Life changing experience in Nicaragua

This is a guest post from Mary Witt Scholarship Recipient, Amanda Friesel, who traveled on a customized trip to Nicaragua with a group of social work students from Ohio State University in May, 2017. Thank you for sharing your story with us, Amanda!

 

Hola! First and foremost, I want to thank everyone that works for the Center for Global Education and Experience, especially César, Ruth, and Hector (our driver)! Everyone was so welcoming and helpful during our time in Central America. Traveling to Nicaragua for a two-week study abroad trip was a life changing and extremely educational experience! This is something that will stay with me forever! From the time that I stepped off the plane until the time I arrived back at the Managua airport my experience was a whirlwind.

Amanda in Nicaragua
Amanda in Nicaragua
With some of her host family members.
With some of her host family members.

During our first few days in Nicaragua we met with Joseph Connelly from CGEE and visited NicaHOPE. Joseph gave us a history lesson on Nicaragua. This first session really piqued my interest. We learned a great deal about the relationship between Nicaragua and the US as well as the corruption and manipulation that the US forced upon the Nicaraguan culture. In addition to that, we learned about the division of the country. The eastern side of Nicaragua is very rural and distant from the western side of Nicaragua. Joseph explained that the two sides of the country are like their own country as they operate separately even though they are under the same government. The eastern side is more autonomous and take justice into their own hands. We also learned about FSLN and the Contra War that former President Ronald Reagan put forth during his time in office in the 1980s. At NicaHOPE we learned that this organization works with kids from the previous local trash dump community. Though the community has a recycling plant now instead of a trash dump, the children are still being helped. The organization was created to teach the kids other ways to make money so they don’t have to leave school to work at the trash dump. They make homemade jewelry to sell. We also had a chance to tour the facilities and buy some of the jewelry that was handmade.

During the next few days we spent time in León, Nicaragua. This is also the time that we had our homestays. Lauren (another student) and I stayed with Professor Juan and Professor Ruth who are both social work professors at UNAN – León. When Professor Juan welcomed us into their home, he also told us that we are now a part of their family. He told us we could call him Papa Juan, Professor Ruth – Mama Ruth and Naza, Maria and Natalie our sisters. We ate breakfast, lunch and dinner with our host families, exchanged English and Spanish teaching lessons and even watched TV with them. Also, while in León we had the pleasure of meeting with some of the social work students in León and get insight into how social work differs in Nicaragua compared to that in the United States. While in León we also visited La Casona and CIDS.

Once back in Managua we had the pleasure of hearing from Julio Mena, the director of ANiCP+ViDA. This organization works on the prevention and education of HIV and AIDS. Julio told us about his life story. He was affected with HIV during the Contra War because he was wounded and another soldier gave him some of his own blood to help him survive. He didn’t know he had HIV so he ended up infecting his daughter, who eventually passed away at 6 years old, and his girlfriend. He experienced years and years of guilt, shame, isolation, discrimination, etc. because of this. Even though it was not his fault that he was infected and did not know he was infected until a year later, Julio was still shamed and stigmatized. Because of what he experienced, he decided to work in the outreach and education field in regard to HIV and AIDS. We also spoke with a former Sandinista guerrilla from the Contra War (The war Ronald Reagan waged on Nicaragua), Maria Teresa Blandón. Not only did she speak of her time being a part of the revolution at the age of only 17 years old, but she also spoke of feminism. She compared and differed it in the US and Nicaragua. She also touched on marriage and why she doesn’t believe in it. She touched on some good points, such as religion, which is necessary in society, but there need to be limits to it. Religion calls for absolute power, and if we give that then we are all doomed. When she talked about the Contra War and the revolution she was involved in, she mentioned that the cost they paid was too high. Too many young people lost their lives in the war, and in the end, it was for nothing. It made me sad and mad all at the same time. Hearing her story and listening to her words, certainly inspired me to be a part of such huge change when I return to the States.

