Friday, November 01, 2013

Summer Camp

I realize my update schedule is a bit… erratic.  Sorry grandma and Aunt Jackie!

Growing up in the U.S. with a relatively well off family, traveling around my own country seems normal.  Yea, we went camping instead of staying at classy hotels sometimes, or we drove instead of flying all the way from Vermont to South Carolina a few times, but I was still able to see different parts of the States.  It’s not like that for many Nicaraguans.  Quite often they rarely get out of their town and surrounding area.  They might see the capital city for a few things, but, for the most part, they see very few places beyond their hometown.

At the end of July, I was able to participate in a summer camp that was funded with USAID grant money via an fhi360 sustainable tourism project in Nicaragua.  The guide I work with and I, together with another guide in Leon, applied for funding to take kids from the Leon area to the North of Nicaragua.  I helped out a lot at the beginning during the application and acquisition process and then as things were being planned, another volunteer in Leon came in to help with the camp planning itself.

The theme of the camp was “Developing Potential” and each day had a series of challenges that the kids had to overcome.  They were divided into groups and had to learn how to work together while accomplishing the different tasks.  We took them fishing and bird watching.  They learned about the very long process of coffee cultivation (3+ years from planting the first seed to getting to the final cup of coffee).  We went ziplining, which was a huge step for a lot of these kids.  We finished out the event with a tour to the canyon and camping.  They ate s´mores for the first time and talked about all of the things they had done over the week. 

I enjoyed seeing the process they went through over the five days.  Many kept saying, “I can’t do it” when trying to climb a “mountain” (it really was more of a steep hill), but afterwards described it as if they had summited Everest.  It reminded me a bit of the first times I did similar things at summer camps as a kid.  Those high ropes courses terrified me, but I felt like superman afterwards. 

On the organization side, most of the grant funding went to buying new equipment and improving safety conditions.  I think they learned many lessons about how to implement an event like this in the future.  Ideally, the foundation is in place so they can continue offering this product or something similar now that they have the appropriate equipment. 

We’re hoping the event continues and improves on this pilot run and eventually could become a staple event for high school seniors in the country.  There aren’t many similar product offerings out there right now, and it’s a great way for kids to see a different part of their own country.  There is a good market with the private schools in Managua.

Overall, I’d say it was quite the success.  There certainly lessons learned along the way for all of the businesses involved and plenty of room for improvement. None of them had much experience working on a U.S. Government funded grant and were a bit shocked at all of the steps and hoops to jump through.  The best part of the project is that it was Nicaraguan led.  We just kind of helped along the way to make the idea a reality.  Ultimately, that’s the goal of this whole thing called development.

I became de facto photographer once I picked up the camera on the first day and took around 2,500 pictures.  Here are a few to show a bit of what happened:


We stuck Ernesto, one of the volunteers, in this small boat.
He was a good sport about it. 

Evelyn and Lauren, two of the volunteers. 

The rewards of the hard work. 

Resting after a long day's work.
 Bird watching and Coffee Plantation:

Free promotion for fhi360.

Gerald, the mastermind, directing.

Learning about the coffee growing process.

The kids had a challenge to make a cup of coffee and then we judged them.
Let's just say it was pretty Nica style- loaded with sugar. 

Some got nervous and slowed down too soon. 
 The canyon:

More updates coming soon.  I promise. 

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