Eleanor Roosevelt, former First Lady of the United States, once said, “People grow through experience if they meet life honestly and courageously. This is how character is built.”
In order to gain a full experience of life in Nicaragua, SPIN students from Dordt College went on a rural trip to El Manantial from the 23rd to 25th of September. Rural/agricultural life in Nicaragua is definitely different from what the students normally experience in the United States. Although the students have learned and read about rural life in Nicaragua, physically experiencing it is definitely different.
El Manantial is one of the rural areas that is closely linked with World Renew and the San Lucas Society. San Lucas Society is one of our partner organizations. We work together for agricultural development in Nicaraguan communities. For El Manantial, San Lucas works with farmers for agricultural development projects like their land bank and teaching sustainable farming methods.
SPIN students and the following staff like me and others (11 of us in total) visited El Manantial. There are only six families in total in that village. Among these six families, we had a chance to stay with four families for two nights. We were all divided into four different groups to stay with each of our host families. All of the families have their own pieces of land to do their own farming. Thus, every morning, we all had opportunities help our families such as weeding, planting, digging, and other simple chores.
During the afternoons, we went to the Experimental Center to help with weeding and digging trenches for the water irrigation system. The experimental Center is run by the San Lucas Society along with local farmers. They experiment with different crops using the existing farming system that they have in El Manantial as well as experiment with different irrigation or fertilization systems. World Renew has been also involved with these projects.
There were definitely ups and downs for the students. Some of them are actually familiar with farming since they have agricultural backgrounds. And some of them are not. Thus, it was definitely difficult for them do things that they were not used to doing. Moreover, the majority of them were not used to sleeping in a hammock or charpoy bed. Despite the different backgrounds and unfamiliarity of agricultural life, they definitely did their best to learn about the farmer’s life here in El Manantial through personal interaction with their families and through working with San Lucas staff and local farmers. The San Lucas staff and local farmers knew that our living situation is very different from them but they really appreciated our enthusiasm. Although there was a language barrier between many of the students and the farmers, the San Lucas staff told use that it is more about the support and love we bring here to El Manantial. They also commented that it may seem little that we did here for three days but it really meant a lot to them.
Students and their host families built relationships for those two nights as well. Walter Matuz who hosted two students, Jed Terhaar and Ruben VanGaalen, said, “I really enjoyed talking with boys because they could speak Spanish. And one day, instead of working at the field in the morning, I just brought them to river to hang out. We were also lucky to see monkeys there.”
Although we were there for only three days, relationships that we built with our host families will be unforgettable.