While also in Managua we visited Casa Alianza which is residential center for young people who are victims of human trafficking, rape, sexual abuse, abuse in general, domestic violence, etc., and for teen mothers. With human trafficking being my background and the career area I want to go into in regard to social work, I was so excited once we arrived. I had so many questions for the employees once they were finished telling us about the organization. One thing that caught my attention is that she said even if they help the people legally prosecute their perpetrator, it doesn’t always mean they will be held accountable, as the government does not want their crime numbers to increase so it is certainly a challenge to try to prosecute the criminals. This visit was truly my favorite one!

Our next location that we traveled to was Granada, Masaya and Matagalpa. We first went to Masaya Volcano Park and got to see a real live active volcano which was spontaneous and exciting! Then, in Granada we spent the day at Lagoon Apoyo and visited Café Sonrisas. The owner of the café specifically works with people with disabilities. They make homemade hammocks and serve great food! We experienced what it is like to be a part of their “world”. We were given ear plugs to put in our ears and eat part of our lunch with them in. The point of it was so that we could try to get a glimpse into what their lives are like with no hearing. This activity certainly touched me. In San Juan Oriente, Masaya, Nicaragua we visited a potter and indigenous leader, Valetín Lopez. He explained that San Juan Oriente, Masaya is an indigenous town and basically everyone does pottery work. He showed us the process on how to make the pottery and gave us an insight to their past culture and present one too. The process that they currently use to make pottery, is the same process their ancestors used except for a kick wheel that decreases the process from 2 hours to 5 mins to shape the pot. In Matagalpa, we spent basically the entire day on Monday at the co-op. We learned how to make homemade tortillas, how to use natural plants for medicine and preventative care, and even made cough syrup. We watched their native dancing and listened to their culture’s songs. We met with the children of the school and really learned the ins and outs of the co-op and community. Unfortunately, I was not able to see the actual coffee trees due to my allergen of bees. Once we finished at the co-op I experienced my first ever tasting of a hot chocolate coffee which tasted amazing considering I dislike coffee. The coffee grown and then used in the cafe, was from the co-op and surrounding community.

At Cafe Sonrisas
At Cafe Sonrisas
Weaving at Cafe Sonrisas
Weaving at Cafe Sonrisas
With some of the co-op community children.
With some of the co-op community children.

One thing that was common in the organizations we visited is that they have NEVER received government funding from the current administration which has been in power for about the last 15 years. This saddened me, but surprised me at the same time. ALL the organizations and institutions we visited were doing amazing work and for them to not have any government funding is mind boggling to me. Not only did that impress me, but it also motivated me to learn how they do it, and take that information back to the non-profits I work with and implement that. There is something amazing about the fight and drive that people in “3rd world” countries have. This is certainly something that all “1st world” countries can learn from.

During my time in Nicaragua not only did we engage with the Nicaraguan people and their culture, but we also got to understand how even through corruption and economic hardship, they stand tall and fight the social injustices that affect their society and community daily. I’m filled with gratitude for being able to experience such an amazing culture, and motivation to take back what I learned from the NGOs and institutions we visited to the United States and be the change I want to see in the world. I am filled with hurt and disgust at what the United States was involved in which affected the Nicaraguan people gravely. It is hard to go to a “3rd world” country to learn from the people and their history, when the people have nothing, but negative things to say about the horrific history the two countries share. Even with the negative history that the US shares with Nicaragua, the people welcomed us with open arms. They were delighted to discuss their history and the current issues that they face. We shared ideas, viewpoints, hugs, pictures, and history. Through these things, we could learn from one another on the same ground level and that was an amazing experience. I am more humble and appreciative of the freedoms we have in the US since returning home.

Once again, I want to say thank you so much from everyone at Augsburg College and the Center for Global Experience and Education for providing me the opportunity to experience Nicaragua and the Nicaraguan culture. I am a different, but better person because it and I cannot put into words how grateful and humbled I am for this experience.

