FIMRC heavily emphasizes the idea of community inspired solutions, taking a bottom-up approach in resolving issues that are voiced by local Nicaraguans. Instead of proposing a hypothetical project in a vacuum and forcing its implementation, there is a great deal of cross talk between FIMRC volunteers and local leaders about what needs to be prioritized. While volunteering at the FIMRC clinic and shadowing pre-natal home visits, you'll quick realize how these services are necessary to the well-being of many families. You're also given the opportunity to work on your own independent project that is expected to have real, measurable outcomes in a field of your choice. As part of my SIHF trip, I was able to work with Alvaro (the physical education director of several school systems) to improve the physical education curriculum by introducing new exercises, activities, and athletic standards that we use in the U.S.
FIMRC SIHF will give you many opportunities to make a sizable impact in the Limon community. It'll be up to you to take the initiative and take ownership of your own experience.
Before coming to Nicaragua, I had an extremely basic background in Spanish and had not visited Central America before. So when I realized that I would be exclusively speaking Spanish with my host family, the community members, and patients at the clinic, I definitely felt outside of my comfort zone. But what I quickly realized was how much love and support I received from my host family and neighbors, and their commitment towards helping me better understand their customs, language, and daily lives. The FIMRC leadership and senior volunteers were also extremely helpful in getting me adjusted and being available for any issues or concerns. You'll also be surprised how closely knit your SIHF group will be within the first week. Because almost everyone will be going through the same culture shock and language barrier, you will always have someone to talk to at every point of your experience.
At the end of the day, you're expected to put yourself out there and make mistakes in order to make the most of your experience. I'm glad that SIHF was not a hand-holding experience where every outcome was predetermined and expected. But when I felt overwhelmed, there was always someone I could turn to.
For those of you who are on your phones and laptops 24/7, prepare to leave that part of your life behind! When you're not engaging in FIMRC related activities, you'll be spending the majority of your time with your host family. Things move A LOT slower when you're just talking about life, working on your Spanish, and just chilling on a plastic lawn chair as the sun sets. There were definitely days where I felt bored out of my mind, which probably speaks more to my own reliance on mental distractions. I soon learned to appreciate and truly enjoy the amount of personal time I spent with my host family, learning more about each other's experiences and what we aspire to do. I remember helping my younger sister with her English homework while she taught me her Backstreet Boys dance for school. My host brother and I instantly connected about professional wrestling, basketball, and video games. Of course there are opportunities to have the kind of fun that we're more used to having: zip-lining on the weekends, learning how to surf and paddle board, going to clubs and bars in the city. But what I appreciated the most was adopting a lifestyle focused on reflection and human connection, away from the distractions and anxieties we normally experience.
A large majority of your funds will be used to help run the Limon clinic, as well as monetarily supporting your host family (college expenses for their children, renovating an old room in their house, etc.). With that in mind, your trip expenses are a significant part of your impact even before you come to Nicaragua. FIMRC also makes it easy to fund-raise from your friends and family, and they work closely with interested volunteers. Personally, I think the program itself is already worth the cost. Even more so considering the program's direct contribution to the community.
Nicaragua is one of the safest countries in Central America in regards to political stability and general violence. Things to watch out for would be petty theft, undomesticated animals (wild dogs), and some instances of cat-calling. As long as you're protecting yourself (don't bring an expensive handbag to Nicaragua) and making safe decisions (traveling in groups at night, bringing a head-lamp when biking), then there's nothing to worry about.
If you want a truly immersive experience that takes you outside of your comfort zone, and challenges you to jump on every opportunity, then this program is for you. You WILL make a real impact on the lives of others. You WILL experience the daily livelihoods of Nicaraguans around you, and become a part of their family. I can safely say that my FIMRC SIHF experience was a life-changing one.