Throughout the year, Service Days offer students a chance to shed their uniform in exchange for a small donation to a good cause. Next Thursday, May 22, our Service Day will support the school’s ongoing work in Nicaragua. Below, two students who volunteered there during Spring Break talk about the trip and the work the funds support.
by Siri Knudsen and Megan Harrison, Grade 11
This Spring Break, 20 students led by Mr. Primrose, Ms. Tobacco and Ms. Murtland, travelled to Nicaragua for a 10-day service trip in Jiquilillo. At Monty’s Surf Camp we spent our days playing with kids at the beach, teaching English classes, serving a lunch and meeting many of the locals. We went to different elementary schools around the area and also visited a new school made only from pop bottles and hand-painted. It will be a vocational school and is to open in February of 2015 to offer courses in small engine repair, sewing, hospitality and English. We spent much of our time at the Community Centre, a place where many of us met the kids that would make it so hard to leave. The kids showed great appreciation towards us. Many of them from Jiquilillo and neighboring communities came to learn English after their five-hour school day and we were also able to work in the community garden.
Thanks to the work done by students in Spanish classes at SMUS, we were able to take 25 homemade bilingual books with us. Three students on the trip even got to read their own book to the children. The generosity of The Book Club at SMUS also allowed us to purchase books in Managua that we then donated to the Community Centre. These brand new books were a real treasure for the children and they made sure to wash their hands before touching them.
We had a unique opportunity to work with an organization from Arizona called Humanitarian Efforts Reaching Out (HERO). Most of us didn’t know who these people were but it wasn’t long before we ate dinner together and got to know them. The HERO group is made up of medical professionals who came to offer rural medical clinics in under-serviced communities. Our group was lucky enough to send four or five students with them to each of the clinics. Those in the group that spoke Spanish translated for the doctors who didn’t. We enjoyed this once in a lifetime opportunity and many considered it a highlight of the trip.
Wednesday, we all got up early to drive to Cerro Negro, a volcano outside the city of Leon. Only Gabbi, Emmie and Ms. Murtland knew what to expect and we were all surprised when the bus finally stopped near the base of the volcano. We looked up and saw a huge black mountain ‘steaming’ in the sun. We started the hike with our sandboards under our arms and when we finally reached the top, we were relieved and excited. The view of Honduras in front of us was breathtaking! The height seemed scary but once we began to slide we realized just how easy it was to board down a volcano. After we all made it down safely to the base, we hopped back on the bus with a nice layer of dust on our skin and started our drive back to Leon. Unfortunately we only had about 50 minutes to buy lunch and souvenirs but many of us had the pleasure of going to the air-conditioned supermarket.
We also had the chance to deliver brand new uniforms to students at three of the local schools. Like us, students are expected to wear a uniform but they are not turned away if they arrive to school without one. The problem is that when they get a bit older, they don’t want to go to school if they don’t have one because it shows how poor the family is. This was very eye-opening for us as we don’t always enjoy wearing our uniforms, but for these kids it stands in the way of attending school.
We also served lunch in the community of El Limonal in Chinandega. The conditions in El Limonal had a profound impact on all of us, as this community is located in Chinandega’s garbage dump. It was quite shocking to see the living conditions and especially to see the children walking around barefoot. After giving the families lunch and doing artwork with the kids, we felt the overwhelming and touching gratitude they had for us.
Returning to Monty’s, we learned later that garbage was not only a major issue in El Limonal, but also on large expanses of Nicaragua’s beaches. That Sunday, with the help of some of the locals, we went on a beach cleanup. By the end of the day we had picked up much of the garbage from the beach. Improving the condition of the beach was a short but sweet way to spend part of our last day.
Leaving Nicaragua was such a hard thing to do. The relationships that we built with the children, the adults, and the atmosphere at Monty’s gave us all many memories and created a life changing experience. After returning to Canada, memories of Nicaragua frequently appear in our minds despite our busy schedules. While we know that we can’t return right away, we want to continue giving back to a place that gave us so much.
Our Service Day next Thursday, May 22nd, will support this work with a minimum $2 donation. We will also run a homeroom challenge in which students can charge $10 to their account to buy a uniform for a Nicaraguan child. This money will go to Together Works Society, the Canadian non-profit organization supporting the many projects we worked on while on the trip. We heard that a month ago, three metre waves hit the shores of Jiquilillo and eight families lost their homes. We’ve seen the need first-hand and know the work of Together Works Society can make a difference. We hope to see support for a place that impacted us so profoundly.
Did you know that the Junior, Middle and Senior Schools all have Service Days? Take a look at some of the other causes students chose to support in the past.