The youth exchanges between Wisconsin and Nicaraguan youth have cultivated an abounding and contagious spirit of volunteerism!
“As I have said before, being a volunteer is a lifestyle, I learned that in the workshop I attended in Paraguay and since the very first day (in 2008) when I got involved with Wisconsin/Nicaragua Partners” - Lilliam, Nicaraguan student
Lilliam, along with her Wisconsin and Nicaraguan peers, have demonstrated ingenuity, hospitality, resourcefulness and creativity throughout all of their activities. Through some brainstorming and combining ideas, five Wisconsin youth had a once in a lifetime experience in Nicaragua and forever changed lives….. “I certainly learned a lot on this trip not only about another country's culture but also the way people can act toward one another with so much kindness when they do not even know someone. This trip has without a doubt changed how I look at life. Thank you so much for giving me this opportunity, I will never forget it.” - Erin, Wisconsin student
In addition to opening their hearts and homes to their peers from Wisconsin both last year and again this August, the Nicaraguan students continue to mentor the younger generation in their own country by volunteering at the lending libraries and with projects like GIVING A HAND TO EDUCATION. By way of experience and being older students, they lead by example as they know firsthand the value/importance of education and as well as the challenges that can go with it. In talking about the current project Lilliam (Nicaraguan project leader) explains, “it requires a lot of effort and commitment to work in a project like "giving a hand to the education". It is not just about asking money to buy materials for the project, is about activities, work, lot of time, organization and very important is about making people aware of why this is a really important and NECESSARY project. These kids are trying to learn in very bad conditions, they don’t have the supplies and the motivation to keep studying. Many thanks to all for their participation, with their aid we will help that 95 children of the school zoila Aurora have an education of quality."
Thousands of miles away, you can be one of the friends from all over the world who are joining in to collect the resources needed for projects taking place in Nicaragua that promote continuing education for people of all ages. A cooperative effort indeed makes it possible, as there are those who are making monetary donations, schools who are sharing their desks, students and families in Wisconsin that are collecting school supplies, Spanish class students who are making books, volunteers who are picking-up and preparing donated items for transport, and so much more. Your involvement makes a difference! Thank you!
Nicaraguan and Wisconsin youth continue their involvement
“I had one of the best experiences of all my life last week when I went to Wisconsin speaking about Nicaragua and the Youth Ambassadors program.......which I think is the best way for try to involve new generations of young people in this organization, also is so important to still opening the global vision of the young ...I’ll never forget the friendly people from Wisconsin and I never forget the friendly people from Nicaragua we got this gr8 connection named WNP!!!!!.” Jose Rodriguez
Since his initial visit to Wisconsin with the Partners of the Americas Youth Ambassador program, José has continued his involvement with Wisconsin/Nicaragua Partners and has demonstrated dedication and the true spirit of volunteerism, along with an abundance of optimism. José returned to Wisconsin for a short visit to share his life experiences and encourage youth to take advantage of opportunities to be involved with international projects. Over the course of 1 week he presented to well over 300 hundred students at 6 different schools in Wisconsin. Check out this schedule for the Stevens Point high school (they kept him very busy):
1st: 7:35-8:26 in auditorium (powerpoint)
2nd: 8:31-9:22 in auditorium (powerpoint)
3rd: 9:27-10:18 small group informal--no powerpoint
4th:10:23-11:16 small group informal--no power point
5th: 11:21-12:12 free--lunch
6th: 12:14-1:05 in auditorium (powerpoint)
7th: 1:10-2:01 in auditorium (powerpoint)
8th: 2:06-2:57 small group informal--no powerpoint
The dialogue and interactions with fellow students ultimately helps to foster and develop leadership skills among teens as their perspectives are broadened and an increased cultural understanding develops. Person to person diplomacy is nothing new, but easily subordinated or forgotten when the events of central government dominate the news. Citizen exchanges are one of the best practices for achieving cultural understanding.
Currently the youth have several projects in the works – watch for more reports soon about “Giving a Hand to Education” and plans for another summer youth exchange for students from Wisconsin to live with a family for a week or two in Nicaragua.
While working in Nicaragua at a U.S. foreign aid agency this summer, I had the opportunity to visit Wisconsin/Nicaragua Partners at its headquarters in Managua, and I was very happy that I was able to do so during one of the organization’s annual youth gatherings. From the very beginning I liked the feel of this organization because of all the Nicaraguan and American children running around having a good time together. After some previous experience teaching English to children in Japan, I have come to realize that such international exchanges are extremely useful not only to broaden the horizons of Nicaraguan youth but also to encourage all the American participants to serve as little Nicaraguan Ambassadors in the future when they are back in Wisconsin.
