Photo of Student in Nicaragua

Nicaragua: Finding Common Ground

In May a group of McKendreans landed in the capital city of Managua, eager to begin ten days of cultural immersion and curious to learn about Nicaragua’s history and political, economic, faith and social issues. Different from a service-focused mission, this adventure “was a risk and an experiment,” said Chaplain Tim Harrison, who led the trip with Jessica Trout, program coordinator of the Lyn Huxford Center for Community Service.

“It was a way to find common ground with faith, social justice, travel abroad, connecting to people who are different than us, and finding ways to incorporate all those aspects into a trip that might engage and entice students, faculty, staff and alumni to go on that journey together. I feel we were very successful.”

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The group spent three days and nights in San Francisco Libre, a small town 70 miles from Managua, staying with host families from the non-profit organizations Youth Against Network Violence and Women in Community. They toured a sweatshop and met a former worker who became a national union organizer; and visited Cantera, an after-school arts and educational program for low income youth in the Ciudad Sandino neighborhood.

Participants reflect on their journey here and in a video produced by Nate Luber, digital assets coordinator.

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It was great to have conversations with people who live in another country about service, community relations, solidarity, accompaniment and global citizenship. The last night we had a dance party with our host families and at the end of it, one of the youth expressed how meaningful it was to him that we came to learn about their work. It was a beautiful interaction.

~ Jessica Trout, program coordinator, Lyn Huxford Center for Community Service


Nicaragua Immersion Trip


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I wanted to immerse myself in an environment that I really didn’t understand before and open my mind to why I believe the things I do. You shouldn’t judge others by the way they are living. This trip helped me understand people who are impoverished but happy.

~ Yatzia Montero ’17



Nicaragua Immersion Trip 

Quotation GraphicI saw how selfless people in Nicaragua are. I Learned that I am very privileged in the States and even though I am a college student and don't have much, I still have much more then they can even imagine. Entering Nicaragua I came to that realization.

~ Samantha Fagerburg '17



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I initially was interested in this trip as an opportunity to be immersed in Spanish and practice translating, but I gained so much more from it in the end. Perhaps my favorite aspect was our opportunity to spend a couple of nights with a family. It gave me an appreciation for the value people place in their surroundings no matter what they are. One of my career goals is to work with Spanish-speaking immigrants and their communities in the United States. Many of their most prevalent issues, such as gender inequality, teen pregnancy and poverty, also turned out to be the focus of many organizations in Nicaragua. It was incredible to learn exactly what types of interventions people within these communities were implementing, and it kind of felt like I was going straight to the source.

~ Tori Cook ’15


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It was my first time out of the country. I was already appreciative of everything I have but now I’ll be extra appreciative. I kind of grew in my faith a little bit while I was here. This trip opened my eyes to my world in comparison to other worlds. The fact that I have running water I can get out of a faucet … just those little things I won’t take for granted anymore.

~ Chandler Airaghi ’18


Nicaragua Immersion Trip

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I don’t think you can go to another culture and just be a tourist and get anything from it to change your heart and change your mind. This trip definitely pushed me to live outside my comfort zone … which is a beautiful place where nothing grows.

~ Hannah Dean ’18





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Immersion calls us to go deeper than sometimes service and mission opportunities afford. I think our culture is in a “do” mode; we often want to “do” things for other people. Immersion is really more about “being,” about going alongside and learning and connecting to and engaging in relationship building. It is much more internal than it is external. It’s about learning to grow within ourselves and learning how we can grow in relationships with others who live in other parts of the world - people we’ve never met, strangers. We found there are a lot of similar issues we deal with all the time, regardless of where we’re located. It’s about listening and learning and growing to value and respect other people.

"Accompaniment, which is also part of what we were trying to accomplish, is a costly act. It’s not just about painting somebody’s fence or building somebody’s house and then walking away and it’s done. Accompaniment requires us to continually build that relationship, not just in one day or one week, but over a course of time. That’s the harder challenge for us as a group - to think about how we can build bridges on a long-term basis.

~ The Reverend Dr. Tim Harrison, chaplain


Drs. Janice Wiegmann and Karan Onstott wanted to learn about health care in Nicaragua and to travel with students as they prepare to take a Global Health class to Malawi, Africa next spring. The professors also enjoyed a unique mother-daughter opportunity, as Lesley Onstott and Kate (Wiegmann) Ripperda joined their mothers on the journey.


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I was interested in taking a group of students to a Central American county to investigate and learn more about their health care systems. There were a lot of aspects about the home stay that made an impact on me. I appreciate what they did with what they had, and how quickly we could interact. We have seen people do so much with so little.

~ Dr. Karan Onstott, associate professor of health promotion and wellness


Quotation GraphicWe learned about the chronic conditions that people have and the people who take care of them, rather than us taking care of them, for them. Even in a different part of the world, people have the same issues, such as reproductive issues and domestic violence, but because of limited resources they aren’t able to handle them in the same way.

~ Dr. Janice Wiegmann, RN, professor of nursing