was inspiring.

 On our last day in Nicaragua, we had the chance to relax at Lake Apoyo, a beautiful volcanic lagoon in the wilderness outside of Managua. We sat down to lunch at picnic tables near the lake, and soon a group of young children, dirty and lacking proper clothing, was looking on enviously from an area nearby. We gave them some of our pizza and tried  to be friendly to them, but we also knew that there wasn’t any way to have a lasting positive impact in their lives. This moment served as a poignant reminder as we were preparing to head back to Boston – while we could simply return to our comfortable  lives, relax, and forget about our time in Nicaragua, the people that we encountered will continue to live lives on the bottom rungs of a ladder to which we, who hold the power at the top, assent when we don’t work against it. As Fr. Fernando Cardenal, a Nicaraguan Jesuit and former Minister of Education, told us so eloquently earlier that   day, we must be sure not to come to the end of our lives with “empty hands” – while we still have the chance, we must be active in improving the conditions of those less fortunate than us. Our encounter with these children reminded us that there will always be injustice in the world; whether we choose to relax and ignore it or fight against it is up to us.

These  moments make up just a small sample from a trip that included visiting women’s centers helping females in a machismo culture, talking to people who face  the abusive maquilas that make the cheap clothes we buy, meeting young political activists fighting against a corrupt and undemocratic government, seeing firsthand an overcrowded hospital, where patients were crowded in unsanitary hallways, and many other unforgettable experiences. Any sophomore could talk for hours about the incredible people and the tragic situations we encountered in Nicaragua. We encountered injustice on a massive scale, but we also met people who have dedicated themselves to fighting it. This, above all else, was the key lesson of the trip; it’s fashionable to say that one person can make a difference, but we saw it happening firsthand. Whether it was Sabrina, the university student who builds houses for people living in unimaginable squalor; Silvia, the nurse who helps run an affordable women’s health center in one of the poorest parts of Managua; Suyen, our incredibly kind guide in the country who spends her free time working for a political party dedicated to improving the lives of all Nicaraguans; or Fr. Cardenal, a priest whose dedication to social justice found him creating and leading one of the largest and most successful literacy campaigns in world history; the people that wemet have changed lives. The inspiration of their examples, I hope, will stay with us as the months and years wear on, and each of us will someday look back on our week in Nicaragua as a key moment in lives led to help in the fight for justice, in our own communities and around the world.