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.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Exploring Social Change in Central America has begun!

Time sure does fly!!. We have once again begun our semester program in Guatemala and are already 2 weeks into our learning process! As part of this program titled Social Change in Central America: Exploring Peace Justice and Community engagement our students will spend 5 weeks in Guatemala learning Spanish, before they move on to take other courses in Costa Rica (4 weeks) and Nicaragua (6 weeks).

During their first week of orientation in Xela we were able to appreciate the diversity of experiences of each and every one of the members of our new community, as we reflected upon our educational biographies, diverse learning styles and cultural background.

This past week students begun their intensive one-on-one Spanish classes and have had the  opportunity to learn more about the history of Guatemala, as well as its current political, social and economic reality.

We share some pictures of our first two weeks and will keep you posted on our journey throughout Guatemala, Costa Rica and Nicaragua.


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Nicaragua: Let us Work together

We are happy to share this beautiful reflection on the meaning of solidarity written by participants from John Carroll University.  CGE Nicaragua had the pleasure of hosting this wonderful group this past January.

Nicaragua: Let us work together 

Nica 2014 3Compiled by Jennifer Davis, Senior John Carroll University

“If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up in mine then let us work together.”
This past January a group of John Carroll University students and staff traveled to Nicaragua on an immersion trip. The trip was focused on the issues of free trade and fair trade. Throughout the trip the group was welcomed into the families of Nicaraguans for homestays in Batahola and Miraflor. After their experience the students were asked to reflect on and answer the question, “what does solidarity mean to you?”

Kari Grove:  Solidarity to me means mutual relationships. It means being men and women WITH others, not for others. For I am no better then the people we lived with in Nicaragua, so how can I just be for them, when in so many ways they are for me and have taught me more than I could ever give them. Solidarity is realizing that my liberation is wrapped up in the liberation of the poor. It is sacrificing my luxurious lifestyle so that I can live in friendship with the poor & give the poor dignity through my friendship. Solidarity is choosing to live in places like Miraflor, so that I can feel the love of the poor & learn so many lessons from them, while choosing to give my love right back to them. Solidarity is realizing the connectedness of human beings and refusing to live in a way that puts you above the poor. For we are in no way above them.

Kateri Dillon: Our host mother taught her one and a half year old nephew, Lester, to call us “tia,” meaning aunt. She’d been breaking off little strips of tortilla to feed Lester, and when he toddled expectantly over to me, she nodded an invitation for me to do the same. As I tore the plain but warm tortilla to place in his tiny hand, I had an overwhelming sense that we were sharing in something sacred, something life-bearing and infinitely greater than language, geography, finance, culture, and everything else society uses to tell us we can’t truly be one family. And in that moment, I was Lester’s aunt. Solidarity is breaking bread together under the same roof – often bread in the form of tortillas.

Jennifer Davis: When I think of solidarity, I think of one moment in particular. It was towards the end of our trip, when we had a reflection. We sat in a circle and we opened with a prayer. After a little bit of shy silence, people started talking about how there was this hurt that they kept feeling. No one knew how to describe it, they just said that it hurts, “right here” pointing to the middle of their ribcage, somewhere around their stomach. I didn’t say much in that reflection, but I knew exactly what hurt they were talking about. I think that, in a way, that might be what solidarity is: feeling so connected to other people––much a part of a part of their family––that you can’t help but hurt when you see that they are not treated with respect and dignity by the rest of the world. You don’t hurt only out of compassion or pity, but out of a profound empathy. You feel for them because you are with them. Solidarity is acknowledging the dignity of those who’s dignity has been ignored, and demanding that others recognize it too.

Mary Lutter: After knowing the people of Nicaragua as family, I cannot act in ways that I know will hurt them or other people in situations like theirs. Solidarity is loving people entirely, and letting that love impact our decisions every day. If each of us saw the people in this world as our brothers and sisters instead of strangers, our world would be a lot more just.

