Written by Sarah Heppler, University of Oregon student, Pictures by Diana Avila.
On March 19th, 2016, 16 University of Oregon students boarded an 11:55pm flight to begin the journey to Los Robles, Nicaragua, for a Holden Center Alternative Break project with Comunidad Connect’s Cultural Connections program. We left our home of the Pacific Northwest to expand our global knowledge and dive into a week of service learning.
The communities of Los Robles and San Esteban opened their homes to us so that, with the leadership of brigadistas and Comunidad Connect, we could participate in surveying families about their access to water and assist with home health projects. Connecting directly with community members motivated us to learn more about their culture and more deeply understand the community. The brigadistas (a good number of whom were younger than us!) taught us a lot as they showed us the steps they are taking in their own communities to improve their system of public health.
One of my personal favorite memories in Los Robles was working with a family baking bread for the festivities of La Semana Santa. A group of 3 other students and myself were taught the way to mix the ingredients, knead the bread, shape it, and put in in an eco-friendly oven – constructed by Comunidad Connect volunteers. The ladies we worked with taught us all about the culture of baking and how the baked bread is distributed to the people in the Los Robles community who have disabilities. After the bread was baked, the son of our host showed us all the different plants in their backyard-including cacao!-and explained how they harvest it. It was this hospitality and conversational learning that really made the experience exceptional.
It was with heavy hearts that on March 26th we boarded a 5:30 am flight back to Portland. The Comunidad Connect staff, the brigadistas, and the communities we worked with demonstrated kindness and care for their neighbors, friends, and peers, which taught us about the power of community and what can be done with the right mindset and the desire for change.
We’re all wondering when we can book our next plane tickets back.