In the month of September, Enlace Project had the pleasure of welcoming back an old friend. Colleen Dunham, who has come down to El Sauce for three extended visits since 2011—the first for a month, the second for six weeks, and this time for three weeks—has become enchanted with the welcoming people and culture of rural Nicaragua.
Colleen explains that she came upon El Sauce by luck, when she was looking to travel during a “significant milestone” of her life. She came in contact with members of Rochester’s 4 Walls Project, and later the staff of Enlace Project. It wasn't long after her first meeting with Bonnie Yannie of 4WP that she was convinced and bought a ticket to travel. While she was expecting a calm, reflecting experience, what she found was somewhat different; she admits that when Enlace Project staff member Juan Mairena picked her up and told her she was to start working on a house the next day, she was taken by surprise.
Nonetheless, the experience was definitely worthwhile. By sitting in on Enlace Project’s English classes, she quickly made friends with Peace Corps volunteer Rachel Ropkey and several Nicaraguan students from the class. Student Jahaira Lira, who is now in level 2 in the advanced class, would invite her over to meet her parents and do her hair. Pepe Hernandez, who leads 4 Walls Project efforts, also became a good friend, despite the initial language barrier. “I thought I would feel excluded, but I never did,” she admits.
Since the initial trip, Colleen has learned a great deal about Nicaragua, and is taking Spanish classes in Buffalo. This trip she came down to visit families that she has become close to and work on a house for 4 Walls Project. Joining her is Andrew Schantz, who had never traveled to Nicaragua before. While he notes that there have been some challenging moments, he also explains that it has provided him with many new insights.
Colleen says the thing that struck her most was the disparity of wealth between Nicaragua and the United States. She explains that many of the material things and opportunities that we have in the U.S. simply aren’t available here. However, in return, Sauceños also possess some qualities that are harder to come by in the U.S. Namely: “resourcefulness, patience, and generosity.” Colleen, and possibly Andy as well, will return to El Sauce for sure in the future. In the meantime, their experiences of the most recent trip are sure to stay with them.
“If there is one thing I want to say about El Sauce, it’s this: Just come. It’s easy, inexpensive, and life-changing.”