This blog marks the end of our eleven weeks in Parcila and twelve weeks in Nicaragua, so it would be an appropriate time to reflect upon our reasons for coming on the project. I knew before coming here that the time would slip away from us, but that foresight doesn’t help when it comes to saying our goodbyes. There is so much I’ll miss about being here; even as I write this, my host family and our chickens are huddled in the house to escape a thunderstorm.
I applied for Progressio ICS because I wanted to get some real life experience helping people in difficult areas of the world. My main objective was to see with my own eyes the struggles people go through and I wanted to help them move forwards, despite their potential geographical or financial constraints. Although the project has been different from my expectations, I feel as though I’ve achieved my objective because as a team we have been involved with a community struggling against a terrible economy and the impacts of climate change.
On the whole this trip has shown me how adaptive humans can be. I haven’t had a shower in a conventional shower for three months but I haven’t even thought of a conventional shower until writing this sentence because the barrel that I wash out of is equally as effective. When our water is cut off for days it is just a normal part of our routine, not an enormous inconvenience as it would be at home. And the same for electricity. To get out of our community at the moment, you need to wade through sometimes waist deep water, but it doesn’t stop people here from going about their day-to-day business. It’s only a deterrent for the Brits because we are somehow completely useless at balancing in running water compared to the locals, who can walk through the river whilst also carrying a motorbike over their heads (a small team effort).
Observing the Nica’s incredible resourcefulness is something that will always stay with me as well; whatever situations we get ourselves into they have a solution. There is always a seemingly useless object to hand that can immediately be transformed into a widely versatile tool. It’s great to learn more creatively with positive problem solving through this resourcefulness. And their incredible aptitude for adaption and flexibility has really put a few of my own problems into perspective as well as enhancing my own ability to be flexible and adaptable. I can only hope that the Nicaraguans have learnt as much from us as we have from them. To me, this project is a way for us to help one another. By observing the Nicas and them observing us, I think we have helped one another grow in one way or another, and this growth will help us to improve our own situations at home. The final resounding message from this project is how, again despite the appearance of a lifestyle far removed from my own, I’ve had so much in common with everyone I’ve met here. Despite coming half way around the world to a poverty stricken community in the mountains of Nicaragua, I’ve realised how similar our interests are, and how welcoming and loving people can be regardless of where you’ve come from.
As a final note, we have some quotes from national and UK volunteers to end the cycle:
“My main objective for joining this project was to gain new experiences, help my community and help each family in the community move forwards.
From my point of view, I have reached my objective because we have worked very well and we have raised the awareness to the people and taught them the impacts, which climate change brings.
For me, this experience has helped me a lot because it’s the first time that I have worked with this type of organisation and they have helped me to work with volunteers from another country.”
“My main objective was to learn more and to gain new ideas for myself and for the development of the community. I am sure that what I have learnt will be very useful in my life and in my community. It means a lot now that I have been able to experience more and improve my knowledge for my personal development and to help my community.”
“My aim was to help my community to move forward and to keep it getting better little by little. I have reached my objective because I have more knowledge than I did before. It means a lot for me because all these experiences that I have had in this type of project will help me with my future.”
“My objective was to learn something new and to help the community and to grow as a person with more knowledge. It’s been great because we’ve been able to share cultural information from both countries. I have learnt how to build eco-stoves and water filters and I have been able to share my knowledge/skills and acquire new ones, which I’ll be able to put into practice throughout my life.”
“My main objective when joining this project was to support my community and to gain more experiences. I have reached my objective because I have achieved my set goals, despite all the challenges with the help from my friends.”
“My main reason for joining, although a rather boring one, was to use my Spanish as well as my degree in environmental science by helping the community and raising awareness on an issue that I’m so passionate about: climate change.
Since arriving and starting the project my objective has changed slightly and become so much more. International development is a slow process, and it would be impossible to reach every single person in this community in 12 weeks. I’ve actually come to realise the importance of our presence and my own relationship with the community. My aims soon became one of teaching by trying to share my own experiences in conversation with locals, which I hope has given them an insight to the world outside of Nicaragua. And that at the end of the day we’re all similar in some way or another, which is why we all need to work together.
Apart from showing me that I’m more than capable of adapting to cold bucket showers every morning, this experience has allowed me to connect with the new community and family who I feel like I’m a member of, and has given me a sense of purpose by putting ideas into action with our national volunteers.”
“My main objectives for joining Progressio ICS was to learn Spanish and to work on a different kind of environmental project, experience a new culture and learn more about climate change and how it’s visible in other countries. I have developed my Spanish and can successfully follow a conversation now. I’ve experienced this wonderful culture and learnt the importance of how to use my time. I’ve experienced the effects of climate change first-hand and learnt more about its impacts.
This experience is none like any other. I’m glad I’ve had the opportunity to work with a different culture that’s off the beaten track, a community that I would not have experienced living in without this project, and most importantly the way I now won’t take things for granted, not even the small things!”
“My objective was to acquire more experience and improve my knowledge in different subjects. I feel I have learnt many things about my country that I didn’t know previously. For me this project is about training people about different topics concerning a positive way of thinking to protect our environment.”
“My main objective/reason for joining was that I wanted to physically help members of the community with aspects of climate change. I’ve definitely achieved my objective, but I feel that we could have done more in the time we’ve had here. Seeing the appreciation of the beneficiaries and having friendly interactions in the street with the whole community gives the meaning of our trip for me.”
“I wanted to learn Spanish, which I have managed to do and improve.
This project is very important because the programme has allowed me to see a unique corner of the world and become part of an amazing community. This is something I would never have been able to experience without.”
“My main objective was to learn more about climate change by living and working in a place where climate change is already having a drastic effect on peoples’ daily life. I also wanted to learn practical ways to combat climate change on a local level. At the same time, I wanted to improve my leadership skills, in particular, how I support others.
I think I have fulfilled my objectives, but now I see that I’ve only scratched the surface of all three of the above. I feel extremely driven to improve my understanding of all of them. For me, this experience was a chance to live and learn closer to the environment in the face of climate change and feel engulfed by its daily changes, and adapt ourselves accordingly. It was a chance to watch and contribute to volunteers personal development and a chance to not only support a community but to be a part of it.”
Written by ICS volunteer Rebecca Walker (April - June 2016 cycle)