My Journey to Guatemala

This is a guest blog post by a Mary Witt Scholarship recipient, Libby M. Libby recently returned from a customized program with Xavier University-Occupational Therapy to Guatemala in May 2017. Thanks for the great reflection, Libby!

My time in Guatemala was one that I will never forget. During the first week I had the opportunity to live with a host family. My host mother was beyond hospitable and kind. She made delicious meals and we talked through the nigh about our families and friends. On my last day staying with her she even allowed me to try on traditional Guatemalan clothing. But I think my favorite part of staying with my host family was being able to try the delicious homemade hot chocolate, which consisted of chocolate made from my host grandmother who makes her own natural chocolate. It was absolutely amazing. The time even allowed me to improve my awful Spanish, through hand gestures and broken Spanish I somehow got through the week communicating with my host family who did not speak any English at all. Hopefully one day I will be able to visit them again.

Continue reading “My Journey to Guatemala”

Welcome to our New Program Coordinator

Welcome to our new Program Coordinator in Namibia, Alex Sikume!

Alex Sikume Staff PhotoAlex Sikume is the new Instructor for Political Science and Social Change.  He holds a Master’s Degree in Public Management majoring in Policy Analysis from School of Public Policy and Management, Tsinghua University, China. He further holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree majoring in Political Science and Industrial Psychology from the University of Namibia.

Alex worked for the Ministry of Urban and Rural Development for ten years as a Development Planner dealing with issues of local government operations, administration and management. In 2011 he worked for the United Nations Development Programme as a Programme Officer. He further worked as Technical Advisor under the Building Local Capacity Project for Southern Africa within the Management Sciences for Health. Continue reading “Welcome to our New Program Coordinator”

National China Delegation

Augsburg student, Tylan Mitchell, was chosen to participate in the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Incorporated (CBCF) Emerging Leaders: US-China Study Abroad Delegation. Tylan is a junior majoring in Management Information Systems.

Tylan is one of just 20 students from around the country chosen to participate. This elite delegation of STEM, Business, and Trade students all had exceptional coursework in their fields of study. He will have the opportunity to network with high-achieving peers from the black community and engage an intercultural experience to a country that is a leader in STEM and Business fields.

Delegates have almost all program and travel costs covered by CBCF. They met in Washington, D.C for a briefing with government officials before departing for two weeks in Beijing, Hangzhou and Shanghai. They will brief officials in D.C on their experience before returning to Minnesota. The program will take place June 1 to June 18.

During the program, students will study Mandarin, Chinese history & culture, and interact with Chinese leaders in science and technology. Included is a tour of the Great Wall and the Forbidden City in Beijing, lectures and workshops about China’s economy, education system, art, and history, and US-China relations.

“The CBCF is committed to providing students with a global perspective,” said A. Shuanise Washington, president and chief executive officer of the CBCF. “The China study abroad program will allow our students to see the educational and career opportunities that are available to them internationally.”

The China-U.S. Exchange Foundation (CUSEF) organized and administered the program in collaboration with the CBCF.

Learning Through Experience

This is a guest blog post by Clark University student Charline K, participant on the spring 2017 CGEE semester program “Nation-building, Globalization, and Decolonizing the Mind” in Namibia & South Africa. Thanks to Charline for the wonderful reflection and photos!

During my time in southern Africa, I was able to learn many important theories and concepts. This experience also allowed to grow and experience things that I would not have in the United States. I will share two experiences that helped me reflect inwardly about topics in my field of study; International Development and Political Science and myself. Continue reading “Learning Through Experience”

#YouAreWelcomeHere Campaign

 

Augsburg College is encouraging students to submit videos to the #YouAreWelcomeHere campaign.

What is it?

