This spring break, Professor Jesse Griffin, along with Program Assistant Richard Grant took ten Roanoke students on a service trip to Ochomogo, Nicaragua. I had the pleasure of accompanying them, and it was certainly an experience I’ll never forget. The trip was part of a ROA 125 class called “Self, Culture, and Civic Responsibility”, focused on a person’s role in their community. This was Jesse’s eighth trip with Roanoke students to Nicaragua, after being stationed there with the Peace Corps from 1999 to 2001. Our goal was to build eleven latrines in the town â€“ a simple necessity I had taken for granted before.Â Some families’ latrines were old and dilapidated, while other families didn’t have one at all, which could have been a danger to their well water.
This past week I saw how a person’s basic human dignity is at stake in third world countries. I got a chance to open myself up to Nicaraguan citizens, which was uncomfortable at first, but was eye opening as well. Going outside of my comfort zone was not easy, but I quickly learned how vital it would be on this trip. My relationship with the people of Ochomogo was reciprocal; it is true that the other class members and I helped them by better their living conditions, but they also helped us by showing us their culture and welcoming us into their homes. After a trip like this it’s hard to take simple things for granted anymore.
The language barrier was one of the most difficult obstacles to overcome, but the natives showed me how easy it is to feel connections with people, even without talking. “Universal languages”, referring to deeper connections and communications, like baseball and laughter always translate despite language barriers. We also learned how rejuvenating it can be to sit and do nothing, and we came to appreciate nature and other people even more without the distractions of technology and tight schedules. My personal experience in Nicaragua was incredible, but more importantly, I know that our whole team gained cultural and interpersonal knowledge that none of us will soon forget.