As many of you know, I (Michelle) had the great opportunity to travel to Nicaragua for almost three weeks with a student service-learning trip. The experience was amazing and I can honestly say I’ve never learned so much in such a short period of time. This collage of pictures depicts just a few snapshots of our trip, but what it doesn’t show are the profound stories of hardship, wisdom, and resilience we heard from the Nicaraguan people nor the deep, complex issues we encountered in the country. The one request we got over and over from people while we were down there was to share their stories and to remember their communities. Please, you can help me do this. I’ll do my best in the coming blog posts to recount some of the stories, but never hesitate to ask me more about it. (And if you ever have the chance to participate in a “delegation” with the organization Witness for Peace, I can’t recommend it enough.)
We packed our days learning about the culture, the economy, the political history, labor rights issues, health care, coffee and organic farming, fair trade, human rights violations, street children, and more. For example: after a crash course in trade policy and labor rights, we toured a big factory making North Face jackets, then saw a fair trade cooperative factory for comparison, and later sat down for a talk with union organizers who are standing up for labor laws to be enforced in their workplace. I think one of the most shocking themes we saw throughout the trip was how much the United States’ policies, trade agreements, and influence throughout history have impacted Nicaragua to its detriment. As a result, we also came to discover that our role in Nicaragua was not to make changes while we were there (the Nicaraguans should be empowered to change their own country from within) but rather to wield our power and influence upon returning home, where our decisions, purchases, votes, and voice still have a huge impact on Latin American countries. All of this is something I’ll attempt to explain in my next post.
Until then, see our 2010 Nicaragua Immersion blog for more stories from the students.