Saturday, August 1, 2015

Nicaragua trip ‘eye-opening’ for FFHS pair

Fort High students Julia Quast and Kate Parsons returned last week from a trip of a lifetime, where they not only helped members of a community in Nicaragua but also learned a lot about themselves.
“It changed my perspective of how I want to live my life,” Quast said.

“It was incredible,” echoed Parsons. “It’s hard to describe but it was truly eye-opening.”
The now Grade 12 students had applied last year for the FFHS Humanitarian Trip Scholarship, initiated by former student Dexter Fichuk, which was awarded to both of them.
Each received $1,000, with additional fundraising required to pay for the “Me to We” (Free the Children) trip.
“We’re very fortunate to have received this scholarship and thankful for this amazing opportunity,” Parsons enthused, admitting she didn’t expect to make such a strong connection with the community of El Trapiche in such a short time.
The pair spent five days working in that community, located about a 45-minute drive from the capital, Managua, where they helped to build infrastructure near a small school.
“They were preparing land for a playground and a soccer pitch,” Parsons explained.
“And they were starting to build a garden and washrooms,” Quast added.
Quast spent much of her time working with a new friend, Ricardo, who showed her how to mix cement and lay bricks.
Parsons, meanwhile, worked in the garden area sifting dirt and compacting soil.
“It’s nice because we don’t come in and do things our way—they showed us how to do everything,” Quast noted.
Parsons conceded the language barrier was a challenge at times since only two of their 27-member group could speak Spanish.
“We couldn’t understand each other so sometimes we had to do silly actions or physically show each other what we meant,” Parsons said.
“It was fun, especially when we wouldn’t quite get it right.”
“But most of the time we got the idea,” noted Quast.
In addition to working in the community, the pair got to learn about what life was like there.
They visited a mother, who is president of the local parents’ guild, and heard her story.
Parsons noted children in the community have just a few minute walk to school—now that they have access to education in their community.
But before that, they had to walk upwards of an hour-and-a-half just to reach the bus stop.
“That is a long walk for young children,” Quast remarked, adding visiting the woman in her home really enhanced her words.
“It was very thought-provoking,” echoed Parsons.
Other hardships made clear throughout the duration of their 10-day trip was evident in the agriculture and access to water.
The group hiked through a forest area to a piece of land where they grow beans.
“But they are having their worst drought in 30 years and we only saw two good plants,” said Parsons, noting it was supposed to be the rainy season there.
“It’s supposed to rain 50 percent of the time and it only rained about 30 percent.”
“And it was only five-minute spurts of rain,” noted Quast, adding they helped till the land and plant more beans in case the area does get some relief from the drought.
The pair noted while the community now has some running water, they only had it for about two years.
“They had to walk two km to the next community to their water well—and that was on a good day,” explained Parsons, noting if that well wasn’t working, they had to walk another seven km or even further.
Both Quast and Parsons got a taste of what it would be like to carry water that far while participating in a water walk there.
“Two of us carried half a bucket full,” said Quast, noting they would have to carry a full bucket by themselves.
“And we only walked two km. It was difficult going uphill.”
They also visited a coffee plantation and learned just how far 20 cordobas (equivalent to less than $1) could go.
“We had a market day where we went to a food market and each group was given 20 cordobas to buy ingredients for a meal,” Parsons recounted.
“The point was to get as much as we could,” said Quast, listing a number of fruits and vegetables they were able to purchase.
The group also spent a day at a beach resort, where they completed leadership modules and learned about how natural disasters take a toll on small countries.
“They don’t have the resources we have, especially to stay afterwards to help,” Quast said.
“You realized how fortunate we are to live in healthy conditions,” noted Parsons, reiterating that the trip was “eye-opening.”
“I wish we could have stayed longer,” Quast remarked.
“You really appreciated everything you have at home,” she added, referring especially to food other than beans and rice, which they ate for most meals, and warm showers since they had cold showers every day there.
“It opens your eyes to all the luxuries we have,” agreed Parsons, saying drinking water from the tap in her kitchen when she returned home was “a big deal.”
Quast said the pictures they took don’t accurately capture what they saw with their own eyes.
“They use what they have to their full potential,” she remarked. “I wish everyone could have an opportunity like this.”
“Everyone would benefit from going on a trip like this,” echoed Parsons, noting it was “amazing” to make a connection with a new community, make new friends, and gain a new perspective.
“I would suggest it to anyone and everyone,” she added.
While both girls would love to do more humanitarian work overseas, they plan to work on being leaders at their school for the next year.
“We want to keep fundraising,” Quast said, noting money raised could go directly towards a country to help it.
“This trip has really inspired us to do as much as we can,” stressed Parsons.
The pair also will be preparing a presentation about their trip for the public and the three high schools in the district, encouraging people to get involved and make a difference in their local community and globally.

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