As week 4 draws to a close, after having hung up our shovels and scrubbed the caked-on mud from every crevice of our body, it is safe to say that the week has been a resounding success. Our team has finished eco- latrine number three and we continue to construct with smiles on our faces despite the unrelenting heat and unforgiving dove grey Progressio t-shirts which make it near impossible to disguise profuse expiration. I never would have imagined that sweat could be a determining factor to identify the hardest worker but here I am constantly checking that I am sufficiently soaked to prove my worth; such are laborourers’ laments and eco latrine toils!

We had our second week of The Women’s Choir in El Pochote and we were all delighted to see that attendee numbers had almost doubled in comparison to the week before. It is incredibly rewarding to know that the choir offers the women of Pochote a rare opportunity to step outside of the domestic sphere and engage in an activity which brings the community together, empowers women and teaches new skills. The choir has already perfected O Dia Feliz (Oh Happy Days), Buscad Primero el Reino del Dios (Seek ye first the Kingdom of God) and Cumbaya My Lord which means by the time the La Festival de Las Mujeres (Women’s Festival) comes around we will have quite the repertoire to boast. 

As part of our complementary activities a group of us has decided to form a rights group for which we have several sub-groups; women’s rights, animal rights, sexual diversity, anti-bullying, indigenous person’s rights and sexual abuse. We are going to team up with a local NGO, IXCHEN (El Centro de Mujeres/The Women’s Centre), which primarily operates as an advocate of female empowerment, in order to better understand the situation in Masaya with regards to how gender differences manifest themselves in a country where ‘Machismo’ is ubiquitous in every facet of society and women are widely considered subordinate to their male counterparts. 

It was recently brought to our attention that sexual abuse within schools is a national problem of increasing severity. Many perpetrators aspire to become educators in order to abuse their positions of power and carry out these cruel and inhumane acts on the innocent. This particular subject is considered taboo by many Nicaraguans who refuse to talk openly about the issue and this is something the rights group feel compelled to address. Given our close links we have with the schools in Pochote and Monimbo we are keen to raise awareness and work directly with the pupils to reassure them that openness and honesty should be encouraged and shame, embarrassment and guilt should not consume them. 

As we hurtle into mid-term, we are feeling motivated to dig a little deeper and unearth the roots of some of the major problems which afflict Nicaragua and impede its trajectory to becoming a fully developed country. The experience so far has been amazing and I am even starting to secretly enjoy showering with a bucket of cold water, washing my clothes on a corrugated stone and waking up at 5am to my frenemy the cockerel. Who knows, maybe one day soon I’ll find myself craving gallo pinto (the nation’s favorite dish which consists of rice and beans) and requesting it for breakfast, lunch and dinner like a true Nicaraguan! Then again, maybe not…!

Written by ICS volunteer Sophie Owen