Hayley Arduini '19 GIVEs Back In Nicaragua

Hayley Arduini '19 GIVEs Back In Nicaragua
BEVERLY, Mass. – Endicott softball student-athlete Hayley Arduini '19 (Southington, Conn.) recently completed a volunteer project in Jiquilillo, Nicaragua from June 10-20. Here's what the recent liberal studies/education graduate had to say about her 10-day service trip with GIVE, an organization that offers once-in-a-lifetime volunteer abroad programs. GIVE's goal is to transform the lives of its volunteers by igniting in them new passions and inspiring personal growth.  

ECGULLS: Describe your volunteer experience in Nicaragua. 

ARDUINI: During my time in Nicaragua, we were working on a housing development project that helps to take families that are in danger of losing their homes or have already lost them because of rising sea levels. Jiquilillo and its surrounding communities live directly between the ocean and an estuary, making them extremely vulnerable to the issues that the rising tides cause. While working in Jiquilillo, we were lucky enough to build a home for a woman named Dona Socorro. She is almost 50 years old with two young kids going through primary school. Her home was destroyed last year so since then, she's been left to squat in the vacant homes that were abandoned around the community. We were able to complete more than half of the house during our 10 days there, and the next volunteer group to come in will get to complete it. Dona was with us every day on the work site, helping to stack bricks, move cement, and bless us with her beautiful smile. It was extremely humbling to see the hard work and dedication a 50-year-old woman was putting in alongside us to help better the life of her children and the future of her family. Although there was a language barrier, a simple smile and hello went a long way, and every morning we were greeted with just that from her. She was so thankful for our help and every day we felt that gratitude. The mornings in the heat, dripping in sweat and covered in dirt, never phased any of us because what we were doing was going to bring ease to a family that deserves the world. 

ECGULLS: Besides re-building a home, what else did you do in Nicaragua? 

One of the things we did while in Nicaragua was teach English at one of GIVE's first big projects - The Bottle School. Each of those white, star-like paintings on the walls are the bottom of two-liter Coca-Cola bottles. Each bottle was tightly packed with dirt and utilized as a brick, with concrete to secure them together, in order to build the walls of the school! We taught voluntary English classes every afternoon for about two-to-three hours, lessons ranging from ABC's to body parts to simple conversations such as "how are you?" and "My name is..." and etc. There are also computer classes available in order to teach students of all ages the basics in Microsoft as well as opening tabs and saving documents! Every day at the English school, I got the chance to work either one-on-one or in small groups with children ranging from ages 7-24. Each student I got to work with had such a strong passion to learn and improve their English. It was one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had working with students. At first, it was tough, the language barrier was hard especially working with children that knew no English. But that never stopped or discouraged the students from wanting to learn, they continuously amazed me with their drive and desire to learn. It truly was an incredible experience getting to work with these children and it ultimately furthered my desire to want to be an educator one day. Many would say that I was changing these students' lives, but they were the ones changing mine. 

(photo from The Bottle School)

ECGULLS: What else did you experience on your volunteer trip?

My time in Nicaragua was not just spent building and teaching. We also took an estuary tour with a Jiquilillo local, Ramon, who gave us a tour of the estuary, and taught us all about mangroves and we were also given the opportunity to plant our own mangrove. On our tour, our boat got stuck due to low tide so as a solution we all just hopped out of the boat and continued to walk the rest of the way... knee deep in mud. From there, we hiked up a mountain to watch the sunset and get a view of all of Jiquilillo and see where the ocean meets the estuary. We were also offered a variety of cultural activities in Jiquilillo like a tortilla class, a cheese class, and my favorite - surf lessons! All of these activities were given to us by Jiquilillo locals and they were all so eager to invite us into their homes and teach us something that they are all passionate about! On our day off, we got to hike up Central America's most active volcano - Cerro Negro! The hike took about an hour but once we got to the top we got to take in all the amazing views. Now, to get down the volcano... we suited up and sled down to the bottom. Truly an experience I will never forget! We spent the rest of the day in the city of Leon learning the history of Nicaragua, visiting cathedrals and shopping. 

ECGULLS: What did this trip make you realize about your pursuit of becoming an educator? 

When I first came across the GIVE program, I knew right away that this was something that I wanted to do for a while. I had always said that I wanted to use my love for teaching to change lives and help others that needed it the most! GIVE gave me that opportunity along with many other life-changing experiences. I knew that going on a trip like this was going to change my whole perspective on life, but I had no idea how strong that change was going to be. The people that I met were some of the most genuine, kind-hearted people I have ever known. Their hearts are filled with so much love and for a community that may seem like they don't have much, they are some of the happiest people I have ever encountered. Everyone that I walked past always had the biggest smile on their face. Jiquilillo has such a special place in my heart, and I am forever grateful for all that this place did for me! From the staff, to the locals, and to the other volunteers on the trip with me, I have made connections and relationships that I know will last a lifetime. I learned from this trip that a little goes a long way. It is important to realize that we all can make a difference and it is important to realize that. Use your privilege, your ability, your strength, and your youth, to make a difference. And my favorite quote given to me on this trip was, "Sometimes you may feel like you're just a drop in the ocean, but the ocean is made of many drops."


GIVE's sustainable development initiatives also have a lasting impact on the communities it serves and the volunteers who engage with them. Unlike other volunteer abroad programs, GIVE's volunteers stay involved long after their experience ends, becoming lifelong global citizens and goodwill ambassadors. 

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(Photo Credit - Hayley Arduini '19)