Many of you who are reading through these blogs, like I was a few months ago, are probably trying to figure out what volunteering with Progressio in Nicaragua, or anywhere else for that matter, might actually be like. Perhaps you’re thinking about applying, perhaps you’ve been accepted on to the programme, maybe you’re the parents of a current volunteer (my mother will enjoy that one). Well, today I shall answer your prayers. Obviously I can only speak from my experience with Progressio in Nicaragua, and my days here always vary in terms of the type of activities we are undertaking and the many different people and partner organisations we work with. Nevertheless, I hope the following will give you a basic idea of what life is like for Progressio volunteers in Nicaragua.

6:30 - I am awoken by the alarm of Martin, my roommate and follow volunteer, before taking out my trusty and much appreciated earplugs (pretty sure Masaya actually gets noisier at night). We take it in turns to have our bucket shower, which is a lot better than it sounds – the water is always refreshingly chilly. After this, breakfast offers a chance to chat with our host mum Esperanza, with occasional help from David, our Spanish team leader and housemate.

7:30 – We meet up with all the other volunteers, UK and Nicaraguan, and get on the bus to El Pochote, the community where our main projects are taking place. The journey is about 10 minutes, and is always a banterous affair.

8:00 – After our arrival in El Pochote and morning team briefing, we split into our sub groups of four or five in order to start the day’s work on the eco-latrine covers. This involves digging four holes around the corners of each latrine, before measuring and cutting all the pieces of wood which make up the frame. We then place the four main pieces of wood into the holes and begin nailing the other sections of the frame together. 

11:00 – It’s time to head to the school of El Pochode with Grace, where we teach English twice a week to third and fourth grade, every Monday and Wednesday. All the UK volunteers have the chance to teach English, and lessons take place every weekday to all year groups of the school. Although I am pretty sure I will never want to become a teacher in the UK, I always find this experience enjoyable as the children have a genuine desire to learn and it’s an exciting and different experience for them to have us teaching them.

12:00 – Lunchtime provides the opportunity to relax and catch up with all the other volunteers.

13:00 – Back to work on the covers. By this point, the whole frame is up and it’s time to start attaching the vinyls to the wood. This is done by stretching them around the frame and nailing them in place. Often, the family whose eco-latrine we are working on will give us fresh fruit such as mango and coconut. This is just a single example of the generosity which we have experienced from the people of El Pochote. They are always ready to welcome us and share what they have, which is something I find particularly humbling.

15:30 – Once the whole cover is completed, we head back to the bus for the return journey to our host homes in Masaya. Time for another bucket shower - always welcome after a day of work in the heat and dust – before getting changed and heading out for Spanish class.

17:00 – Spanish lessons are given to all of the UK volunteers; another opportunity to improve our language skills and also for me to revise some things which I may have forgotten since leaving school last summer! 

18:30 – We walk back to our host homes, where we have our evening meal together. After dinner, we have time to plan lessons or events for the community, as well as to enjoy some well earned relaxation time. Sometimes the other volunteers come round to our house for a tea evening, always a quintessentially British occasion which is appreciated by all – especially Esperanza, who has come to love our national beverage after hosting previous cycles of British volunteers.

I hope that has given you a quick insight into my life as a Progressio volunteer in this fantastically varied, colourful, noisy, and spectacular country. I’m afraid that’s all I’ve got for now, as I need to start washing the small mountain of dusty clothes which has built up over the past few days.

¡Hasta luego!

Written by ICS volunteer Alex Johnson