Diana Avila traveled to Nicaragua with the University of Oregon in 2016 for a service-learning trip; an experience that she looks back to as one of the defining weeks in her life.
As part of the ‘Everyone Makes A Difference’ holiday campaign, Diana participated using her skills a photographer and offered people in her community photo shoot sessions, with all funds going to support Comunidad Connect’s programs. We were so moved by her altruism and lasting connection to the experience we asked her to write a short piece for the blog.
A single week in March 2016 resulted in what I believe now to be one of the most life-altering weeks of my life. Prior to participating in this trip, my life held a pretty linear trajectory; I could visualize my path and the role I would take in the world. I had focused my last two years of my undergrad to taking global health and health policy courses; I saw an opportunity to place what I had learned and practice it. What seemed like an ideal placement was much more than that. I had no idea that my experience in Nicaragua would provide me with such personal growth, gratitude, and clarity.
You don’t ever to get to meet people like Yarisleidy (CC Director of Comunity Development) twice. From the moment she hopped on our bus you knew exactly what she was about. She was strength; an advocate for social justice, a powerhouse, a friend, a sister and a mentor. You almost don’t believe that she wasn’t in your life before the day you met her. We laughed over everything and nothing, encouraged each other to open up and try new things, and simply, it felt a lot like she was family. She made our last night in Los Robles memorable, bringing us music, dance, light, joy and so much more and we couldn’t be more grateful.
One of my favorite memories is listening to the story from one of our brigadistas on how much the community has changed in her lifetime. She spoke of the tragedies, the joy, the power and strength that comes with overcoming great obstacles. Well over an hour I listened to her and worked. We were baking for single-parent households with children of different abilities. It was a unique experience. I remember seeing the end product and thinking of how my hands would always remember how to get there. It never felt like work, but acts of love. When the time came, we were hesitant to leave the warm space we had created for ourselves, which partly came from the ovens but mainly from being in a group of women that were working towards achieving something greater than ourselves.
I had thought it was the end for that day as we began to travel back to our home. It wasn’t until the next morning when breakfast was served that I saw that everyone from our trip had a baked item on their plate from our batch. Which of course, made me cry. Not only was the bread sweet and savory, but it prolonged an even sweeter moment, which I thought vanished on the back of pick-up truck on our way home the day before. And lastly, and maybe most importantly, I milked a cow at sunrise.
Why did we choose to fundraise now? That’s a good question. I think… in part, because I feel as though I’ve never left Nicaragua, or maybe Nicaragua has never left me. We know that there is a lot of unrest in Nicaragua which makes organizations like Comunidad Connect particularly vulnerable. We left Nicaragua 2+ years ago confident that CC would always be able to reach in numbers as they have before and expand, and donating at this time seemed critical to ensure that their mission continues to go forward without interruption. I only regret that this didn’t come to mind sooner!