JZ's Charity Trip to Nicaragua - October, 2013 travel blog


Locals home

Saying good bye

Cultural dance

Shopping at the markets

Saying our Good-byes

October 11th

Wow, what an incredible day it has been!! From the very moment I woke up it has been perfect!

Early this morning at the end of our breakfast we started hearing loud banging drums in the distance...got up and looked out the door and a parade was coming our way. It was a special event called raza which means day of race and it is where they celebrate the two heritages coming together. Tons of children dressed in their traditional costumes, walking in the parade, riding in the floats and waving, along with a marching band. It was a pleasant surprise to start the morning!

After the parade ended, the street cleared briefly and we were finally able to leave and go to Las Tias. Today was going to be a bit different...when we got to Las Tias we heard a presentation about someone who was a beneficiary/a grown adult (29yrs old) who went through the Las Tias system. He was found by Las Tias at the age of 11. His mother left his father and took his 2 siblings and left him. He talked about his hardships and how Las Tias provided counseling, food, and helped to get him through the rough times. He progressed to the older kids program and eventually learned a trade as an electrician. And is currently supporting his kids through a microloan Las Tias has provided. An inspiring story of how Las Tias has helped many Nicaraguans.

After that, we broke into 2 groups and each group visited a home of one of the children that go to Las Tias. It was very touching to see the hardships that the children face...we went to a little girl's home which was far from Las Tias and in a very bad area with dirt roads and on a hill in which they fear about having a landslide during the heavy rains...it did, however, have magnificent views of the mountains. The parents of the girl moved there from a farming/rural town in Northern Nicaragua to this current location to better their children's lives. Initially the girl had to walk 2 hrs to get to school and now it takes her only 30minutes to walk. We walked up a dirt path and ducked under the long string of laundry hanging up to get to the house. The house was built of plaster outer walls and a tin roof with cardboard for the walls. One room we saw was the bedroom which had one metal bed frame with cardboard over the springs and no mattress. It did have moderate electricity. The space was very bare and it really humbles one as they were there as a "betterment" to their children and it still consisted of very little an was very simple with no running water and an out house for the bathroom. The situation really makes me thankful for all the things I have in my life.

The Last stop was back to Las Tias to say our good byes. The children all wanted to take pictures with us and many of them came running up to me with giant bear hugs wrapping their arms around my waist. Then, came the good bye ceremony. The girl and boy whom I danced with yesterday put on their dance show for us in their traditional outfits. Then, my partner, Katherine, got up to make a speech to the team and included a special thanks to me in it. Another dance/play followed, and they got some of us, including me, up to dance with them. At the end, Spark made a donation of getting them a large refrigerator.

After the ceremony, we said our final good byes and I said my good bye to Katherine. She gave me a hand made 2 page note in a special homemade envelope. Her drawings were as great as always and one entire page was hand written in Spanish that I could not read and another page with pictures and some Spanish and English words such as "fantastic", "friends forever", etc. I thought it was soo sweet. The last day she seemed quieter and more distant and I had questioned if something was wrong or if she did not have fun learning.

Many of the people on the trip started to get teary eyed during their good byes and a bit emotional, but as you people know me I held it together. Next thing you know, we were back in the van getting transported to our hotel for lunch. I had my friend, Theresa, start interpreting my note. Katherine wrote one of the most emotional and heart felt notes I have ever received. It started out by saying thank you for spending time with her, being her friend and teaching her English. She talked about our favorite bands and information she learned about me and then said that I reminded her of her mother...the mother that had died!!! ...and that she would miss me. Omg, all of a sudden, the flood gates opened and I became a crying mess!!! ...yes me! Everyone around me gasped and started getting teary eyed as well when they had heard what she had written. Even when I got to my hotel room I was still getting emotional and couldn't quite shake it off.

I came into this trip to find out more about what Spark had to offer but really only went to Nicaragua because it was an easy, short trip to take even though my main interest is in Africa and wanting to visit their organization in Zambia. I never thought i would have been affected like this here in Nicaragua. This trip has touched me in so many more ways that I could ever imagine. And, this trip had shown me how very much just several days of interaction with the children really affect them and do make an impact and lasting impression impression on them.

After a bit of time decompressing, our group was off to Granada with a stop in Mayasa for the markets. It was a Beautiful drive to Granada. There was a lot green grass, small villages, farms and trees with large volcanic mountains in the distance. The sun shining through the window onto me was so hot that I had to play the trick when I was a kid and put up towels to the windows to block the sun...not great for the camera ops and views. It was to take 2 hrs to get from Leon to The markets in Mayasa.

Another huge storm found us while driving to the markets. The rain came down in sheets and even our big van started to hydroplane! There were Massively flooded streets every where with water up to peoples shins and cars and bikes plowing through the rain. We made it to the markets late and most of them were closing up...so we had one hour to race through and buy souvenirs....not a lot of time, but really not much to buy....wood bowls, leather purses, wallets, sandals etc...

After the markets it took us another 30 min to get into Granada's city center. Our hotel, Hotel Colon, was amazing and rated the best hotel in Granada by tripadvisor....huge rooms with down comforters, an actual hair dryer I can use and an amazing pool area all right across from the city square. And, their bar had great wines by the glass from Argentina and Chile!

We went to a dinner spot called Imagine that had all sorts of Stevie Ray Von and Beatles

Pictures up....The owner is from America. The food was amazing! The owner of the restaurant is also the bartender, waiter AND Chef! I had ordered the sea bass with dragonfly, pineapple and mango salsa....it was amazing and the best meal in Nicaragua . Tonight I was really able to get to know Rich, CEO of Spark much better and talk to him at length over dinner. I am quite impressed with his charity, the charity's business model and the quality of this trip.

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