LACIS Summer Grant Recipient’s Experience in Nicaragua

by Jesus Del Toro (LACIS Social Media/Outreach Intern, BA, LACIS,  & Spanish ’18)

Every year, LACIS distributes grant money to qualified undergraduate students from any major or discipline in order to help those students complete an internship or volunteer program in Latin America, the Caribbean, or Iberian Peninsula. Domestic programs are eligible if the work is related to the LACIS field of study. Jasmine Sanchez, a soon to be graduate, took advantage of the LACIS Grant during the Summer 2016 she traveled to Nicaragua to complete her Global Health Certificate.

I spoke to Jasmine about her experience, and this is what she had to say:
Where were you? For how long were you there? For what purpose were you there?
This summer I went to Managua and Leon, I went with 12 other students for our global health field experience. Our biggest project was working with a school and planting a garden in their playground. We sketched the layout with the students and planted the trees they wanted. We did 5 edible trees and about 60 other plants to provide shade for them. The next week we worked with a community that shifted from rural to semi rural and we learned about their community engagement and me we planted for two nature reserves.
What was your experience like living in Nicaragua?
Awesome, I stayed in really nice hotels. However, I couldn’t help but feel strange whenever I went to rural communities to volunteer in the mornings. I knew how privileged I was to go in and teach these kids and tell them to switch their lifestyle because it’s not perceived to be good enough for American standards. I did a lot of reflection on the trip and I had more downs than ups.
Can you tell me more about the reflections you made while you were

Sure, so I though about Orientalism. We (everyone on the trip) are coming in as westerners and telling people in a developing country how to live. I do not have any credentials what so ever in botany or environmental studies, yet I’m teaching students about water sheds and water cycle. There is so much power and control that I had and I didn’t like it. As Americans we control half of the world and who are we to say how to live? I also thought about how we looked like the “white savior” and I was battling with myself to see if I considered myself to be a white savior. I think I should be humble that I’m helping these people instead of bragging about what I did because volunteering will make me look “cool”. I want to go to grad school for public health and I asked myself if it was the right career choice for me because I would like to do work internationally in developing countries. So again there is a balance between helping these communities become more developed but not stripping them from their culture. I want to improve primary health care because I feel as though it should be a human right, most communities in this part of the world don’t have it because of the lack of resources.
What did you enjoy the most about your program/time there? What are some of the skills you gained from it? What made you decided to embark in this experience? Do you have plans to go back ?
I enjoyed interacting most with the kids and the other volunteers. I made friends and I have them on Facebook now. One lady took me around the city and introduced me to her kids. I learned to be patient and I learned that no matter how much you plan some things may not go the way you wanted them to, so being flexible is huge. I mainly went on this trip because I would like to have my own non profit and the professors I went with started it and that’s what I learned about organizing. I also applied to a fellowship to donate shoes in Nicaragua in an underrepresented community. The professor was actually reviewing my proposal and told me I should go on this trip. I was not awarded the fellowship but I thought learning skills about organizing would be good to know. I would like to go back in the future and start a non profit there. It was actually my second time going. The first time I went I was a freshman and I volunteered with a medical non profit.