Grace Donnelly: In Nicaragua, I found that solidarity is learned through the relationships we built. It was built over meals and through stories. It was built as we broke down language barriers and met as brothers and sisters. Rather than being held back by my poor Spanish skills, I built my closest relationships through nonverbal communication. While I was with my family in Batahola I grew close to my sister Amy. Our language barrier did not stop us from growing close. Our conversations consisted of a pat on the arm, a smile, a mischievous look, or a hug. I have learned that solidarity means the giving and receiving of love regardless of supposed differences.
Solidarity means mutual relationships. It means breaking bread together under the same roof – often bread in the form of tortillas. It means living in friendship with the poor and giving dignity through that friendship. Solidarity means feeling connected to other people, feeling so much a part of their family that you can’t help but hurt when you see that the rest of the world does not treat them with respect or dignity. It means receiving love from the poor and choosing to give love right back. In choosing to live in solidarity, you are loving people entirely, and letting that love impact your decisions every day.

Friday, January 31, 2014

A short visit to the colonial city of Granada in Nicaragua

This January we hosted once again a group from Boston College Presidential Scholars, who came to Nicaragua to explore the question: what constitutes development? The program included a variety of experiences and talks, which ranged from visits to feminist organizations, grassroots women's collective, youth organizations working on community development, the Nicaraguan investment promotion agency, political parties, organizations working on promoting and defending the rights of people with disabilities, others focusing on quality education, among others. 

As we explored different issues, we also had the opportunity to simply enjoy the beauty of Nicaragua. The trip included a brief visit to the colonial city of Granada, which is one of the oldest cities in the  continent (Founded in 1524) and has many interesting connections with the U.S  

During Colonial times, the city was well known for its natural wealth (gold and fertile soils) and easy access to both coasts (Caribbean via de Río San Juan; the Pacific via stagecoach), which made it a target of repeated pirate attacks.  In the mid 1800's,  thousands of U.S gold rushers passed through Granada using the Accessory Transit Company (owned by a U.S businessman called Cornelius Vanderbilt). At that time, the quickest route from New York to San Francisco was through Granada, vía the Caribbean, the San Juan River, Lake Nicaragua and then by stagecoach to the Pacific. 

As Granada became more relevant and important, the city was impacted by another notorious U.S figure, William Walker. A U.S mercenary from the southern states who organized military expeditions into Latin America. In 1855 he came to Nicaragua invited by the Liberal party who sought Walker's military support in an internal conflict against the Conservative party.. Although Walker's military intervention gave the liberals a temporary advantage in their internal war,  Walker ended up declaring himself president of Nicaragua, re-established slavery and proclaimed English as the official language. He ruled until 1857 when he was defeated by a coalition of Central American armies. On his way out of Granada he made sure to leave his mark by burning the city to the ground. 

We share some pictures of present Granada from one of the BC presidential scholar participants, Lucas Allen, who beautifully captured some of the architecture of the city. 

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Augsburg Soccer team in Nicaragua

CGE had the pleasure of hosting Coach Mike Navarre and the Augsburg`s Women Soccer team in January who played  the Nicaraguan Women's National Team. Ana Gabriela Power, an Augsburg Alumn and Jesse Haas,  Coordinator for Recruitment and Promotion for the Center for Global Education worked with the team during their stay in Nicaragua.  In the Coaches words,  "Overall, I was pleased with the effort. With little time or ability to prepare, we represented ourselves quite well and actually could have stolen the match. It was a great experience for our program. To be able to play the Nicaraguan national team in their national stadium was a special opportunity for our players,"

In addition to the games which were the main focus of the trip , the soccer team engaged in a variety of service work and cultural immersion activities .  The team spent a morning painting a preschool for Nica Hope an organization that works with children whose families worked in the city dump. The group also visited Casa Alianza  an organization that works with street children and other children at risk. One afternoon the team went  swimming in a volcanic crater lake and on the last day of the trip the team were able to experience Nicaragua´s beautiful beaches .

We would love to see more sports teams from Augsburg play with the Nicaraguan Nationals teams . In addition to a great sport experience  it is also a way of strengthening ties between neighbors.