Carole Mahoney and I have been back from Nicaragua for a little over a week and we are still basking in the memories of our 10 day trip to help with the construction of a much needed school in a rural village. For our 6th Project Grace trip, we teamed up with Seeds of Learning, a Sonoma non-profit that has worked to improve education in Central America for over 13 years. There were 18 of us – all of whom were honoring the loss of a family member’ — who braved the rain, the mud, the bugs and the latrines to work with a community in Santa Isabella (which is 20 minutes outside of Matagalpa), Nicaragua.
The work was incredibly fulfilling as we were in a very, very rural and poor community of families who live and work on a coffee finca. As we drove up in our school bus on our first day at the work site we were met by all of the children singing a welcome song. We were all so touched to know they were excited to have us there. All of us then began lining up to help pass bricks from one end of the property to the other. Throughout the week we worked side by side with the men, women and children to build their school. We mixed concrete, cut and tied re-bar, and laid bricks. We practiced our Spanish and tried to make it through the mud without falling. Our kids played with their kids, moms chatted with moms and dads with dads. We spent time baking and chatting with the local women and learned so much about their culture. In the afternoons we enjoyed (really!) our cold showers and free time, before meeting as a group each evening to share our stories of lost loved ones. Over the course of the week we honored Adam, Scott, Clay, Jim and Pat, Pat, Ryan, Adrienne, Evan, Monika and Shevaun.
Laughter, dirt, colorful juices of mysterious origins and lots and lots of rice got us through the week. On our last day of work the community of Santa Isabella held a big celebration for us, which included live music and folk dancers. A representative from the Ministry of Education and the mayor of the area braved the pouring rain and rivers of mud to give speeches of gratitude, letting us know that we, and our lost loved ones, would always be a part of their community and school.
Catherine Stern, Co-Director, Project Grace
July 7, 2010