An unexpected volunteer

My name is Abigail, I am a 20 year old traveler from the United States. I have been traveling my way through Central America, volunteering as I go. One of the places that stood out to me most was “Proyecto Generando Vida”. I stumbled upon the project by a stroke of luck while I was in search of a new place to volunteer. They told me they had never had a walk-in volunteer before – usually they plan months ahead – but nonetheless welcomed me into the program with open arms. I wasn’t sure what to expect at first, but every one of the workers and fellow volunteers were not only friendly but more than willing to help me figure out the routine, answer all of my questions, and more. They even had exceptional patients with my very poor Spanish!

My job was to work in the “comedor” in the mornings, helping to prepare a nutritious meal for about 140 children a day, and cleaning up afterwards. I found serving the food to all the giggling, eager children to be very gratifying work. In the afternoons I would go to the library to help the children with their schoolwork, including finding them the books they needed for school, sometimes teaching English, and helping in other ways.

I was set up with a very kind host family close to the project, where I felt very safe and welcome. I was given my own room and provided delicious typical Nicaraguan meals, and made to feel comfortable at all times. In no time people were inviting me on outings, game nights, or just to come relax at their house and garden, so that within only a few days of my arriving there I felt like a member of the community. Once when I lost my keys, at least half a dozen different people eagerly came forward to help me out simply from the good of their hearts.

I also learned a lot at my time at the project. My Spanish improved greatly, but even better I got the opportunity to learn about the local culture in a way that someone traveling as a tourist passing through simply does not get the chance to experience. It can be hard to witness some people living in extreme poverty and the challenges that they face in their lives that I, as a Westerner of a well-off country, am virtually unfamiliar with on a personal level. I was also able to see just how similar each of these people are to myself and my own family and friends. A world apart, we face many of the same inner struggles, questions, celebrations, jokes, and ideas. To connect with people of such a different culture in this way, I believe, is one of the most important things a person can do in their life. It spreads understanding and compassion between all people, something the world could certainly use more of. It also helped me to realize the privilege I have in my own life, and with that the opportunity and responsibility to help our brothers and sisters across the globe in any way we can.

That is exactly what the team at the project is doing. There are people there dedicating their lives to helping other, living simply themselves so that the community around them has more. And the influence has been notable. This organization has improved the lives of countless people, from the immediate relief of food to the long term boots such as a money lending program and the library and education. I hope that down the road the program will continue to look the future to see where it can help the community to grow to become more self-sufficient to rely less on outside assistance. For the time being though, the fact that this program is making a real impact on the lives of so many people every day who rely on it is unquestionable. It is truly inspiring to see all these people come together to make a difference, from the workers and volunteers to the outside donors, all held together under the guidance of the project leaders, Sister Alejandra NDS and Sister Ana Maria NDS from the Congregation “Our Lady of Sion”. This community gave me at least as much as I gave back, because my experience here in just three weeks (July 27th – August 19th 2016) will have an impact on me for the rest of my life.

Abigail Leatherman
Colorado, USA