Kindergarten Assistant in primary schools in Nicaragua
For me, this program was great because it was one of my first times traveling internationally on my own. I appreciated the fact that they really treat you like adults - they just require that you... Eli Schwartz
Health and Safety
La Esperanza Granada
Submitted by Eli Schwartz - Goucher College | October 23, 2015
For me, this program was great because it was one of my first times traveling internationally on my own. I appreciated the fact that they really treat you like adults - they just require that you be at your assigned school every day, and the rest of the time is yours. The entire experience is really what you make of it. Some volunteers do come for the wrong reasons - i.e. they are more interested in partying than helping the kids, and tend to not show up to school sometimes. These people do detract from the volunteer experience a little bit because it's discouraging when not everybody is as invested as you are, but luckily there are not many like that. Some of my best memories are walking home from school through the market, stopping to get a fresco or fresh organic produce from street vendors, feeling great after a day's work. What you do at your school is largely up to you. You can sit in the corner and wait for the day to be over, or you can engage with your students and give them your all for the four hours that you're there. The ayudantes will assign you to a classroom, but you can easily ask to switch or even introduce your own ideas. One of the volunteers on my team was a primary school teacher from Spain, and was really dynamic in terms of taking the lead on projects and activities for the students. The organization is really defined by its volunteers more than the administrators.
There are several options for housing. You can do a homestay, stay in the volunteer housing, or get your own apartment. I stayed in the volunteer housing. It was sort of like college - just a house with a bunch of 20-something hanging out all the time. The accommodations are basic, but remember you are in a developing country, so don't expect things like air conditioning. You are roughing it a little but at least for me, the overall experience more than made up for a little discomfort.
The public market in Granada is amazing. There are fresh mangos, bananas, pineapple, vegetables, and everything you could want hidden in the crowded stalls for prices that are incredibly cheap by first world standards.
Many volunteers also take the opportunity to travel around Nicaragua and Central America, either before or after their volunteer experience. Weekend trips are also common, to relatively nearby destinations such as the island of Omotepe, the northern coffee-growing highlands of Nicaragua, and San Juan del Sur, to name a few. One of the perks of being a La Esperanza volunteer is that you always have a group of cheery traveling companions.
As for safety, it's mostly your responsibility to use common sense and follow the recommendations of La Esperanza and the community as far as taking a taxi after dark and traveling in groups. Volunteers are occasionally victims of crime, but never violent - usually teenagers who run up, snatch your purse or backpack and disappear. Walking through certain neighborhoods late at night is risking a mugging, just like any other city in the world. The standard price for a taxi is 20 cordobas (a little less than one dollar) per person to go anywhere in Granada, and taxis are everywhere, so be smart and take a taxi after dark.
You'll have a much better time and make more of an impact if you're at least conversational in Spanish. My Spanish was subpar when I arrived, but I took lessons provided by La Esperanza and learned pretty quickly, although it was difficult at first.
Do La Esperanza!!!!