February 25, 2024

Today was a day for connection. From getting to know each other better to meeting incredible and wise people, we got to strengthen and make new bonds. We went to Tio Antonio’s café de las Sonrisas (smiles). After all, the most universal language is a smile. This business prioritizes creating opportunities for differently abled community members. The walls and tables are lined with sign language pictograms so patrons can communicate with the servers. Furthermore, at Tío Antonio’s they make the most thoughtfully crafted hammocks! We were honored to be able to meet recent graduates and their families at a luncheon. It was a delight to share a meal and conversation with these ambitions, intelligent and compassionate young women. From there, we went to meet the master potter Elsa. She showed us how she makes her gorgeous ceramics; I even got to try and make one myself! She was a well of wisdom and her grandchildren were adorable. All in all, today was a profoundly impactful one, full of people I will not soon forget. – Sophie H.

On our third day of our Nicaragua trip, we immersed ourselves in Nicaraguan culture. We started the day with a trip to the market. Unfortunately, there was a power line fire, so we made a pit stop at Tío Antonio’s. I had never visited a business like this. The walls and tables were lined with sign language symbols because this café was run by deaf mutes and thus ensure communication was easy for its visitors. Our guide also left us with one beautiful passage that described the café. “There is no language more universal than a smile.” I will hold that line with me for the rest of my life. Following the market, we headed to the lunch in where I was sat next to an older gentleman who didn’t speak a word of English. My broken Spanish allowed me to communicate a bit however most of our conversation relied on kind gestures and genuine smiles. Though I didn’t learn much about his life, I learned infinitely about his kindness and humour. At the end of the day, I felt so much more connected to this magnificent country. Through exchanged smiles and silly faces, we can find connection and mutual interest and kindness. That is what creates friendships and bonds.  -gab Tessier

Sunday morning, we went to visit the Café de las Sonrisas. Over the years, this has been a favourite stop in our visit of Granada. We heard that they had fallen on hard times and needed to close. I was pleasantly surprised to see them open. More importantly we were able to meet Tio Antonio, the man behind this incredible social project. Every trip, we meet at least one changemaker. Tio Antonio certainly fits this category. 18 years ago, he saw a need with the street kids of Granada. He wanted to give dignity to the blind youth of Granada. According to him and of course the UN’s SDGs, everyone should have access to dignified work and a fair wage. That is what they do at the Café de las Sonrisas. Having taught the SDGs to students for over 9 years, it is always so impactful to connect with someone who is actively making a change. This is the first time that we had the opportunity to have Tio Antonio talk to our students. His message echoed what I have been trying to share with my leadership students. It is not the end goal that counts but the journey. One needs to acknowledge every step of their journey. Success is being mindful of our journeys. And of course, no success is worth it if you are stepping on others to obtain your goals. Needless to say, he was my “rose” of the day!- Ms Bousser

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