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Nicaragua

 

High School Group Service Programs
Sustainable Development & Economic Recovery
with Spanish Immersion

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Program Overview

Take part in the transformation of Nicaragua from war-torn and poverty-stricken nation to global leader in sustainable development. In the north-central city of Jinotega, work on water infrastructure projects, help in classrooms with primary school kids, visit eco-friendly coffee plantations, tour a chocolate factory, explore nature reserves and practice speaking Spanish with residents who are eager to share their culture.

WE ARE MINDFUL

“The whole experience was life-changing. It’s something I will take values from for the rest of my life. Plus, I learned so much Spanish and now I am ahead in school.”

Mikaela Stelmach

Colorado

Embracing Projects That Matter

Ravaged by conflict and civil war from the 1960s to the 1980s, Nicaragua is commonly ranked second only to Haiti in poorest nations of the Western Hemisphere. But the country is taking a turn for the better, focusing on gradual economic development and sustainable industry initiatives, including wind and solar power, organic agriculture and ecotourism. VISIONS teens have been doing service here for 10 years, making tangible contributions to this national effort and serving more than 700 families. Your work involves the construction of potable water systems, bringing clean drinking water to communities that have never imagined such a luxury. You’ll develop newfound skills, such as wielding pickaxes and machetes, digging trenches and laying pipes, all while working alongside (and chatting en Español with) residents. You’ll also learn cinder block construction to expand and improve community centers and schools, perform general repairs and maintenance and assist at a summer day school for kids, teaching crafts and basic English.

WE ARE FAMILY

“I loved that there were so many opportunities to make friends and spend time with the local Nicaraguan people. Having friends in Jinotega and staying in contact after I returned home made me feel truly immersed in the community, and makes me feel like I can still be connected even though I’m not physically there.”

Virginia Ulichney

Pennsylvania

The city of Jinotega has roots stretching back to the 16th century, when it was a hub of Aztec activity. Since then, the mix of indigenous peoples, Spaniards, Africans and South Americans has spawned a population of mestizos, mixed-heritage folk with vibrant cultural traditions in music, cuisine and folklore.

Making Meaningful Connections

Despite decades of war and poverty, today’s Nicaraguans embrace life with remarkable openness and optimism. As you settle into the highland city of Jinotega, known as the “city of mists” for its cooler climate and wispy cloud cover, you’ll be as struck by the beautiful forests as you are by the lively and social culture. You’ll get to know your neighbors by spending free time “Nica” style, playing sports and games with kids, visiting the historic cathedral, taking dance lessons and singing karaoke. Whether exploring the bustling town, spending a day with a family, or preparing local foods with our longtime cook Darlin, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to practice Spanish. Though the Jinotega province is renowned for coffee growing and roasting—producing 80 percent of Nicaragua’s coffee exports—it isn’t a well-known tourist destination. We like it that way, as it means more chances to meet local people and connect across cultures.

Our
Home:
Jinotega,
Nicaragua

WE ARE EXPLORERS

“All of the excursions were absolutely amazing. The coffee farm was so interesting and cool to learn where Starbucks coffee comes from. The chocolate factory was really interesting, along with textile place too. The hike on that day was incredible.”

Peter Wolff

Massachusetts

Known as the “land of lakes and volcanoes,” Nicaragua is swiftly joining the ranks of the world’s best tourist destinations. Regional appreciation of the breathtaking landscapes—cloud forests, rain forests, mountains, rivers and coasts—has led to a new national commitment to environmental sustainability.

Setting Out To Go Beyond

It should be no surprise that Nicaragua is becoming known as a hotspot for ecotourism. The country’s largely untouched natural wonders are something to behold—and as a volunteer, you’ll be living in the thick of them. Our home base of Jinotega sits at the foot of a mountain range, with ample hiking opportunities through the pine trees, ferns and moss to stunning valley vistas, including the popular Peña de la Cruz monument. You’ll spend time at a “green” coffee farm, learning about production from plant to roasting, and tour a chocolate factory in the mountain town of Matagalpa. Other destinations include a village where the art of black pottery serves as an economic base, and an overnight trip to Peñas Blancas, part of Bosawás Biosphere Reserve, the second largest rainforest in the Western Hemisphere. At the end of your journey, you’ll stay over at Laguna de Apoyo, a stunning crater lake and nature reserve where you can kayak, swim and bask in Nicaragua’s ecological abundance.

