Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Final Reflection-Ariela

It’s hard to believe that we’ve been back for more than a week.  I loved working with this team and will carry with me the memory of how each member made this a wonderful, successful trip.  I will remember the following about each person:
·      Bethany for her humor and how she connected with each team member.
·      Grant for his steadfastness and reliability.
·      Jared for his enormous heart and the way he didn’t let language get in the way of showing people that he truly cared about them.
·      Karisa for her organizational skills and ability to keep us on track.
·      Lindsey for her eagerness to help in any way.  Also, for her intensity in listening to people and in doing her jobs.
·      Max for his gregariousness and generosity. 
·      Sandy for her sweet nature and how she showed her love through smiles and pictures.  Her leadership, along with Lindsey’s, in our daily worship was invaluable.
·      Tony for his quiet presence.  He allowed others to share and speak and was a great support to me as a co-advisor.
·      Zac for his boundless enthusiasm – even when feeling pretty sick!  He showed his interest in the people and culture by asking questions, making observations, and connecting with our Nicaraguan partners.

This was a great team!  I was so blessed to be a part of it and thank all the families that shared their son/daughter with us. 

May God richly bless you all!


Final Reflection- Bethany

The last few days we spent in Nicaragua were some for the most meaningful for myself. The days we spent at the orphanage, in the villages- those were days where I learned a lot about people and God and water. However, after returning from Awastingni and Pinera, I was able to reflect on the things I had learned. Poverty is relative, kids are kids everywhere, and I have no qualms with rice and beans three meals a day. The Collaboratory and the Nicaraguan people have changed my worldview and inspired me to live my life in a way that allows myself and others to be aware and proactive in the lives of those that live both close and far away, and to be aware of the profound importance of clean water.


Friday, June 10, 2011

The Return

We left Puerto Cabezas on Saturday May 28th and after a full day of travel we arrived safely at the Dulles airport at around one in the morning. From there our team split up and went our separate ways.

Altogether this was a successful trip. We accomplished almost everything that we set out to do and we even managed to have some fun along the way! Thank you for all of your prayers and support over the course of our trip. We could not have done it without you.

In the next few weeks we will be posting reflections about the trip and what we learned, so make sure to keep reading!


Saturday, May 28, 2011

May 26th

We returned to Puerto Cabezas late last night. Today wasn’t very eventful as far as trip highlights go, but it was a critical day of documenting our work and technical processes so that those students and advisers who come after us in Nicaragua and the Collaboratory Water Group will be well prepared to continue the work. Documentation may be one of the most mundane but important life skills the Collaboratory teaches; to set others up for success.
I am proud of our students as I watch them make lemonade out of lemons throughout this trip. It encourages me and validates my work with the Collaboratory to see creative culturally and technically appropriate solutions to challenging problems including a last minute design change in the water filtration system, which is now complete and coordinating with community leaders an equitable distribution of a limited number of water filters in the indigenous communities of Pineras and Awas Tingni.
It has been encouraging to see that we can be a small part of “real” progress, spiritual, relational, and physical, in Nicaragua, as we partner with the local church. Our part is small in the sense that our church partners from Verbo Church are here for the long-hull, to offer daily encouragement and teaching to those in need. It has been a privilege to work side-by-side with these enduring workers of Christ.

May 25th

Today was our final day out in the communities.  We woke up early so that we could pack all of our belongings before breakfast.  The group spent most of the day in Awas Tingni performing educational activities and water testing.   The primary school in Awas Tingni has two sessions in order to educate all the students in town.  One session is in the morning for a certain group of students and the other session is in the afternoon for a different group of students.  Most of the team spent the morning teaching about water education in the first session of the primary school, with Verbo church members Myron and John translating into Miskito. 
The rest of us tested for various contaminants in water sources in the area, including four wells, a small stream, and the Awas Tingni.  (Awas Tingni means “Pine River” in English.  It is the name of a river in addition to the name of the town).  Hopefully the results of these tests will help us determine the best way to partner with the people of Awas Tingni to supply clean water.  The water testing team received some help from the community.  At most of the wells, children would run over and start playing with us and the equipment.  It was very fun building relationships with the young children and with other community members who guided us around town.  After a break for lunch, we resumed our activities.
In the evening, the team gathered at the Baptist church in Awas Tingni to distribute Sawyer bucket filters to the selected families.  While the training and distribution of filters was occurring, large numbers of young children gathered outside.  Jeff, our trip coordinator, brought long balloons to hand out to the children.  Jeff would blow up to the balloons and hand them to Walsted, a twenty-year old community member, to tie off the balloons and hand them to the kids.  Several of us made the balloons into hats or balloon animals, while other children used their balloons as swords. 
After the bucket filters were distributed, we drove back to the community of Pinera for a final meal.  We were served watermelon, Oreo cookies, and some delicious mangoes.  The team then loaded up into the vehicles and drove the dirt road back to Puerto Cabezas, arriving around 9:30 pm. 

