Nicaragua 2015: Recap

May 07, 2015

As the first part of a two-way exchange program funded by the US Department of State through their SportsUnited division, @Brooke_CRSF and @Scott_CRSF took a weeklong trip to Nicaragua in April to train coaches and serve kids.  While they shared updates via Twitter, not everything can fit into 140 characters!

We recently took a 5 day trip to Nicaragua, where we met some incredible people and had many amazing experiences.  Our journey began a couple days before we were scheduled to leave, with a trip to the doctor’s office for some vaccinations.  Three shots and a sore arm later, we were officially ready to travel to Nicaragua.   

We left Sunday, April 19, at 6:00 a.m.  During a layover in Miami, we met up with some of our traveling companions from 4-H.  After another 2.5 hour flight, we had made it!  We arrived in Managua, which is the capital of Nicaragua.  Soon after walking outside, we were greeted by a gentleman who introduced himself (in Spanish) as our driver.  After overcoming our first language barrier, we hopped in the van and headed to our hotel.   

As we traveled through the city, we couldn’t help but think that Managua was not how we had pictured Nicaragua.  It was a bustling city with cars, motorcycles, buses, and many of same businesses that we see here in the United States.  Our hotel was like most hotels that we stay in, except that all the channels on the television were in Spanish.  While at the hotel, we met up with the rest of our traveling partners from Fabretto Children’s Foundation (Fabretto) and the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA).  After lunch, we took a trip to Granada, Nicaragua to do the tourist thing, before Monday when the official work week would begin.  While in Granada, we took a small boat tour of the 365 islets of Granada.  These were created when the volcano Mombacho erupted thousands of years ago, blowing most of its cone into the lake. 

After a good night of sleep, we headed to a sports complex called Zona Deportiva for our Sports United training.  We had 40 mentors from 4 different cities around Nicaragua in attendance for the training.  The training covered items such as, “The Ripken Way,” game facilitation techniques, Quickball, SportsUnited curriculum, summer camp, as well as other topics that were covered by our members from 4-H. 

After lunch, we were visited by 100 students from schools in Managua, as well as the US Ambassador to Nicaragua, Phyllis Powers.  Ambassador Powers said a few words, threw out the ceremonial first pitch, and our Quickball day was underway.  We spent the next hour playing Quickball with the youth of Managua, while the mentors took turns both facilitating and playing the game.    

The next morning marked our trip up the mountain to our next location, Somoto.  After a 4.5 hour ride up to Somoto, we grabbed a great lunch in a tiny, unassuming stand before heading over to the school.  After setting up for Quickball and introducing ourselves to the teachers and students, Quickball day #2 could get under way.  The mentors who attended the training in Managua took the lead for Quickball and did an incredible job of facilitating it with their students.  After Quickball, the mentors surprised us and led their students through a lesson from the Sports United curriculum.  Though we don’t speak Spanish very well, the students were all very proactive and seemed to have a great discussion, led by the mentors.  While in Somoto, we also learned a great new clap that we will be debuting at camp this year. 

After our great event in Somoto, we hopped in our van and traveled another 2 hours up the mountain to Cusmapa, the home of Father Fabretto, who was responsible for the creation of the Fabretto Children’s Foundation.  This would be our home for the next 2 days.  After a much needed shower, we had a great meal and got some much needed rest.  The next morning we traveled a few blocks to the baseball field of Cusmapa.  This baseball field also doubles as a field for a few horses.  Needless to say, we did a lot of yard work before we could set up the fields for Quickball.  After the youth and mentors arrived from Cusmapa and Las Sabanas, we were treated to an opening ceremony with a couple cultural demonstrations.  After thanking everyone and teaching them our roller coaster clap, Quickball day #3 could get under way.  Like Somoto, we had mentors in Cusmapa who had participated in the training on Monday.  Again, like Somoto, the mentors jumped right in and began explaining and facilitating Quickball with their students.  After Quickball, the mentors and students played a game of baseball.  It was great to watch these students and mentors come together and play “America’s Greatest Past Time.”

After leaving the baseball field, we traveled to one of the Fabretto school locations to see the campus and learn about the day to day activities that take place there.  While there, we got to see some different projects teachers and students work on to provide for themselves, their families, and communities.  We saw several different gardens that students are in charge of and that grow food for the students at the school.  We also got to see a classroom where carpentry is taught.  The current project the students were working on was beehives.  The beehives would be sold to different families around the area and also used by the students to create their own honey to sell.  After this, we all grabbed a quick lunch before taking off to our next stop. 

After getting some much needed lunch and shade, we climbed into the bed of a pick-up truck and began our journey down the mountain to our next location for Quickball.  After 1.5 hours on the bumpiest road ever, we arrived at our destination of Carritzo.  Like Cusmapa, we were greeted by 100 students and mentors, who showed more cultural demonstrations.  We heard 2 poems and saw a traditional Nicaraguan dance before we dove into Quickball.  Again, we had a handful of mentors present who had participated in the training on Monday.  To our delight, these mentors completely took the lead and facilitated Quickball with the students.  The 2 games went well and the students really seemed to take a liking to Quickball.  After a journey back up the mountain to Cusmapa on that same bumpy road we came down, we couldn’t have been happier to shower and finally get off our feet.  We feasted on Italian food, since it was our last night in Nicaragua, and then we got some much needed sleep.

The next morning, we traveled to Las Sabanas, to learn about the 4-H programs that are being run at the Fabretto campus.  While on campus, we were treated to more cultural presentations that consisted of 3 songs and a dance.  After these demonstrations, some of the students shared with us how 4-H has impacted them personally.  One student in particular told us about the coffee nursery she raises in her back yard to help supplement income for her family. Her family roasts the coffee, and she assists them by growing the coffee plants. 

In one word, our trip to Nicaragua was amazing.  It is such a beautiful country with so many wonderful people.  Since the moment we stepped off the plane, we felt right at home.  Everywhere we went, we were greeted with huge smiles.  You would have thought that locals may be wary of us, but they treated us like one of their own.  We experienced and learned so much throughout this trip and created memories that we will look back on for the rest of our lives.  We now must eagerly await the date of August 16th, when we will see our new friends again.  But, this time it will be in the United States and it will be this summer at #CRSFcamp