March 1, 2024

From Priya

Today was extremely emotional on a multitude of levels. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed and cried so hysterically this many times. It was our last day at the Diria Institute, our last dance rehearsal, our last time with our buddies. Dancing with the 16 girls was getting to know them through music. Every spin and every smile bridged a gap that words, no matter how fluent we were in each other’s languages, could ever fill. At the final assembly, we did a traditional Nicaraguan dance, the Bachelet and of course Cotton Eye Joe. I don’t think I’ve ever been more ungraceful in my life, but I loved every second of it. Getting ready before hand proved how universal girlhood is. We were laughing, doing each other’s lip gloss, and holding up towels so that others could change into the gorgeous dresses. During that period of time, I felt like a princess, blissfully unaware of the world.

Leaving was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. On the bus, as I watched our friends in tears as we drove away, I was very aware of how easy it was to leave when we wanted to. We had come, for 5 days, to walk in their shoes. And now, we could leave. These kids, who had stolen our hearts and welcomed us with open arms, couldn’t leave. They deserved the world, but they were stuck, while we could just walk away to our warm homes and dinners. It didn’t matter who did or didn’t deserve it.

Some of the students were asking us when we would come back. How could we tell them that we weren’t. We would all finish high school, in some way or another, maybe we would get our dream job, and occasionally like each other’s Instagram post, but we would never see these people again, and that broke my heart.

On a more personal level, I was made aware that my buddy was one of the poorest at the Institute. She is applying for the scholarship to go into finance. Biased or not, this seventeen-year-old lights up every room she walks into, is incredibly intelligent and is one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met. She did my hair before the dance, introduced me to her friends and cheered me on while I lost horribly at volleyball. She could go extremely far with her life, but without the scholarship, she can’t.

On a more positive note, I’m immeasurably proud to be part of something that can pay for a girl’s university tuition, provide glasses for someone who would have had to skip meals to afford glasses, fill a library and do so many more things for a community that couldn’t be more grateful.

From Chelsea

At the beginning of this trip, I had promised myself I’d go as many days as I could without crying, with the hopes of not doing it at all. I was told that the last goodbyes with our buddies would be beyond emotional, but I didn’t understand how sad one could be, leaving a place full of people you’d only known for 5 days until today. The day started with playing volleyball with our buddies, which brought me immense joy. We then spent some time with our buddies, then taught a small group of middle schoolers, then reviewed our dance for the final assembly. When we returned to school after lunch, we got right into preparing for the afternoon’s activity. Our buddies kindly helped us get ready for their cultural dance in front of the school, with beautiful outfits and lip gloss. I learnt that no socks or shoes would be involved, which was a nice addition to having to do things I wasn’t used to. The dancing went a lot better than I thought it would. I was a lot less worried about how I looked in front of everyone, and that pressure of doing everything perfectly seemed to fade away.

Our day at the school came to an end with us handing out ice cream before exchanging gifts and many hugs. I’ve prided myself for so long in saying I don’t need or like hugs (be it true or not) which is something that ties in with my disdain for crying in front of people, but I did a lot of both today. The tears didn’t come until the last five minutes when it became apparent that we were leaving and there would be no coming back. I don’t think it hit me until then, all that guilt and sadness I seemed to carry within me during this trip. I don’t believe it’s fair that these people, who are the most generous and kind, deserve to live in such heartbreaking conditions. I’ve been given so much, and I still complain, yet these people always have a smile on their face regardless of it all.

While I was taking pictures of the students who were getting new shoes, I learnt that it was the poorest kids in the school who received them, and my buddy was among them. The guilt of knowing I was leaving and probably wouldn’t see this girl again honestly broke me. She smiled all the time, she got me a gift when she could have spent that money on more important things, and watching her dance and smile gave me more joy than I thought it would. She could go so far if she was given a life that offered the opportunities she needed.

During the trip, I was asked if I felt changed. I said no, and I felt horrible for it. It wasn’t that I didn’t feel sad, I just didn’t believe what I had seen up until then would change me. I can’t say the same anymore. Getting treated like a “hero”, being given gifts by people whose names I didn’t even know, being given so much when they seemed to have so little. I just needed the time to take in all the overwhelming information. I think this trip showed me a few things, but most importantly, how kindness goes a long way. Our society is so full of happiness and kindness because of being given expensive material things, me included, but the people in Nicaragua have shown how little is needed for a smile. Their joy for dancing, their generosity and compassion for us brought along a happiness and feeling of belonging that I didn’t know I needed. I’m beyond grateful for having been able to come on this trip. I met some amazing people, was able to see the change we brought with us and was introduced to a wonderful culture full of vibrant colours, genuine people, and delicious food.

Mme Bousser

Our last day at the Diria Institute was as always filled with emotions, connection and excitement. This year, I had the opportunity to distribute the adjustable glasses that were donated by the Maas family. Both Sabine and Vivian where on previous trips to Nicaragua and were able to notice a need and take action. Ever since then, the Maas family has donated many adjustable glasses to the Diria Institute. This year, Ms. Howard, Grace, Sarah, and I had the honour of adjusting the glasses. As I told the students during our Roses, Thorns, and Buds, this was both my rose and thorn. We met a grade 7 boy who was identified by his English teacher as needing glasses. He really wanted this. He stayed in the classroom trying for over an hour. I didn’t know how I was going to tell him that this was not going to work out for him. He needed this so much! We discovered that he could barely see from his right eye. This certainly was beyond us. This was my thorn. It was very sad. But we could not let it be. We asked Ms. Liogas if we could afford to pay for a proper optometrist consultation and glasses that are adapted to his needs. His English teacher was an incredible person who fully committed to bring the boy to the neighboring big city of Massaya and have him get the help needed. She was my rose. She is the embodiment of what a good teacher should be. Her dedication to the academic success of her student is inspiring. I will never forget her look of relief when we told her that her student will be helped. The teaching passion transcends boarders.

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