Front: Kassidy Chandler, Kathia Puls, Tiffany Hull. Middle: Olivia Tuel, Jaelyn Olson, Lindsay Blackford, Abby Ross, Panorama volunteer, Panorama volunteer, Dominic Hess-Jones, Panorama volunteer, Emily Van Donselaar. Back: Mike Walker, Ken Meissner.

Front: Kassidy Chandler, Kathia Puls, Tiffany Hull. Middle: Olivia Tuel, Jaelyn Olson, Lindsay Blackford, Abby Ross, Panorama volunteer, Panorama volunteer, Dominic Hess-Jones, Panorama volunteer, Emily Van Donselaar. Back: Mike Walker, Ken Meissner.

April 5, 2017

Eleven 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 sustainable social and economic development in Los Fierros, Nicaragua.

The BVU participants worked with the Panorama Service Expedition, an organization that promotes sustainable social and economic development projects. Throughout the week, the participants immersed themselves in the area’s culture and worked on a farm alongside locals helping prepare grounds for planting coffee trees.

“The experience opened my eyes to the hardships and challenges the locals overcome on a daily basis.”

Kassidy Chandler

Kassidy Chandler, a junior exercise science major from Casey and one of the student site leaders, said the trip to Nicaragua broadened her outlook on life. “The experience opened my eyes to the hardships and challenges the locals overcome on a daily basis. They do not have the leisure of driving to work; some of them walk over two hours to get to work to provide money and food for their family. It taught me to appreciate the little things that I get that others may not.”

Others students who participated in the social and economic development AWOL trip were Abby Ross, a junior social work and psychology double major from Council Bluffs; Katie Puls, a sophomore psychology major from Geneseo, Ill.; Jaelyn Olson, a senior chemistry major from Eldora; Tiffany Hull, a senior criminology/criminal justice and psychology double major from Perry; Emily Van Donselaar, a sophomore social work major from New Sharon; Olivia Tuel, a senior biology major from Clarence; Lindsay Blackford, a senior psychology and Spanish double major from Council Bluffs; and Dominic Hess-Jones, a freshman computer science major from Lee’s Summit, Mo.

Advisors for this experience were Ken Meissner, director of spiritual life at BVU, and Mike Walker, university counselor for BVU’s Office of Student Affairs.