Community service is a big part of a high school student’s summer, as many people at MAST can relate to, whether it be Shake-a-Leg or soccer camp. Sophomore Olivia Mayorga took her community service all the way to Managua, the poorest city in Nicaragua. She ventured 1,021 miles with the Manos del Sur organization. Most of the volunteers spoke Spanish, but anyone was able to join.
For one week Mayorga slept in a hostel and shared a room with two other girls. During the day, she and other volunteers were at Escuela Pan y Amor, a school run by Manos del Sur, teaching students the value and importance of education. Many of the children are at a high risk of succumbing to a life of drugs, gangs, and prostitution, given the harsh circumstances.
The organization tries to offer the children an education and useful life skills in hopes that the kids will lead productive and happy lives. Certain children are pulled out of class for extra help in math and/or reading.
The first day of the program was Mayorga’s favorite memory of the whole trip. The principal showed the volunteers around the school and had them each assigned to a grade. She remembers walking into the classroom, a little bit nervous, and being attacked by a sea of children giving her hugs. Mayorga was shocked by how they treated her like they had known her their whole lives and were so grateful that the volunteers had traveled all this way to their country.What made this trip special to her was the kids.
“I saw as the days were passing by, that even though the kids [in Nicaragua] didn’t have the best life or living accommodations, they still enjoyed every second they had in school,” Mayorga said. She recalls one day when the school boys used a plastic Coca-Cola bottle as a soccer ball.
“They make the best out of everything with what they have available,” Mayorga said. On some days they would do other activities such as making bracelets, decorating pencil boxes or cheering on their favorite teams in the World Cup. Mayorga decided to spend part of her summer doing this because of the things she had heard from people that had gone before, such as her older sister, who raved about how much fun the trip was.
“I really wanted a different experience and I knew I was going to learn a lot from this trip. Not only do [the kids] learn from you, but you also learn from them,” Mayorga said.
This was Mayorga’s first time in Nicaragua and it changed her perspective on her own life. She realized just how much people take things for granted, such as a great education. Mayorga came back from Nicaragua even more grateful for the life she has.
“People need to stop whining about what they can’t have and appreciate what they already do,” Mayorga said.