Spring Break Service Trip to Nicaragua Impacts BVU Students

Spring Break Service Trip to Nicaragua Impacts BVU Students

Spring Break Service Trip to Nicaragua Impacts BVU Students
From left: Dr. Steven Mills, Andrew Zinn, Nereyda Manriquez, Emily Phipps, Mark Shea, Alejandra Mendoza, Caitlin Bach, Alec Sindelar, Ashley Mendenhall, Ryan Mellott, Elizabeth Kim, Jordan Flynn.

Ten Buena Vista University students participated in an AWOL (Alternative Week of Off-site Learning) trip during spring break, enabling them to volunteer their time and service with a focus on grassroots sustainability and economic development in Nicaragua.

Students traveled to Managua, Nicaragua, to cooperate with a nonprofit organization focused on grassroots sustainable and economic development projects for communities in need. Participants had the opportunity to take part in the ongoing rural education program through classroom activities, English and computer classes and playing sports with local children. While in Nicaragua, students helped finish building a library and computer center as they immersed themselves in the life and culture of the region.

Advisors for the experience were Dr. Steven Mills, assistant professor of Spanish, and Mark Shea, director of student success at BVU.

"Students were able to breach the limits of comfort to see how they can help another, regardless of their ability to communicate efficiently with them," said Mills. "Seeing the impact on their school, and seeing the appreciation they poured out made us realize that our few days of service will be a source of growth for those students in Managua for years to come."

"We interacted in a typical school setting, toured people's homes, and received the full cultural experience of Nicaragua, including food, language and daily living," added Shea. "The students were able to build strong bonds with the children we served and were able to complete a project that will last the school for a long time to come. I learned that when you get a committed group of like-minded individuals together who have a passion to serve, great things can happen."

Alejandra Mendoza, a junior elementary education major from Alta and student site leader, said, "Everyone in Nicaragua welcomed us with open arms. This trip taught me that true happiness consists of being surrounded by the people you love, and that everything else will fall into place. I have always had a passion for service, and this trip showed me why I love it so much."

"This was my first AWOL experience, and although it was overwhelming at times, I had great support from every person at every level," said Jordan Flynn, a senior Spanish and educational studies major from Albuquerque, New Mexico, and also a student site leader. "This experience left a huge impression on me because I have learned about the community needs in Nicaragua, the goals of non-profits and gained new friends."

Other students who participated in the Nicaragua AWOL service trip were Caitlin Bach, a senior biology major from Bondurant; Elizabeth Kim, a junior biology and Spanish major from Fairmont, Minnesota; Nereyda Manriquez, a senior accounting and Spanish major from Storm Lake; Ryan Mellott, a junior biology major from Westminster, Colorado; Ashley Mendenhall, a senior management and accounting major from Salix; Emily Phipps, a senior biology major from Monroe; Alec Sindelar, a senior business-marketing concentration major from O'Neill, Nebraska; and Andrew Zinn, a senior elementary education major from Spencer.

AWOL has sent more than 641 volunteers and completed an estimated 27,916 hours of service worldwide, furthering its mission to immerse students in different cultures, heighten social awareness and advocate life-long social action through service on a local, regional and international level.

Four AWOL trips took place this year, with 40 BVU students participating. The other trips focused on animal advocacy in Kanab, Utah; disaster relief and clean up in New Orleans, Louisiana; and inner-city poverty outreach in Atlanta, Georgia. Learn more about BVU's other AWOL service trips...