The constant hum of crickets, the patter of prowling paws from stray dogs and the cackling squawk of the unseen birds that live in the rafters of our house are a familiar sound now. If someone had told me a month ago, I would be comfortably sharing a bedroom with a couple of lizards I would have told them they were crazy. But here I am, swapping city lights for sandy trails, as I start a ten week journey volunteering in Nicaragua.
For a student who wants to see the world and make a difference, ICS (International Citizen Service) is a godsend. A government backed scheme which gives 18-25 year-olds the opportunity to work with one of six different charities, in 14 different countries all with no cost to the volunteer. Anyone who has ever looked into volunteering knows that to head away to far off lands can cost an arm and a leg. If you factor in flights and insurance, maybe even two legs.
ICS is different. All you need to do once selected is fundraise £800-£1400 depending on your assigned target and pack your bag. Which is how I find myself in Casa Verde, Mozonte, Nicaragua with the charity Progressio.
Our work hasn’t started yet; we have the luxury of getting to meet the locals with whom we’ll be working.
But when the roosters crow on Monday morning, we’ll rise to face the task of tackling gender empowerment and machismo culture in Nicaragua, working in the region’s outstanding coffee plantations and teaching in the local schools and communities.
From our meetings with the locals it’s incredibly clear just how grateful they are that we’ve come across the pond to their communities to try and help out.
ICS is a three year programme, incorporating thousands of Brits travelling to different countries, so we know there may not be visible results of change in the short time we are here.
All we have to remember is that we’re part of a bigger picture. Every sign we paint, every coffee bean we pluck and every English word we teach to a local adds another piece to a massive puzzle. To initiate change; not through flooding an economy with money, but by empowering the people and imparting skills which give them the opportunity to master their own fate, is our goal.
Change doesn’t happen in a day. It doesn’t even happen in a year, or even ten. But when it does happen, we’ll know that we were part of it – however big or small a part that was.
Unlike in Britain, internet access, electricity and even running water is often hard to come by so I’ll be keeping you updated throughout the next ten weeks as much as I can.
For now, if anyone is interested in volunteering with ICS then all the information you need is on their website.