Managua, Nicaragua Service Learning

Nicaragua is an amazing country, where the warm, loving people are fueled by art and passion. The dream of social justice, and an end to the dire poverty and income inequality which has plagued the nation since the early 1900s is noted everywhere in graffiti and murals, cries from the people inked for all to see. Vive la revolucíon. Ché vive aquí. Sandinismo vive aquí. Luchar imperialismo. La sangre de los héroes.

Literacy has improved greatly since the revolution, however has done little to change the standard of living for most Nicaraguans, including college educated families, who continue to live crowded in groups of eight to twelve people per home. Homes are constructed of temporary materials, with animals like chickens living amongst family, wiring exposed. The painful daily grind of cooking with firewood sings a song heard through the stethescope as the whining of fibrosis deep in the lungs of most residents over 60. Worse yet, many residents are proudly modernizing, cooking indoors with kerosene which can cause instant death by carbon monoxide poisoning. In the city, conditions are heartbreaking and in rural areas things are as though you’ve travelled back in time to the late 1800s. Sugar cane for the famous Flor de Caña rum is harvested with machete and transported by horse and cart.

Much of this is in sharp contrast to the thriving natural beauty which permeates every inch if fertile soil. Boasting 19 volcanoes in a country the size of New York, along with one of the largest lakes in the world, and gorgeous coastline on the Pacific and Atlantic sides, Nicaragua truly must be one of the most beautiful opportunities for ecotravel. We visited many natural sites. Among them the Volcán de Masaya, a steaming crater, and the Cascara Chocoyero, a waterfall surrounded by parrots.

This was an amazing trip, one that affirmed by belief that all of us who live in privileged nations need to be helping in every way we can. The lottery of birth is harsh indeed for many who can not escape the daily realities of their lives, and can not even hope to avoid the chronic illness and pathologies associated with their poverty. Any relief we can bring is a rare light in a dark daily existence for those living with unavoidable pain and suffering.

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