From www.youarewelcomehereusa.org:

“The #YouAreWelcomeHere is a welcome message from U.S. higher education to international students around the world. It is a campaign designed to affirm that our institutions are diverse, friendly, safe and committed to student development. Participating institutions and organizations are communicating the message in statements, photos, videos, events and other creative expressions that feature students, faculty, and staff. The repetition of the statement, “You are welcome here,” by a broad array of people from different backgrounds–from college presidents to football players–is powerful and demonstrates that we support internationalization across our campus communities and across the country.”

Continue reading “#YouAreWelcomeHere Campaign”

See. Reflect. Act.

This is a guest blog post from Augsburg College student, and recipient of the Mary Witt Scholarship, Samantha C. During spring break 2017, Samantha was able to join the short-term program “Food, Justice & Sustainability in Mexico”. Thank you for the reflection!

 

See. Reflect. Act. We visited the women of Luz Y Libertad halfway through our trip and spent only a few hours with them and reflecting on those conversations, yet these three words sum up my all of my experiences in Mexico. Each organization and community member we spoke with all lived and worked by these words whether or not they did so intentionally: they saw problems in their community, brainstormed creative ways to address those problems and made their solutions a reality. When I think back specifically to our visit with Luz Y Libertad, they spoke of seeing the need of providing the women of their community with agency. Selling handmade crafts and cooking are the most common and accessible means of income that women can provide for their families, and the women at Luz Y Libertad decided to help empower their fellow community members to do so. They shared with us different struggles that they’ve faced as women in their community, and something that was deeply related to each individual struggle was the struggle of poverty. They spoke both of global issues influencing their financial stability like NAFTA, as well as personal experiences like domestic abuse, and while both are valid, I’d like to spend more time focusing on those personal experiences, as I feel that relates more directly to my vocation and requires reflection beneath the surface.

Continue reading “See. Reflect. Act.”

My Opportunity in Mexico

This is a guest blog post from Augsburg student, and Mary Witt Scholarship recipient, Nikol G. Nikol was able to go on the short term study abroad program, “Food, Justice & Sustainability in Mexico”, during spring break 2017. Thanks for sharing your reflections with us!

I had the opportunity to experience Mexico in a study abroad for 9 days with the Food, Justice and Sustainability class.  I went as an independent study student, but I was lucky enough to be allowed to tag along with this awesome group.  This trip was amazing and was a life changing experience for me.  I have been to Mexico before on vacation with my family, but this experience was different.  This visit I wasn’t there to hangout on the beach or sit by the pool.  This time, I got to meet some amazing people.  People that changed my thinking, and who changed me as a person.  I would like to introduce you to a few of those people. Continue reading “My Opportunity in Mexico”

Connecting with your Roots

This post comes from Augsburg student, Kitana H, recipient of the CGEE Religious Studies Scholarship. This is her reflection from the week-long program in Nicaragua, “Faith, Vocation, and Social Change in Central America”. Thank you to Kitana for sharing!

 

“Today is the day where I touch a region

Where half of me is from

I’ve been so lost with my own identity

That part of this trip may open a page

Of a book of reclaiming my identity and history”

Student with arms open on a hillside

Continue reading “Connecting with your Roots”

Reflections from Nicaragua

This post comes from Mary Witt Scholarship awardee and Augsburg College student, Emily O. She recently returned from an Augsburg short term program, Faith, Vocation and Social Change in Central America to Augsburg’s Global Site in Nicaragua. Thanks to Emily for sharing!

Grassy knoll overlooking lake
View in Nicaragua

Here is my written summary, discussing 3 separate “slices of life,” or important experiences in Nicaragua and what they taught me:

My first slice of life had to do with the speaker at Cafe las Sonrisas, Tio Antonio.  As someone who grew up in an area considered “developed” like me, I was shocked that he even moved to Nicaragua in the first place.  After the initial confusion as to why he would move to a country where things are so different, I was amazed and inspired by the way he lived out his vocation and listened to his calling in life.  Continue reading “Reflections from Nicaragua”