To say that my experiences with Seeds of Learning in the communities of Villa Japón and Las Delicias were life-changing would be an understatement; I believe that the work that this organization does with volunteers in rural Nicaraguan communities is potentially world-changing. Let me tell you a little bit about my story to explain why I stand by that statement.
In the summer after my sophomore year of high school, I had the amazing opportunity to experience my first trip out of the country, my first encounter with grueling manual labor, my first time speaking Spanish in a real-world context…essentially, a lot of firsts. After overcoming the initial shock of the wave of heat that crashed into me when I stepped outside of the Augusto C. Sandino International Airport, this gringa was ready to get to work. Little did I know that those first few breaths of sweetly saturated Nicaraguan air would mark the beginning of an integral change in my entire being.
Through the next two weeks, I was completely immersed in a new culture, and through daily reflections with my peers, I compared and contrasted my experiences with life in the U.S., and discussed revelations about the nature of global disparities and the very real impacts on very real fellow human beings. I finally began to see the broader implications of my traditional education through a global perspective, expanding beyond the life that I knew. I was touched by the enthusiasm with which the members of Villa Japón all joined in to support the building project to provide better educational opportunities and improve the futures of generations to come. Not only did my Spanish improve tremendously from communicating with the Nicaraguans, but I also created wonderful friendships and memories, and gained an entirely changed perspective of the modern world.
Upon my return to the U.S., I worked with a fellow student and my Spanish teacher and chaperone from the trip, to organize fundraisers to continue to support the school in Villa Japón, and future SOL projects. When I was offered yet another incredible opportunity to travel back to Nicaragua with a new group of students from my school, I was ecstatic. This time, I would be supplied with camera gear to film a documentary about the Seeds of Learning program for our volunteer group in Las Delicias, and the impacts of the project on the students as well as the community with which we worked. The documentary would be used for future funding of service-based learning programs at Hawken School, as well as to inspire viewers to get involved. With camera and tripod in hand, I set off on a new set of adventures.
Being the designated documentarian, I filmed from the outskirts as well as within the group itself as we worked. I recorded insightful dialogue, sweaty smiling faces, and blossoming friendships among all of the volunteers—gringos and Nicaraguans. As a special treat, our group visited the completed Villa Japón school site where I had worked during the previous summer. To gain a fresh perspective beyond that of a student volunteer, I interviewed village leaders, SOL workers, and school teachers and students at the learning center. During these interviews, I learned that with the construction of proper school buildings, refurbished with school materials and books, student attendance had increased from 250 to 385, and they stayed in school for longer. I saw that interaction on the worksite and visible progress being made increased the morale of the community. As a result, villagers realized their potential when working together, and felt hopeful about what the future holds for their children. There is a strong sense of pride which the community feels as a whole from having done their own part in the construction of their school; it was their project, and they actively contributed to the bettering of the lives of generations to come.
I was delighted to find that some of the students whom I had met on my first trip still remembered me a year later, and were eager to show me the beautifully completed school structure for which we had laid the foundation. The sheer joy in the eyes of the students pointing at the pride of the community, with a backdrop of peals of laughter from playing children, made for a very touching scene which served as further inspiration for my documentary.
My goal with the video was to inspire viewers from all walks of life, whether they have had any experience abroad or none at all, and to share the stories of the incredible people who taught me so much and helped to form the person that I am today. I hoped to create a film that excited viewers, and to stir a desire to help and get involved with Seeds of Learning.
So let me get to my original point here. The name Seeds of Learning is built on the metaphor of sowing seeds which will soon bear bountiful fruits, to nurture the growth of young children by providing educational resources to lead to a better future for them. I was so profoundly touched by my experiences with Seeds of Learning, and my life was certainly turned upside-down. Among piles of cement mezcla, the beautiful genuine smiles of the Nicaraguans, and my interviews delving into local and national issues, I discovered my passion for Latin American culture and social justice. I have seen firsthand how Seeds of Learning programs inspire U.S. volunteers as well as Nicaraguans by instilling hope for a better future. Stories of these experiences spread throughout friends and family back in the U.S. and among communities in Nicaragua, thus touching more and more lives. I too did my part by sharing these stories through the documentary, to further the impact of Seeds of Learning. The seeds have been sown, and they continue to flourish, carried on the wind through the U.S. while also remaining rooted and strong in the communities where great changes are being made to help promote educational opportunities for generations to come. Those young students may grow to be world-changing leaders, and to have been able to be a part of that process is an immense honor for me.
I graduated high school remembered as the gringa who fell in love with Latin America and service work. As a sophomore, I never imagined becoming the young woman that I am today, with wisdoms which Seeds of Learning programs have guided me to discover. I am so grateful to have been able to share my inspiration with so many others, and to continue to support an organization which I believe can truly begin to change the world.
If you would like to see the documentary that I made, please visit the following link. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EhzTvkk_JAI