Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Building Homes in Nicaragua

My friend and hero, Erica, just returned from volunteering for Habitat for Humanity for three weeks in Nicaragua.

Photo Credit: Erica Tyler Lifting Bricks for Habitat for Humanity
Photo Credit: Erica Tyler and Habitat for Humanity Team
What did she do there? She mixed cement and lugged bricks that were 30 pounds each to create homes for families living near natural waterfalls but in abject poverty.
Photo Credit: Erica Tyler Habitat for Humanity

Photo Credit: Erica Tyler Habitat for Humanity
Photo Credit: Erica Tyler Habitat for Humanity 
Before Erica and her team of 12 arrived, the families lived in tin shanties without windows with one room living spaces with kitchens that blanketed everything in soot.

Photo Credit: Erica Tyler Crushed Beans for Chocolate
What were the physical demands?  Erica, a marathon runner, worked from 7 A.M. to 4 P.M. doing heavy labor so that the families could have homes with brick rather than dirt floors and better ventilation. I am in awe of her. She describes her heavy toil with such a positive spirit and hope for the citizens of the area.

Photo Credit: Erica Tyler Pestle and Chocolate
Photo Credit: Erica Tyler Cacao Beans
Photo Credit: Erica Tyler Nicaragua Trip
Photo Credit: Erica Tyler at Apooyu Lagoon
How poverty-stricken are the locals? Children from walking age to 12-years-old beg or sell trinkets on the street. Homeless dogs wander the streets for scraps. Erica talks about the gentleness of the culture and the natural beauty that still exists despite the areas wounded by civil war and earthquakes. Horses, pigs, and cows roam the streets. Animals are not fenced in.

How did she prepare for the trip? She volunteered every month with her coworker in her neighborhood in the States to build homes using power tools. She stayed fit by doing her running training and kickboxing. This prepared her well because in Nicaragua, only hand tools such as machetes were available.

What is a tip she'd share with other first-time visitors? Manugua is not a safe place. Spend more time in Granada when you are on your free time after you've completed your service project.

Photo Credit: Erica Tyler Fried Cheese, Plantains and Beans
Photo Credit: Erica Tyler Chocolate Drink
Photo Credit: Erica Tyler Chocolate Bar
Photo Credit: Erica Tyler in Granada
Photo Credit: Erica Tyler Travel to Nicaragua
Photo Credit: Erica Tyler in Masachapa
What were her lodging, transportation and meal arrangements? The team stayed in a decent hotel by the beach, slept in hammocks and rode together to the construction site. The hotel delivered food to the volunteers during the day. On a free day, she took a chocolate making class, in Granada,  from bean roasting to adding sweetener.

Photo Credit: Erica Tyler's Trip to Nicaragua
Tell me your story of doing a service project outside the United States.

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