Volunteer Name: Sally Spalding
Project Location: Managua, Nicaragua
Program Dates: May 17-June 7
Volunteered at: Social Welfare
What was your favorite memory of this trip?
I don't have one favorite memory that stands out. There were a lot of things I loved about my trip: the food, the work, the people. But I would say that my favorite memories are those where I'm joking around with the people I worked and lived with. It's difficult to adapt your personality and sense of humor into a second language and to understand enough to be able to follow conversations. I truly enjoyed the moments when I could engage in a witty exchange with the subtle and hilarious people I worked and lived with.
What was the most difficult thing you experienced?
The first few days of volunteer work were the hardest because my expectations of what I would be doing and learning were butting up against the reality of my day to day experience. I felt that I was learning more than I was contributing and that made me feel a little guilty. But then I just accepted the fact that the staff had a better idea of their own needs than I did and I should just go with the flow. I ended up learning a lot and contributing to the organization in ways I never anticipated.
What was the one thing you wished you were better prepared for?
Honestly, I can't think of anything. Yes, Nicaragua is very different from where I've grown up: poverty is both present and incredibly visible, there's a lot more litter than you'd see in a lot of cities of equivalent size in the US, there are a lot more people in the street. But those are all things I anticipated. I wish I'd packed more comfortable pants and less pairs of shorts. Despite the hot climate in Nicaragua people tend to where pants more often than not. This is especially true if you're going to be any work with older people or working in a school.
Any tips for future volunteers… (clothing, travel, personal items, donations, sightseeing etc)
Don't just jump into any cab. Ask the people you're working or living with to call a cab they trust. Decide before you come what you'd like to do on your weekends and your goals for the trip. I was more interested in getting to know the people I was living and working with so I didn't do a lot of solo adventures over the weekend. I saw less stuff but got to spend more time with people. Figure out possible excursions before you come so that you're reading to go if you decide you want to, it's okay if your preferences change over the course of the trip. Mine did.
How would you describe/rate your experience working with the ABV staff in the USA?
The ABV staff in the USA were very prompt with responses and answering any questions I had thoroughly.
How was the local ABV Director and the support provided in-country?
My ABV Director was great. Not only did she plan a program that fit all of my interests, but she would use her free time to visit places in Managua with me during the weekend. She was very adamant about making sure I got the most from my trip.
Personal Paragraph (ABV Program Testimonial):
When I began searching for a volunteer opportunity abroad I knew I wanted a program that offered Spanish immersion and a program that would allow me to work closely with women in the local community and stay with a local family. ABV's program in Nicaragua allowed me to do both. I had an excellent immersion experience with regular classes in grammar, speaking, and listening with a great instructor. The program developed for me allowed me to interact with various groups of women from many walks of life and develop relationships with several of them. The host family I stayed with where incredibly generous and accommodating. One of the main concerns I and my family had as I was planning my trip was safety. While staying in Nicaragua I never felt unsafe. I was always accompanied or directed to my destinations to insure my safety. Based on my experience, it's true that Nicaragua is the safest country in Central America.
Are you willing to speak to other potential ABV volunteers? Yes.