26 Jul 2012

CHS and SJA Students Experience Cultural Immersion in Nicaragua

Six CHS students left their homes in Baton Rouge to experience cultural immersion in Nicaragua July 13- 20. The CHS students joined students from St. Josephí´s Academy for this once in a lifetime experience.

CHS Spanish teacher Chad Dupuy took junior Patrick Brian and seniors Michael McDowell, Mitchell LaBauve, Josh Schwartzenburg, Michael Morales and Zach Miller with him for this week of learning. íÍIt was more than an honor to spend time with those guys,íñ said Dupuy. íÍI could not have asked for a more receptive group of young men to absorb everything around them and to allow their world and eyes to be opened to how things actually are in this world.íñ

CHS participants spent the week working with Cantera, an organization who established several community centers and a farm in and around the city of Managua, Nicaragua. These centers are placed in íÍbarrios,íñ neighborhoods, and serve as a safe place for children to learn and play with other kids. The CHS students spent time in these centers interacting with the children and learning about them and their lives.

Spending time with these Nicaraguan children opened the eyes of each CHS participant. They were able to see the harsh realities of life in underdevelopoed parts of Nicaragua- impoverished people, individuals living off a landfill and the realization that there are many dangers that threaten a personí´s life each day. However, no matter the day or what happened, each child at the community center radiated joy and happiness and a genuine love for life. In one ice-breaker activity, a girl in her teens was asked íÍIf you could change one thing in your life, what would it be?íñ Volunteers in the center, seeing the lack of luxury in her life, imagined numerous things this girl could answer.  Without thinking, the girl answered íÍnada,íñ meaning íÍnothing.íñ The boys were floored.

While spending time with the children in the centers and learning about their lives in Nicaragua, CHS students recognized how fortunate they are for all the luxuries they have, and they gained a greater appreciation for the lives they live. They took away a greater sense of gratitude and a deeper love of life, even at its simplest moments. The children also reminded them that the greatest gift a person can have in life is a sense of community and the ability to be loved by someone.

Throughout the week, CHS and SJA students worked together with the children of the center to create a mural on one of the building walls. A colorful mural proclaiming íÍsolidaridadíñ is now displayed at this center reminding the children of the declared theme of the week- solidarity.

Along with interacting with the children at the centers, CHS and SJA students also had the opportunity to explore the landscape of Nicaragua. They saw the natural beauty of volcanoes and the gorgeous grounds full of flowers and greenery.

CHS students are grateful for the experience in Nicaragua and know that they were able to help others, if even for just a week. However, participants realized that the children of Nicaragua are not the only ones who were helped. íÍOur lives will be forever changed by our incredible experience with Cantera and the stories of the people whom we helped,íñ  said Michael McDowell.

Watch this video produced by Michael McDowell to get a glimpse at the experience in Nicaragua.