This week we said goodbye to our host families for a few days and headed off to Managua for our mid-term review. We spent a lot of time as a group reflecting on our experiences so far, evaluating our progress and setting out some new aims and objectives for the second part of the cycle.

The Progressio in-country staff asked us to answer a few questions as a way for them to evaluate the ICS programme. One question which our group feels has been answered for us this week was: Is it worth being a volunteer for ICS?

None of us could deny that being a volunteer can be hard at times. No adventures come without challenges. The heat (sometimes, when you get out of the shower, it's hard to tell if you're still wet from the shower or if you've just started sweating again),the mosquitoes (how do they still manage to bite through trousers?!) and being so far away from home, are some of the challenges we have all encountered at some point or other.

However, we all agreed that our answer to this question would be a definitive yes. Last week, we built an eco-latrine in the house of one of the members of our group, Carlos. Working at his house was a pleasure and an honour, and we felt that we got to spend time to see in detail how our work will bring positive change to the lives of the family who will use it. Carlos' brother, José, showed us his plot of land where he already grows kidney beans and maize, and over the course of the week we saw materials arriving for his new vegetable patch where he wants to grow tomatoes and lettuce. The organic compost generated by our eco-latrine will act as a fertilizer for these crops and as a result, the family will have a sustainable source of food, and a potential income for any crops that they sell.

Beth and her team in action

Carlos' family couldn't have made us feel any more at home. Every day they insisted on providing our whole team with lunch, and on the last day when we went to put the final touches on in the morning, they had prepared us a breakfast of frijoles (kidney beans cooked over an open fire which gives them this amazing smoky taste - move over, Heinz baked beans!!). All of the families we have worked with have been welcoming, and many treat us to refreshments, but last week we were met with such gratitude that all of those challenges we have faced here seemed minimal, and we all look forward to keeping in touch with the family to see how they get on with their new latrine.

One thing that the whole group agreed was that it is important for us to know that once they are in place, the eco-latrines will have the maximum benefit possible for the families using them. So, one objective we agreed on was to make sure that we maintain contact with the families so that we can resolve any teething problems with using the latrine, to make sure that all of the hard work was worth it, not just for us but for the families too.

Written by ICS volunteer Beth Bradshaw