As one of the first events of our day, we were visited by our guest speaker Anjie Price who had been living in Matagalpa for about 8 years after originally being from North Carolina. Currently she works as the Executive Director in an NGO that provides international aid to not only Matagalpa but throughout Nicaragua as well. She offered us an interesting perspective on the impacts that Non Profit Organization’s can have on a community, showing us that it is not always positive. When working with a community it is essential to understand the needs that they have and provide them in a sustainable manner, meaning that the community itself should be involved in the creative process. There is a fine line between giving handouts of something that you think a community needs and giving them something that they can continuously use as a resource. This is important to understand and its consequences can be shown in the case of Haiti. After the earthquake hit, the U.S. had sent bags and bags of rice to “help” those who had suffered. In turn, however, they had effectively hurt the rice businesses that already existed in Haiti because instead of purchasing rice, the people were simply receiving it for free. Instead of passing out free food or shirts, we should be providing them with the tools for them to succeed independently of outside help. One example of this is providing knowledge through education. Tools that they can continue to use time and time again and pass on to one another.
After finishing up our lunch, we headed out to Barrio Sor Maria Romero by bus to visit a school that caters to grades 1-6 where we were given a small tour by Ramon, our second guest speaker. It was then that I translated what he had to say to English for the rest of the group to understand. I was eager to practice my Spanish skills but extremely nervous as well, sweating bullets along the way. I wasn’t completely on my own though; Denis and Janice were right there to the rescue when I didn’t recognize certain words or phrases. I remember thinking beforehand, how hard could it be to translate a few sentences at a time? Boy was I wrong. I think the hardest part about translating is to remember what has already been said. Many times I found myself asking Ramon to repeat the earlier parts of his statements. Something that I definitely look forward to in the future is to be able to not only directly translate, but to also interpret the speech and be able to express it as one would normally in English.
Something else that was really special to me was the chance we had to just interact with some of the students there. I had talked to one little girl named Mierna and her friend. First it started off with brief introductions of ourselves and soon I saw how their shyness had turned to curiosity and interest. Even though we only got to talk for a short while, I got to see just how happy and joyful they were – and that’s what made it so special.
Now to move on to my highlight of the day: tutoring at San Luis School – a beautiful mess. Walking into class, I had no idea what to expect. And I don’t think anyone could have prepared themselves for what was to come. Imagine having almost 30 people just staring at you, constantly waiting for your next move. For the first 30 minutes I could feel my heart pounding in my chest and the growing sweat stains in my shirt. As time passed, we decided to divide our class into groups based on how comfortable they felt with speaking English. This made the teaching process so much more relaxing and personal. In addition to being able to interact more with the individual students, we were able to cater to the varying groups’ needs. We will be teaching for the rest of our stay here in Matagalpa and I look forward to our next class.
Today was an extremely special day. I say this because all of us stepped out of our comfort zones. Teaching class was something totally new for all of us – not to mention that we had to communicate to our class in Spanish at times. Despite the task of teaching being very challenging for us, I noticed just how intrigued we all were to do even better the next time and to become more comfortable speaking Spanish. One way that I stepped out of my comfort zone was taking on a leadership position and having to guide my classmates throughout the day. It is such an amazing thing just seeing how we are developing not only as individuals but also as a community that can effectively come together to plan and work together by taking action. I can only wait to see who we will become by the end of our stay here in beautiful Matagalpa.