Monday, February 29

The opening assembly at the Diria Institute.

















Ms. Zannis doing a PD session with some of the teachers at the Diria Institute.



The girls teaching English to grades 10 and 11.





Ms. Howard teaching science with the help of Mme Bousser.

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Our students with Ethel (2016 Scholarship winner)



Our students with Jocelyn (2015 scholarship winner)



We pulled up to the school, excited as ever and ready for what we had been waiting/talking about since May of last year. We each took 1 out of 22 donation suitcases we had brought from Montreal and started to bring it to the agora. Looking around, Ms. Liogas pointed out how they painted The Study crest on their wall. All eyes were on us when we entered and as we brought the suitcases to their stage. Multiple emotions were running through my head at this moment, emotions of excitement, nervousness, warmth and a little vulnerability to have 400 students watching your every move. We unpacked all the donations from the bags for everyone to see. After we had finished this process, we were told to sit on stage where they had seats for us as the guests of honor. Three students walked in holding three different flags, the Nicaraguan flag, Canadian flag along with a flag of their school crest. They then played their country’s anthem and later played ours, before we presented and showed all the donations one at a time. It went by very quickly. Afterwards, 4 girls and 4 boys came out and presented a beautiful dance that seemed to be well rehearsed. Most of the girls were mesmerized by how graceful they moved to the rhythm; it was something extremely unique. Once the assembly was over, we had the pleasure of meeting our buddies. My buddy’s name is Fernanda. She’s a sweet girl who seemed to be very compassionate and friendly. All The Study girls seemed ecstatic to meet and get to know our buddies by playing games (still nervous about the language). Lunch seemed to arrive quickly where we ate at the magical garden of Mr and Mrs Perez as we practiced our lesson plans for the afternoon of teaching ahead of us. Once we returned to the school, we got to our assigned class for 45 minutes of teaching. My group and I were extremely nervous for the language barrier but once we got to teaching it didn’t seem to be a problem anymore because we communicated by hand gestures and examples. All in all, I think I can speak for my classmates by saying; it was a day we will definitely remember.

Lisa Marie

Sunday, February 28

Instead of being overly wordy, I’ve decided to let the students reflect on each day of the trip in order to give you a better sense of what they are experiencing. Before their reflections, I will give you the highlights of what they saw and did.

The Lagoon



Making a friend at the lagoon:



Meeting our old friend Jose in the Diria town square. We found out that Jose is going to University and studying communications and media relations.



Eating lunch with our graduates and their families.




Making new friends along the way.




Elsa’s husband showing us how to make pottery.








We ended the day by going to the Apoyo Lagoon and enjoying a marimba lesson.





Our sleeping beauties at dinner.





Our first activity Sunday was attending a church service in Diria. The church was big, and many people were attending the service with us. I have only ever attended a service when I was younger, so this was a relatively new experience for me. It was all in Spanish, so I only understood a few words. It was really beautiful to see so many people come together, I could really feel the strong sense of community this village has. At one point, we exchanged handshakes with the people in the pew next to us to wish them peace. A young couple and their little girl turned around, smiled and extended their hands with warmth. This struck me because without knowing us and without words, they wished us peace. We were surrounded by young children, all of whom were dressed in colourful apparel. It was overall a really beautiful experience, one I will not be forgetting anytime soon.




After lunch, we went to visit the home, workshop and pottery shop of a woman named Elsa. Elsa only had a third grade education, but she managed to send all her children through university. Her parents thought that education wasn’t very important and that knowing a trade was more useful, so Elsa only knew how to do pottery and grew her own business from there. She also taught her husband how to do pottery and we got to see him making poetry using the wheel. After hearing her wise words about her journey and her advice to us, Elsa’s wisdom led to the question: “What is the meaning of life?” Her answer was “Love yourself. If you love your eyes, you will never put smoke in your eyes. If you love your mouth, you will never put alcohol in your mouth. If you love your feet, you will never take the wrong path. That’s the meaning of life.” I found her pottery and her story so amazing that I couldn’t help buying multiple pieces. I would see one and I would think, “I have to buy this!” Almost all of us brought at least 1 piece of pottery, though most of us bought more than that because they were just so beautifully crafted. Some of us also got to try making pottery. Elsa’s daughter was also present in the home. Her daughter was 21 years old and already had a 4 year old boy and a baby in her arms. Even though we knew that people had children at a young age, it was still shocking to us because she would have had to get pregnant at our age, which is something unimaginable for us. The children were adorable and even though we didn’t speak the same language, we were able to communicate by hand gestures and a smile. The kindness of the family, the wisdom of Elsa, and the beauty of her work made it one of my favorite experiences so far.



