By: Sherry Li
Year travelled to Nicaragua: 2013
School: St. Roch Catholic Secondary School (Brampton)
One of the best things about Nicaragua is that once you go, it changes you forever. The people you go with, you bond, and share something with them that can’t be explained. But it’s not just the people you go with, it’s the people that you meet.
The most memorable experience I had was with my host family.
In the beginning, we were welcomed by the entire community, and then split up and sent to our host families. It’s a really different experience living with people you don’t know in an environment completely new and different to you. You’re forced to immerse yourself and it can be surprising how quickly you adjust. Soon we didn’t even give it a second thought – the latrine? Animal noises at night? Bucket showers? Casual. Didn’t even care.
When we unfortunately got sick, we were taken care of so well we really did begin to feel like our ‘Mom’ was family. Every member of the family was kind and caring and I couldn’t have asked for anybody better. While I wish we could have spoken to each other more fluently, there was a connection that formed which transcended what we could communicate in words.
Our family was filled with great people who took amazing care of us, just like a real family.
By the last night, I cried at the thought of leaving during the dance with the community. When we boarded the bus, I remember just looking out at my Mom and starting to cry, and seeing me cry made her cry too; which then just made me cry harder. I am constantly reminded of their kindness and what it represents. My family surprised me with a customized keychain on the day that I left. I still carry it with me everywhere, and it takes me back to what I experienced – strangers who quickly became my family away from home.
I recommend everyone has this experience once in their life. It teaches compassion, hard work, understanding, and how it feels to be outside of the safety of your own comfort zone.
It’s not about going to a country and trying to fix problems; it’s about solidarity and communication. It teaches how to connect with people, who you may think you have nothing in common with and who you may never have gotten the opportunity to ever meet in any other circumstance, and tasting for a short period of time what their lives are like.
Going to Nicaragua was also the first step in shaping who I am today. When I went to Nicaragua, I was 16 years old. At that point in my life, I was sheltered and, while I wanted to know more about the world, I didn’t have any real experience or understanding of what real struggle or poverty looked like. Before that trip, I knew I cared about social justice but I always had my doubts on if it was something I wanted to pursue. Even as I prepared to go, I had my doubts about if I really wanted to go. But I’m so glad I did.
This trip helped me understand a slice of what the world is like outside of my home. It helped me understand that I do want to continue to get involved and why I should continue to.
My trip to Nicaragua led me to make a lot of decisions that have brought me to where I am now, and where I hope to go in the future. I’m studying journalism, which I thought would be a great way to combine my interests in international development and environmental issues, and I want to do something positive with my degree after – maybe even working at an NGO.
Nicaragua made me more conscious of my role in this world and where I should go with it. This experience taught me a lot about what being a global citizen means and that makes me much more conscious about my choices. I think that if I didn’t go to Nicaragua, I wouldn’t be where I am because my perspective wouldn’t be the same.