Teen volunteers with VISIONS Nicaragua will visit what is one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere to work on projects that address issues surrounding poverty and natural resources. Projects include the construction of potable water systems, the construction of a two-story community center, and volunteering at a summer day camp for children. Participants will have the opportunity to practice Spanish while working alongside local friends, and while visiting a “green” coffee farm, hiking through cloud forests, and exploring the Bosawás biosphere reserve.
Nicaragua is second only to Haiti as the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Our partner there is Asociación de Voluntarios para del Desarrollo Comunitario (AVODEC), a nonprofit that tackles issues surrounding poverty and natural resources. VISIONS teens have constructed numerous potable water systems, bringing clean drinking water to communities that never imagined such a luxury. In addition to water projects, you will help build a two-story community center that will serve in part as a facility for visiting physicians who perform vital surgeries. You also will have the chance to volunteer at a summer day camp for children, teaching crafts and basic English.
AVODEC is a grassroots organization that does sustainable development projects and improves the quality of life for rural Nicaraguans. Engineers, environmentalists and community planners at AVODEC build potable water systems serving hundreds of people, construct community centers and schools, and even organize monthly visits from U.S. doctors who tend healthcare needs.
Nicaraguans embrace life with openness and optimism. The culture is social and lively, and we spend many afternoons after work doing what Nicaraguans do—playing sports and games with kids, exploring town, hiking the popular Peña de la Cruz for a panoramic view of Jinotega, taking dance lessons and going out for a couple of karaoke nights. You will visit an historic cathedral, host a guest speaker who was an instrumental peacemaker during wartime, prepare local foods with our cook, and break into pairs for weekly “dinner stays” with families. You will be able to practice your Spanish skills and return home having made local friends you’ll yearn to visit again.
"I loved making friends and spending time with Nicaraguan people. I felt I was able to make real connections."
We visit at an ecological coffee farm, seeing coffee production from start to finish, and hiking to scenic vistas. You will spend a day learning the craft of black pottery and also visit Mercado Viejo, Nicaragua’s largest artisan market. Explore the Bosawás biosphere reserve, the second biggest rainforest in the Americas. Spend a day and night at Laguna de Apoyo, a stunning crater lake where you can kayak, swim, and take in Nicaragua's ecological abundance.
We live together as a group in a large home in one of Jinotega’s neighborhoods. There are showers and bathrooms, a kitchen and communal space, separate sleeping quarters for boys and girls, and a bunk bed awaiting each person.
Service projects are five days a week and usually end mid-afternoon. You get to choose your worksite each day, one of which is the primary construction site. Once a week, you will be on “homebase crew” instead of a worksite. This crew of a few participants and a leader makes breakfast, goes to local markets to buy food for the next meals, does laundry, and takes in a “day in the life” of northern Nicaragua.
Afternoons after work are for cultural activities and nearby outings: games with local kids, chatting with neighbors, short hikes, workshops, and plenty of opportunities to practice Spanish. Weekends and a few other days are set aside for travel and excursions during the first session. The second, shorter session includes some of the same highlights as the first session, but condensed into afternoons and one full-day excursion.
Meals include vegetarian and meat options, and a local cook prepares all our dinners. A few evenings a week, we have group meetings to talk through the cultural and volunteer experience.
VISIONS is not a teen tour with a day-to-day travel itinerary. Instead we settle in to our home and are part of the fabric of daily life. The itineraries provide an overview of some of our activities in Nicaragua.