April 3, 2014
Over spring break, a group of 10 Hamilton students and two faculty members traveled to Nicaragua to work at the Green Hope Farm just outside San Ramon. The Global Volunteers Alternative Spring Break (ASB) trip was Hamilton’s first international service trip. The trip was the culmination of two years of planning by Emily Rubenstein ’16, Maggie Doolin ’14 and Director of Outreach and Orientation Amy James.
The Green Hope farm is an organic shade-grown coffee farm. Residents of the region usually live in small, semi-permanent or permanent houses with outdoor latrines, but the students lived in cabins on the farm which had “amenities like an indoor toilet, showers and absolutely delicious meals,” Doolin said. There is often no running water or electricity outside of major cities and towns.
The group participated in various tasks around the farm. According to Doolin, the group worked on trail maintenance, “including mucking out a water-fall, picking up debris from the rainy season and moving the remnants of a recently cut down tree,” and “digging holes for the banana plants, filling small seedling bags with dirt for the next generation of coffee plants and working with kids at the local school.”
Doolin said the group worked very well together.
“I’m extremely proud of how everyone handled the culture shock. We were all so into the ‘be here now’ mentality that I think we are all having a hard time adjusting back to school after such an eye-opening experience. I look forward to hearing about the Global Volunteers trips of the future and seeing how well groups do.”
The group found that, even in the face of poverty and struggles, the people of Nicaragua were warm, friendly, happy, and hardworking. Njideka Ofoleta ’16 added, “The woman who ran the collective, Maritza, was an amazing woman who spoke of single motherhood in a patriarchal society…It was inspiring to hear her story of independence.”
All the participants reported that the ASB trip was a life-changing experience. Bryan Ferguson ’17 recounted, “After having done it, after having met the people, heard their stories and felt some of their struggles, I feel not dismayed but rather empowered, empowered to return to Nicaragua, to travel to other countries to do more volunteer work and to change the way I live my life with greater appreciation for all it has to offer.”