Friday, May 27, 2011

May 24th

This was our full day in Awas Tingi. We ate breakfast at Ivan’s house and then we went to a meeting of community leaders to discuss their needs. The people said that they needed better access to clean water. They knew that the water that they drink is not always clean, especially during the rainy season.    They also expressed a desire to improve the abilities of the teachers in the village. The people at the meeting were very grateful that we had come and one of them even said he believed it was the will of God that we had come.
When we were done with the meeting we went to the school in Piñera to do some education with the children. Even though school was not in session, around ten or fifteen children gathered to hear us talk about the water cycle, filters, magnifying glasses, microscopes, and clean water. For the education my job has been to take a group of kids around and look at things using the magnifying glass or “lupa” and to help with the microscopes. While I have enjoyed doing this, it has not always been easy due to the fact that I know almost no Spanish. This became even more complicated in Piñera and Awas Tingi where the people speak a combination of Spanish, Miskito, and Mayagna and it is often hard to tell the difference between the three.  Most of the time I had to communicate using my hands and body language. But even though I wasn’t able to speak to them using words, I was still able to see that they were excited about what they were learning. When I was helping with the microscopes the people who had seen something often laughed or gave a little exclamation when they were finished. It was cool to be able to see that they understood and were interested in what they had seen.
When we were done we ate lunch and then went to Awas Tingi to do water education in the secondary school. The children in this school were in fifth and sixth grade. They were all very well behaved and attentive.
When we had finished doing education at the secondary school we went back to Piñera to give out some water filters to five different families in the community. We showed them how to set up, use, and backwash the filters.
We finished giving out the filters and then we went down to the Rio Wawa to take some river showers. For me this was definitely a trip highlight. We had been pretty sweaty and dusty from working outside all day, so it was very nice to get clean and cooled off in the river.
When we were done with our “shower” we went back to Ivan’s house for dinner and then we had a bonfire. John played us some lovely music and we had a great time of sharing together. It was great to hear about the things that people had been learning and to be under all the stars together. It was the perfect end to a great day!

May 23rd

Today was new. There were no repeats, was no deja-vu. We woke up early so we could get out of Puerto by 8 (even though we didn’t), and the morning was filled with moving suitcases, camping gear and trucks. We said goodbye to Mark, Jenny, and their two sons, Tate and Theo. We told them a few more knock-knock jokes before they left. We left Puerto between 8 and 10, though I don’t remember the exact time.
I got to ride with John, one of our translators. On the way up to Awas Tingni he was telling me stories about when he did SCUBA diving, or about when he was working on fishing boats. As we passed villages he would tell me their names and what they meant: Boom Sirpi (Small Boom), Cecil (some tree that was similar to a Kapok tree), Digwa Tara (Big Pot), and of course, Awas Tingni (Pine River).
The ride up was pretty bumpy, especially the second half, after we passed through a town called Santa Martha. The countryside was not what I was expecting. I had an image of  a dense jungle, lots of palm trees and large kapok-like trees. Instead I got to see miles upon miles of lightly wooded badlands, hills and everywhere there was a light smatterings of pine trees. Despite the surprise I received, I found it refreshing and beautiful in its own sparse, arid way; rolling hills and short grasses, wide open spaces with small stands of pine trees and palm scrub.
When we got to Piñera we stopped to pick up Ivan. He’s one of the leaders in Piñera, and was our host during our stay there. He went with us to Awas Tingni to introduce us to the leaders there. As we drove, the brush became more and more dense, changing from a pine forest into a tropical jungle over the course of a few miles. I assume it’s because of the proximity to the river that the forest changed so much. Then we came over this hill, and Awas Tingni was spread out on the hillside below us.
Awas Tingni isn’t really a village, but it isn’t a town either. It has schools, wells (some dry, some working, all hand dug), two rivers (Awas Tingni, and the Rio Wawa), a small clinic, solar panel systems for charging batteries, and a model farm. The community population is over 2000, and has been growing a lot recently, from about 1100 in 2001. They have many needs, many more than we could meet on our small trip, needs that we hope to address if there are any trips in the future. The people of Awas Tingni speak mostly Miskito and Mayanga, and a little bit of Spanish. Mayanga is their tribal tongue, which they speak to each other, they learn Miskito for communicating with the rest of the Miskito coast, and they learn Spanish in school. They need a lot of prayer, for the water situation as well as others, especially in the schools where they are in need of curriculum and teacher training.
We met with the elders there, and planned for the next day. Afterwards we returned to Piñera to set up house in the building Ivan lent us – a recently built Nicaraguan style house, painted a pretty almost-Pepto-Bismo pink.
At dinner we got invited to a praise service that was going to be happening that evening. We got there to the sound of clapping, singing, and twangy classical guitars. The worship was intense, loud, and very spirit-filled. People would come up and share something, then lead a song that everyone knew, or sing something special. All this was punctuated by times of “worshipping the Lord in prayer.” Everyone got on their knees and cried out loudly to God. Prayers filled the small house like a spiritual explosion. After a short sermon and another deafening session of prayer, they ended the service. We were all very moved by the faith and especially the prayer of the believers in Piñera. We came expecting to be Christ to these people, setting an example, and they have shown us the raw passion for God that they hold within their hearts. It was humbling in the most epic manner possible.
Pray for the communities of Piñera and Awas Tingni, that their faith would be strong, and that they would be able to use the filters well and keep them maintained. Pray for support and interest from groups that would be willing to help the Collaboratory’s project there as it begins, that the future would be filled with possibilities for us to serve the people there, and to continue to learn from them of the grace and power of God.
-          Max