Over spring break, I had the amazing opportunity to travel to Nicaragua as part of a global solidarity trip. Since I have been back I have had trouble explaining what this trip meant to me, because I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to do this amazing trip justice.
Solidarity is the action of working in unity with others. While in Nicaragua, myself and other students from Quinnipiac worked alongside an organization called Alianza Americana. Alianza’s mission is to teach their students English, as well as empower students to be leaders in their community. Our partnership with Alianza allowed us to excel. We were able to take Spanish classes during the week at Alianza, so that we could all work to breakdown the language barriers. Outside of those Spanish classes we worked closely with Alianza students, who acted as translators and group leaders during our time in Nicaragua.
Apart from working with Alianza Americana, we worked with Jacinta, a school in the city of Leon. Quinnipiac students have partnered with this school in the past, and this year they asked if we would paint a mural in a space that would be used for the younger students to play during recess time. In order to get the students involved they were asked to design mural ideas, and the three winners had their ideas combined to become the over mural. The theme of the mural was leadership in the community, so that the students could feel empowered within themselves.
Thanks to our advisor Erin Sabato, we met weekly to discuss the history and culture of Nicaragua prior to leaving, these post departure meetings were vital to our experience. They gave us a space to ask questions, and take a deep dive into the past revolutions of Nicaragua. They enabled our group to have a deeper understanding of the places we visited once we landed. We also had the amazing opportunity to stay with host families. Staying with host families allowed us to immerse ourselves in a true community atmosphere. We had home cooked Nicaraguan meals every day, played with the children of the community at night, and even tried to learn traditional dances at the house of culture.
Apart from our day to day activities we had daily group debriefing sessions that allowed the group to have honest conversations about global solidarity. Unfortunately, global solidarity is often over taken by the “White Savior Complex”. People go to other countries and ask how they can help. However, our group understood that we were not there to provide help. Instead we were there as a partnership, to learn from the people we were working with. In the end, it is very easy to say I learned more from the Nicaraguan people, than I could have ever taught them. Global Solidarity is about active listening. Listen to the people who live in the places that you travel to. Embrace their culture and their values during your time there, instead of trying to impose your values on them. Try new foods, listen to new music, speak the language as much as possible, and most importantly keep an open mind.
This article could never truly encompass the journey that I went on in Nicaragua. But most of all I will never forget the beauty of the country, the friends I made, and the experiences I had. I am proud of the work we did, the bonds we made, and the stereotypes we challenged. Thank you to the country of Nicaragua, and the girls of the global solidarity group for shaping the experience of a lifetime.