November 17, 2016
I had the opportunity during my undergrad at Fresno State along with 14 other males to go abroad to Nicaragua for one week and provide the service of building a home for a family of six. Doing the manual labor was difficult for all of us, due to the humidity that our group was not accustomed to and the lack of proper tools to help expedite the process. Some of the tasks we completed to build the home consisted of bending and cutting wires, using a wheelbarrow to transport materials from one site to another, leveling the floor for the foundation by shoveling dirt, and preparing the concrete that was used to hold the structure together by mixing gravel and sand in a bucket with cement. Our group helped in building the walls and participated in mounting the roof.
Prior to our arrival, this family had experienced flooding in their home caused by a rain storm. With our help of leveling the floors, this would no longer be an issue. This experience helped me realize that with the career path I have chosen, I can apply the knowledge I learn in the classroom and contribute to communities that require assistance.
My experience in Nicaragua impacted me personally and professionally. As a student majoring in Civil Engineering at Fresno State, it was eye opening to see all the hard work that went into creating the project. I realized that engineering is not only a career that carries wealth and a considerable amount of prestige, it has the potential to impact the lives of many people at the same time.
I noticed the growth of my group as we interacted with the local inhabitants in Nicaragua. Personally, coming from a low social-economic background and growing up in Mexico, I could relate to some of the issues that Nicaraguans encountered such as having a difficult time searching for employment, having limited access to education, and unemployment being at a high of 15%-20%. Most of the population in the Nicaraguan community brought income by working in the fishing or the service industry.
During one of our reflection activities, we took a chance to explore the backgrounds of our group by measuring the amount of privilege we thought we had. Through this activity we had the opportunity to notice that some of us are more privileged than others. Some of us had the privilege of a better education, growing up in a better neighborhood or the privilege of having a supportive family. This activity allowed us to appreciate the diversity within ourselves and helped us understand how sometimes we take the things we have at home for granted. For these people, a fraction of the things we possess does not compare to the things they currently have or will ever have the opportunity to experience. Jolvin, one of the boys who lived in the house we worked on, was amazed at the ability of a phone to take a picture. He was entertained for hours taking pictures while we worked. We were able to talk to him for short periods of time and found out his soccer ball was flat and that he could not afford to get another one. The group decided to buy him a new ball. He was ecstatic to have received that gift. When he invited his friends to play, the first thing they asked him was who had given him the ball. They immediately assumed correctly that his family could not afford to purchase a new soccer ball and that someone must have purchased it for him.
During our final reflection in Nicaragua, our group reminisced on the memories we created and we collectively discussed some of the accomplishments of the entire trip. Through our week with the family and members of the community we noticed a grand level of appreciation towards the time, effort and donations made. The level of happiness and gratitude that they expressed was something few of us in the group had ever witnessed in the United States. Most importantly, we had the opportunity to change the lives of the families. Within one week, we made a long lasting impact that will help improve the living conditions of the family that occupied that home.
The consensus of the group was that the week went by extremely fast and we wished we had the opportunity to stay longer.