The halfway point of the project came and went, and this landmark encouraged everyone to think about their personal achievements, contributions to the project, and maybe even unfulfilled expectations they previously held. After such considerations it was decided that increased community involvement and awareness of our voluntary work would benefit both the project and us as well. Although some people in Mozonte knew quite a lot about Progressio, there were still a lot of people who were unaware why we were there!
In an attempt to increase awareness of our group, our community liaison officers – Heather Cartwright, Oliver Rutherford and Naomi Hogg, decided to organize a public event – la feria de cultura. Its primary goal was promoting Progressio work and introducing partner organizations that contributed to it. However, it was decided that it should not provide only work-related information, but also present English culture through games, contests, and traditional desserts. The date of our cultural fair coincided with another local celebration – youth week, which inspired us to create an event which would be enjoyed not only by grownups, but by children as well. Around two hundred children spent the day getting their nails and faces painted, playing orange bobbing (an adaptation of apple bobbing), other games, eating shortbread and scones and at the end of the day a big race around the block.
Looking back, the event was a huge success. Not only were the people who attended the fair happy about it. Volunteers too, although tired after long day of work, were glad to be able to organize a big event on their own. With the help of several organizations and businesses that donated prizes and lent us necessary equipment it was possible to attract enough community members and spread the word about our purpose here, as well as make new friends and acquaintances.
After the success of our fair came week 6 and the much anticipated home-stays. Up until this point, all 15 of us have been living together in the bubble of ‘Casa Verde’ in Mozonte, which has, in part, prevented us from immersing ourselves in Nicaraguan culture. So, the home-stay offered a welcome change of scenery and an insight into day-to-day family life in a culture so different to the one we’re used to.
On Sunday afternoon we set off, bags packed, for the small rural community of Palmeira San Jose, about 10km from Totogalpa, set amongst beautiful scenery. Once we arrived, we were introduced to our new families, and were soon settle in.
The village of Palmeira San Jose was originally formed in the aftermath of Hurricane Mitch back in 1998, which forced some families to set up new homes elsewhere. Since then, the community has come on in leaps and bounds and has now set up an initiative to attract tourists into the area. The families we were staying with, regularly host volunteers who then spend their time helping to develop the community, which will then in turn bring investment into the town and allow it to develop further. The profits made from the project are reinvested back into community projects.
Written by Agne Skrebyte and Jack Dangerfield. Picture by Heather Cartwright.