My visit started with an introduction to the Program Director, Amy Wiza, who took me around the newly-remodeled office, pointing out the classrooms and donated-goods storage facility (which was chock full of basically anything that could serve a purpose in educating Nicaraguan youth, a testament to Amy’s ability to simply make things work on the ground here). It didn’t take long to learn of a very tumultuous recent event in Amy’s life during our conversation that day: the unfortunate passing of her mother and founder of Wisconsin/Nicaragua Partners decades ago. But, as sad as it was to hear of that fact, it was also very touching that Amy will ensure the passing of this non-profit from generation to generation, just as it had lasted through the decades since its inception within the Partners of the Americas network during the JFK era.
The day took a much lighter note almost immediately as, after a quick trip up the road to the town of Tipitapa, I suddenly found myself in the middle of a hilarious Barney piñata beat-down at one of the over 100 learning centers that the organization has established across Nicaragua over the years. I don’t remember too much about my childhood, but I only hope that I was as excited about candy as these children seemed to be. And, while the community children tore this lovable purple dinosaur apart, I enjoyed a great conversation with one of the teenage Nicaraguan participants, who seemed so happy to talk to me about the U.S. and his undying love of our professional sports leagues.
Eventually, after the community gathering had finished, Amy took the group to see the learning center itself, which offered the community a collection of books, maps, board games, and other educational materials that the students could actually check out and bring home to enjoy in the company of their families (a great way to build literacy rates, responsibility, and a sense of community among these children!). The Director of the learning center also pointed out that she encourages local teenage girls who had dropped out of school and/or had been victims of domestic abuse to volunteer at the center to give them a sense of belonging to the community as well. And, one thing in particular caught my eye that captured the spirit of this Wisconsin/Nicaragua Partnership: American students designed and created books in their Spanish classes that were provided to children in this community through this learning center. It is mutually-reinforcing activities like these that will allow the partnership to carry on through the years.
Although I unfortunately had to head back to my town after the learning center visit, Amy headed with the American and Nicaraguan youth participants to nearby Masaya Volcano National Park to explore one of Nicaragua’s most beautiful volcanic landscapes. I only hope that my final image of the group, enjoying each other’s company on the bus as they drove away, will continue into the future as it has persisted across decades and generations in the past.
The Youth of Wisconsin and Nicaragua continue to amaze us with their exceptional communication and leadership skills. In a couple weeks, five Wisconsin High School students will travel to Nicaragua and attend school with their counterparts in Nicaragua gaining a whole new perspective on life!
A recent comment from one of the past travelers from Nicaragua, "I feel that I learned so much, and it has helped me to open my mind to new possibilities and opportunities that I can take advantage of...."
The students who are about to gain this new experience learning from their Nicaraguan peers were asked to share why they have a desire to be involved in youth exchange programs, what roles youth have in the development of our country, "I believe that youth have a crucial role in the development of any nation. We are the future leaders and voters and our experiences while we are growing up will influence how we lead and vote when our time comes. Cultural exchanges like these ones are important because they provide us with different perspectives and ideas which will lead to a more peaceful and open-minded future."
Watch for more updates and photos coming soon on the June 2010 exchange.... IT WAS A DYNAMIC EXPERIENCE FOR ALL INVOLVED!
The third project funded through 1st Steps for US Teens developing cultural understanding has successfully taken place!
After carefully reviewing applications, two teens from Nicaragua were selected to travel to WI. The students visited schools and shared information about what it is like in Nicaragua and how teens like them can make a difference for their country. They also shared information about what WI/Nicaragua Partners does and how US teens can get involved.
The students brought presentations and were very prepared to speak, they did an excellent job!
In nine days they spoke at four High Schools, two Rotary Clubs, four Junior High classes, an afterschoool club, on the UW Campus, did a public presentation at the library, as well as participated in a fundraising walk in Stevens Point, and all along the way made new friends and developed individual relationships.
Their visit to WI was planned for the end of October because of our annual Bike/Hike event, the Bike/Hike is an event where through a collaborative effort we walk the distance between WI and Nicaragua. Many schools in the area participate in the Bike/Hike, creating greater opportunity for the students to have these speaking engagements.
The results we will see from these teens is unpredictable, but guaranteed to be fruitful!
Thank you once again for taking the time to support our organization and teens like this to come and encourage those in WI.
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