Grade 7 students relax after working hard in the garden
Elementary students at Liceo San José
in the town of Belén
Kristine (right), Robyn (centre right) stop to check out some sugar cane with friends Marlon and Carlos
In the fall of 2013 I was blessed with the amazing opportunity to volunteer in Nicaragua as a recipient of the Father Denis Hébert Volunteer Award. On October 5th I left Edmonton to spend the next two months volunteering in Belén, Nicaragua.
My initial project was to draw from my pharmacy background to teach health at Liceo San José, the parish school. However, I quickly learned the importance of being flexible, as things in Nicaragua often do not go as planned, and I was asked to teach English instead.
For the first few weeks I struggled to communicate in Spanish because the Nicaraguan accents and expressions were very different from those I was familiar with. Thankfully, love crosses even language barriers, and the people were patient and supportive as my understanding continued to improve. I sometimes questioned the effectiveness of my lessons and the benefit I was providing to the students, but a wise teacher pointed out, “You and those you are now serving will be touched, not by how much was learned, but by the joyful and heartfelt experiences you have together.” I took this to heart, and soon discovered the beautiful truth of this message.
We practiced some useful expressions and common vocabulary, but what the students enjoyed most was singing. Without a doubt, their favorite was the Hokey Pokey, and the giggles that filled the classroom as we turned ourselves around were priceless. I loved their excitement and enthusiasm, their big smiles and sticky hugs, and dancing and laughing along with them.
Three weeks into my stay I was joined by fellow Albertan Robyn Haugen, who came to plant a garden at the school. Before that could begin we had to deal with the large amount of garbage scattered all around the schoolyard, a sizable problem considering they did not have trashcans or a garbage collection service. We worked with the students to clean up the school grounds, encouraged them to use the makeshift garbage cans, and taught them about caring for the environment. The existing garbage was buried and a new hole was dug for ongoing use. With the help of the students, she planted a variety of seeds including beans, peppers, watermelon, and squash. Though it was nearing the end of the school year, the students were able to see the seedlings beginning to grow, and will be able to continue gardening there in the future.
Mother Teresa said, "I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples."
Thank you to Fr. Denis Hébert and everyone at the Roots of Change Foundation and FUNDACCO for supporting me throughout this journey, and for allowing me to contribute, even in a small way, to the positive rippling effect that their efforts have had on the people
of Nicaragua. This incredible experience has opened my eyes to the struggles faced by the Nicaraguan people, and their hope, joy, and determination continue to be an inspiration in
Throughout my journey I met many wonderful people, learned some powerful lessons, and grew immensely. I am so grateful to have had this opportunity, and I look forward to continuing to create many ripples.
Kristine Kammerer, St Albert, AB