This January, Enlace Project worked with 4 Walls Project to organize Keuka College’s first trip to El Sauce. During their stay, the students worked with three families to build their 4Walls houses, explored Nicaraguan culture and built friendships with Sauceños across linguistic and cultural boundaries. Jen Cottet, a freshman studying Child and Family Studies at Keuka, shared about her experience in El Sauce:
This January, I was given the opportunity to travel to El Sauce with nine students and three faculty members from Keuka College. This was my first time traveling out of the country. I had no idea what to expect and truly feared what was to come. I was afraid that I was not going to be able to connect with people in Nicaragua due to the language barrier, but I learned quickly that that was the furthest thing from the truth.
I was able to work with the 4 Walls Project to help build a home for a local family while I was there. Walking on the worksite the first day was eye-opening, heart-wrenching, and humbling. It is simple to flip a page in a social studies book about developing countries, but when you are submerged in the culture and finally understand how people are living, it becomes more real. Before we started building, the house was made of cardboard, plastic, tree branches, nails, and bottle caps. I could not imagine living in those conditions, fully exposed to bugs, animals, and the weather.
To say the least, my heart was on fire to build a house after I set eyes on what this beautiful family was living in before. The first day I got down to work and got filthy. I mixed cement, carried buckets of cement, carried buckets of water, filled the spaces between the bricks in the wall with cement, and most importantly I began to make connections with complete strangers who now feel like family. It was the most amazing experience because we overcame the language barrier and worked together to create a beautiful home and hope for the future. Overall, the most amazing part of this experience was growing so close to these people and seeing how they truly have a desire to create hope for their future. Seeing how hard they worked everyday of their life created a humble spirit in me and taught me to be so much more thankful for what I have here in the US. They are so full of joy and have taught me to enjoy what I have around me rather than desiring more.
I journaled the entire time I was in Nicaragua and when I returned to the United States I wrote a letter to Nicaragua. The last few sentences sum up my heart after this trip: “Your hearts are big and have gained a piece of mine because I truly love your country and hope to visit again someday very soon. Thank you for helping me to appreciate the small things in life; family, running water, cold drinks, bathrooms, my job, my house, and the people I love.”
Truly, the people in Nicaragua have blessed my life and taught me so much and I hope to return there as soon as I can.