Activities and Excursions

  • Tour an eco-friendly coffee plantation
  • Explore the mountain town of Matagalpa and its chocolate factory
  • Go on a day-stay with a local family
  • Stay overnight at Peñas Blancas, part of the Bosawás Biosphere Reserve, and hike to a waterfall, have a cookout, and learn about this ecological treasure
  • Take cooking, baking and pottery workshops
  • Visit the historic town of San Rafael and its historic iglesia (church)
  • Travel to Laguna de Apoyo, where we hike the Masaya Volcano, shop at the largest artisan market in Central America and spend time relaxing and swimming at the lake

LOCAL SPOTLIGHT

VICTORINO CENTENO

Project Partner

In discussions of the brutal and highly politicized civil war between the Contras and the Sandinistas, you don’t often hear about the peacemakers—but they were there. In the 1980s, people like Victorino Centeno volunteered with the human rights commission for peacekeeping and reconciliation efforts. It takes a special person to do this work during such a complicated conflict. But when you meet Victorino, you won’t be surprised he was one.

Victorino is soft-spoken, but driven in his quest to make positive change in his country. In 1998, he founded AVODEC (Asociación de Voluntarios para el Desarrollo Comunitario), a grassroots nonprofit based in Jinotega and focused on improving life for Nicaragua’s poorest people through sanitation, health care, education, economic development and housing. AVODEC is a highly effective organization, thanks to a willingness to get out from behind the desk and into the community, to work directly with farmers, women’s cooperatives and small businesses. VISIONS has been working with AVODEC as a primary partner since our first Nicaraguan program, in 2007, which means we’ve been able to spend a lot of quality time with Victorino.

Kind, gentle, intelligent and organized, Victorino really connects with VISIONS teens. He and his wife Griselda have three kids of their own, and he knows how to inspire and engage younger minds. He has dinner with us often, helps out on projects and practices his English, which he picked up in Kansas while on a graduate scholarship to study business management. While he enjoyed his adventures in Kansas, he believes there’s no place like home.  

Nicaragua Blog Posts

VISIONS Alum Raises Funds to Rebuild a School in Nicaragua

VISIONS Alum Raises Funds to Rebuild a School in Nicaragua

As the president of the Homestead High School Spanish club in Mequon, WI, Talia Gottlieb organized a fundraiser to benefit a community in Nicaragua where she lived on a VISIONS trip in 2015. After hearing from Talia, our local partner Victorino identified a great...

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VICTORINO CENTENO

Project Partner

In discussions of the brutal and highly politicized civil war between the Contras and the Sandinistas, you don’t often hear about the peacemakers—but they were there. In the 1980s, people like Victorino Centeno volunteered with the human rights commission for peacekeeping and reconciliation efforts. It takes a special person to do this work during such a complicated conflict. But when you meet Victorino, you won’t be surprised he was one.

Victorino is soft-spoken, but driven in his quest to make positive change in his country. In 1998, he founded AVODEC (Asociación de Voluntarios para el Desarrollo Comunitario), a grassroots nonprofit based in Jinotega and focused on improving life for Nicaragua’s poorest people through sanitation, health care, education, economic development and housing. AVODEC is a highly effective organization, thanks to a willingness to get out from behind the desk and into the community, to work directly with farmers, women’s cooperatives and small businesses. VISIONS has been working with AVODEC as a primary partner since our first Nicaraguan program, in 2007, which means we’ve been able to spend a lot of quality time with Victorino.

Kind, gentle, intelligent and organized, Victorino really connects with VISIONS teens. He and his wife Griselda have three kids of their own, and he knows how to inspire and engage younger minds. He has dinner with us often, helps out on projects and practices his English, which he picked up in Kansas while on a graduate scholarship to study business management. While he enjoyed his adventures in Kansas, he believes there’s no place like home.  

Nicaragua Blog Posts

VISIONS Alum Raises Funds to Rebuild a School in Nicaragua

VISIONS Alum Raises Funds to Rebuild a School in Nicaragua

As the president of the Homestead High School Spanish club in Mequon, WI, Talia Gottlieb organized a fundraiser to benefit a community in Nicaragua where she lived on a VISIONS trip in 2015. After hearing from Talia, our local partner Victorino identified a great...

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