By: Julie Ball and Danni LeServe, Juniors, Women’s Lacrosse
This summer we had the incredible opportunity to intern for Manna Project International and Lacrosse the Nations, two non-profit organizations based in Nicaragua. We both returned to the United States yesterday, feeling very sad to leave beautiful, hot, sweaty, Nicaragua. Nicaragua is the second-poorest country in the Western hemisphere behind Haiti. The people in the area often live on less than two dollars a day, and some of the community members are farmworkers that don’t have stable employment. In order to combat the extreme poverty in Nicaragua, Manna’s mantra is “communities serving communities,” fostering young leaders to help break the cycle of poverty. To help these communities, Manna provides programs in health, education, and livelihood for community members to participate in.
As volunteers, we lead these programs and developed relationships with the community members in a very hands-on experience. We worked in the community of Cedro Galan, a small district outside of Managua. The people of Cedro Galan were very friendly and appreciative of our help. Despite living in extreme poverty, we found that the community members are incredibly generous, welcoming, and happy people.
We were both involved in different programs, including working in the local clinic operated by Manna, Camp JAM, which is a program for younger kids to play, and learn different English levels. If we were not at our English programs, we spent the majority of our time teaching lacrosse. Our fellow Richmond lacrosse alum, Brooke Wilson, is currently the Program Director for LTN and has been in Nicaragua for the past year. It was so fun to be reunited with her and see the work she has been doing since graduating from Richmond. The three of us together would run practices and teach kids lacrosse. It was so amazing for us to spread our knowledge and love for the game to the kids, who surprisingly, were very good and always eager to learn. The practices usually included both girls and boys, using helmets and boys sticks. But just this year, Brooke started a new program, a program for girls to have their separate practices and use girls equipment. It was really special to see how interested the girls were to have their practices and learn to play lacrosse. There was also a week during our internship where three of our fellow teammates, Abby Lord, Madison Ostrick, and Maddie Finnen came to join us and help out with lacrosse programs. It was so fun to have a whole Richmond group down in Nicaragua, playing and teaching together.
As for our living situation, we lived in a house just outside the community with the rest of the interns and program directors. We did not have wifi, a washing machine, dryer, or air conditioning. Despite not having these comfortable amenities, it was nice to be unplugged for a month, to be able to see the country, and to live similarly to other Nicaraguans. Living in a house with twenty other people was an experience that we have never had before. It was enjoyable to live in a house with a diverse group of people, all who lived in different parts of America, studied different things in college and varied in age, but all had the same interest in being a part of Manna and its mission.
Luckily we had our weekends off and were able to travel around the beautiful country of Nicaragua. We traveled all over the country, and during our time we were able to go to Granada, Ometepe, Leon, Laguna de Apollo, and San Juan del Sur. Nicaragua has beautiful beaches and many small towns filled with fun and exciting things to do. Our favorite experience was volcano boarding in Leon. We were able to hike up the volcano during sunset, slide down the side of it on a sled-like board, and then hike up again at night during the full moon and slide down again. The view was spectacular and unlike anything else we have ever experienced.
All in all, we are excited to be home and reunited with our families and friends, but sad to leave Nicaragua. We developed solid friendships with some of the community members and enjoyed improving our Spanish skills, teaching English, and most importantly, playing and teaching the game we love: lacrosse.