During lunch, we invited the 3 recent graduates and their families to join us. After a lovely lunch of sharing laughs and some spanglish sentences between the 3 graduates and myself, time had flown by over our heads and we realized it was time to part. As the families were getting up from their seats, leaving the bus to travel back to their homes, Bernarda’s father had some words of thanks he wished to express to us all. Tears were streaming down his face as he spoke to us, familiar strangers, who’ve helped changed the life of his daughter, his family and so many other young girls through the scholarship program. Without ever meeting the people a couple of rows up from me on the bus, I couldn’t stop thinking that I have made a difference in their lives and that they have changed mine. It was moving to see a father show so much emotion in front of us, being that this country has so far proven to have a very “macho man” kind of mentality. His courageousness inspired each of the parents to get up and tell us how thankful they were, show their vulnerability and share personal bits of their lives. We are lucky enough to have Ms. Bousser and Dr. Perez with us on this trip, for without them we would have much difficulty in understanding their kind words of gratitude. Each of the three graduates from our scholarship program Maria Gabriela, Bernarda, and Cynthia wanted to leave us with a couple words of thanks as well. These girls spoke to us with such eloquence, giving us warm words of advice, encouragement, and genuine hopes and wishes for our futures. I couldn’t help myself from crying when Cynthia came up to speak because I realized that she was the scholarship winner that I had voted for 4 years ago when it was my first time on the Nicaragua scholarship committee. While all three girls spoke about how thankful they were for us students, and the students involved in past trips, I had to share how these girls have changed my life. They have taught me that making connections in life is what is most important. Creating a community beyond the borders of countries has fostered such an appreciation for life in me. I’m so glad that I got the chance to be with Cynthia, Maria Gabriela, and Bernarda and to get to finally thank them for the difference they’ve made in my life. I’ll forever be thankful for them and the people I have yet to meet in Nicaragua.


Saturday, February 27

Sorry for the delay in getting the blog up and running but we were having an issue with transferring photos. Thankfully Abby saved the day by having an extra cable with her.

Our first day in Nicaragua was quite the adventure. We started off by walking through the local market, taking in the hustle and bustle of a busy Saturday morning.



We then walked over to the cooperative hammock store. The store is an amazing place that hires blind and deaf people. The girls were shown how the hammocks were woven and had the opportunity to meet people working in the store.





An ingenious way of making smoothies.


We then went to a local church to climb up the bell tower. The bell tower offered a wonderful view of the city of Granada.




The next stop was at a cigar factory. Students were shown how cigars are made and a few are bringing back cigars, hand made, for their dads.



We took a break at a chocolate museum and the girls enjoyed a cold milk chocolate made of locally grown cocoa beans. Lunch was at a fish restaurant that is made to look like you are on the beach.



We visited an archaeological museum and were shown pieces from the indigenous population.




The afternoon capped off with an organization of the donation suitcases.




Reflection – Samantha

Our first full day in Nicaragua was a revelation for me. After applying a ton of sunscreen and bug spray, we met up with Dr. Perez to begin the adventure. We set off in the streets and entered the market frequented by the locals. All of a sudden there were people everywhere. Stalls lined the streets and people hawked their goods. Then, suddenly, the stalls merged together into a covered area. The stores were grouped into sections: we passed stores selling clothing, others selling spices and some selling meats. I was struck by how the meat was lying on bare counters in the open air. I passed an entire pig’s head on the edge of a stall’s table. There was no plastic wrap in sight, and nobody wore a hair net. The market was a maze of narrow dirt paths barely covered by a tin roof… nothing could have been more different from our air-conditioned malls. More and more sections of the market unfolded, and some of them weren’t even under a roof. There were stray dogs panting and following people around. Two little children were carrying tomatoes passed me and tried to sell me their goods.

This first part of our busy day really struck me – I’ve seen a window into the daily life of the Nicaraguan people. Their reality is so different than ours. Those children shouldn’t have needed to work selling tomatoes. Each of those stalls needed a roof. The dogs should have had homes. All of these little things reflect the state of poverty that most the country is living in. Yet there was beauty all around – little children tending to their siblings, generous smiles, and even one woman warning Ms. Liogas to keep an eye on her camera. The market was a place of contrast and beauty. I can’t wait for the rest of the trip!


Getting Ready

We just finished packing the last of the donation suitcases today. They are all lined up outside my office, ready to be picked up. Two days and counting until we start our journey.