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Published: August 14th 2011
Well, we made it home safely. It took a little longer than we anticipated because of thunderstorms in Miami but we pulled into St. John's at about 4am this morning. All our luggage made it to Montreal with us so we didn't have to try to track down missing luggage. That was a big relief.
Some of you have asked where the school is located. Here is a Google Maps link to the school: La Cenicera School
The road goes along the top of the page and the school is approximately in the middle. It has a tin roof. Beside the school is a very large tree and we spent a lot of time there recovering from the heat.
Back on Friday, we had our reflection time with Lenin. He gave a brief synopsis of what we accomplished on our trip:
• He and Francisco were really pleased that we had accomplished all the goals that were set
• The school is well underway
• There are plans for another school room because the community is so excited to finally have a proper school that more kids now want to go to school
• The children were very happy with their gifts of shoes,
clothing, crafts, skipping ropes etc
• The teachers were thrilled with all the new tools they have to work with the children such as calculators, musical instruments, white boards etc
Each Mission Nicaragua participant was given an opportunity to talk about what moment or moments stood out the most for them. There were lots of different responses including:
• How much the community helped with all aspects of the school building
• How much the teachers could accomplish in such limited facilities
After we finished the reflection time, we got ready and headed out to the SchoolBOX office. This is also where Ronald and his family live. It is a gated collection of homes with a guard at the gate located a little south of Managua on the road heading to Masaya. The office is a large bright room with many pictures on the walls of different school builds and children. Also, they have already hung the Canada flag on the wall that was given to us by Councilor Eli El-Chantiry. We enjoyed a dinner of rice with vegetables, french fries, marinated beef and salad. As always, there were the 3 litre bottles of pop and juice on the table. Those 3 litre bottles are a little tricky to handle since the plastic is soft. An interesting point is that we never saw any diet drinks at any event or any store we went to and yet there does not seem to be an obesity problem in Nicaragua.
After dinner we started the presentations. Lenin had collected everyone's camera the previous day and had copied all the photos from the memory cards. From these photos and his own, he made up a lovely slide presentation of the highlights with some popular Nicaraguan music in the background. Each participant was presented with a SchoolBOX t-shirt and USB stick with all the photos including the slide presentation. Ronald's wife, Jasmine, told the story of her struggles with education. She was very poor growing up with her sister and her mother. Her mother worked in a factory while the landlady took care of Jasmine and her sister. Although they were poor, they always had enough to eat. Jasmine persevered with school and managed to get a college degree in International Studies. She met Ronald and they decided that they wanted to try to help children live in better conditions. Initially they started a program of providing food for the children but then they met Tom Affleck and he told them about his idea for SchoolBOX. Much like the adage of 'Give a man a fish and feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime' they decided that their efforts were better served by encouraging children to go to school. However, the biggest stumbling block was the need for an adequate school room and supplies for the children. Thus, SchoolBOX was born.
We, in turn, had presents for Lenin and David. We gave them each Mission Nicaragua t-shirt and an envelope. Ronald was given a Canada ball cap and some cash to help either the La Cinocera school or another school, as needed. The bus drivers were commended for their consistent and safe driving. They got us to where we needed to go everyday and helped up load and unload. Upon getting out of the van one day, I cracked my head on the door frame. It really hurt for a bit but the driver was mortified and very concerned that I was ok. From then on, every single time we got out of the van, he said, watch your head to each of us. It got to be quite funny.
Marcia and I had talked to Carolina about the different beans that had been served at the meals. They were a red bean that looked somewhat like a kidney bean but smaller. She presented both of us with three pounds of two different kinds of dried beans as well as some guava jelly. Although I don't think I will be serving beans (gallo pinto) for breakfast any time soon, we will definitely make good use of these beans form time to time.
We took many pictures and expressed many thanks and then headed back to our hotel room. It had been quite a while since the youth could relax in a swimming pool so they took advantage of the pool at Los Pinos for a couple of hours while the adults sat around chatting.
THe next morning we packed up and headed to the airport. Ronald and his family also came to the airport to say good bye to us. It was hard to say good bye. Many of the youth were teary at the thought of leaving all those children behind. There had been many conversations about which children they wanted to bring home with them. After many hugs and 'muchos gracias', we headed off to security.
We will never forget this adventure and many of us hope to join SchoolBOX again some day. Others want to do more volunteer work in different areas of the world. It was a wonderful opportunity for the youth and the adults to see a completely different world.
As Lenin said, "You are not an NGO coming in, building something and then leaving. You are building hope. You are building relationships with the children, the families and the community. You will be changed forever by this experience." These seemed like strong words at the beginning of our adventure but by the end of the tour, we completely understood.
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