Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Definitely Worth It

Weighing sesame on our front porch
Having volunteers around us all the time is a mixed bag.  For the first nine years we were in Nicaragua, volunteers and delegations stayed in our home.  Our office was in our homeOur home was the center and the center was our home. 

Volunteers bring different perspectives and we have made good, lasting, wonderful friendships with many of the people who have come down...friendships that I would never want to give up. 

But it is also draining with volunteers and staff in and out of our home, and occasionally we have volunteers who don't work out.    

Hosting volunteers is really a small part of what we do and it falls under the category of education...educating internationals to the reality of life here in Nicaragua.  As we get older we wonder if this education part of our work has any impact.  Today this came in from a volunteer who came a few years ago:

Before I volunteered with the CDCA in Nica I wasn't really sure what I wanted to do with my degree or my life.  The experience of working in the Nueva Vida Clinic, being a part of a community driven NGO, learning about the history of Nicaragua, and seeing the poverty that people lived changed my life completely.  When I got back to NY I began to study the history of the US and other Latin American countries and was profoundly disturbed...

Right now, I am very happily living in Chile and beginning my journey here.  I firmly [believe] that I would be in a completely different place in my life right now if not for my time in the CDCA. I think one of the most important aspects of the CDCA for me was the unbelievable warmth in reception of new volunteers into the community (us eating dinner at night with the family, allowing us into your home, etc), but the unwillingness to sugarcoat reality for us. For example, unlike other NGOs who are possibly more hierarchical and mechanic[al] in their daily routines, we felt very clearly the stresses as well as the successes of the CDCA.  We were trusted to make smart decisions, as you gave us the autonomy to learn stick shift and drive ourselves to work, decide what to do on the weekends. You trusted me and gave me creative space to work in the Green Pharmacy. We weren't coddled, and in this way, we were treated as equal members of the community.  And that was incredible...

I know that sometimes the work you all do can be thankless. Like I said, my life has taken a course that has everything to do with my time in CDCA, so there are literally not words that can express my gratitude; all I can do right now is say thank you…

It's good to know that hosting volunteers sometimes does have an impact. -- Kathleen