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Student Testimonial: Ryan Mavretish

Ryan Mvratish is a sophomore from Keuka College, New York. He spent his winter break here in Nicaragua helping build houses with the 4 Walls Project. Here is his account of his experience here:

Wow. Just wow. This experience was the most eye opening experiences I have had in my whole life. Going into it I thought that we were just going to be following directions to build this simple house for some people down in Nicaragua. I was so far off. Yes we were following directions to build a house but we were alongside our newly made friends the whole time. No, we didn’t speak the same language but that did not stop anyone one bit from interacting and figuring out how to get around the language barrier on a daily basis. You get to know the family you are building for on a personal level and it touches your heart to know you are helping such a loving a deserving family. You arrive to an already fast paced worksite everyday and are thrown right into it. You work right next to the mason who is putting in just as much(usually more) work than you are every single day. The family is around and helping out in whatever capacity they can. It was absolutely amazing to see just how thankful they family was to have us there helping to build this four wall house for them. Walking up to the worksite everyday, it was amazing to see the progress that was made and to think about how much hard work everyone had put in to get to the point we were at.

You build bonds that you will never forget. My partner for a wheelbarrowing task was Abel, who was the son of the mother within the house. On our trips through the woods he would point out cool things such as “mariposas” or “floras” and show them to me as we were walking. I found this heartwarming as he knew I did not speak much Spanish, however, he still wanted to communicate with me and did not let a language barrier get in the way of that. On one of our trips through the woods he out his hands up and told me to wait and follow him. As I peaked up ahead I noticed two very large wild dogs on the path. Abel proceeded confidently forward and scared off the dogs with the rock he had picked up. I told him thank you and as we continued our walk I gathered that those two dogs were not very nice and had bitten one of his friends before. This just further solidified my feeling and I was very grateful that he put himself at risk to protect me and make sure I was okay.

This whole trip has truly opened my eyes to realize how easy I have it in my daily life. I take so much for granted and am not thankful enough for what I do have. These families are not complaining or thinking about what they could have, they are thankful for what they do have, even if it is not a lot. They did not care that we were not from there, they wanted to include us in every single thing they did and we made it work. When you are fully immersed within a culture you will learn so much more than how they live their daily life, as I experienced first-hand on this trip. You learn so much about yourself, and how to become a better person because of the bonds and friendships that you will never forget.

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