SPRINGFIELD, Ohio – A group of Wittenberg students broke the mold of the typical college spring break and headed to the impoverished Central American nation of Nicaragua, intent on making a difference. The students made the most of a hands-on opportunity to make a difference in a community while gaining a new perspective on life.
This trip is a life-altering experience for any person,” said Carly Dahs, class of 2007 of Sandusky, Ohio.
Dahs, who was making her third spring break visit to Nicaragua as the student leader, was one of seven Wittenberg students who dedicated their spring break to helping others. The group of students was accompanied by Miguel Martinez-Saenz, assistant professor of philosophy, who organized the trip for a fourth consecutive year.
The group travelled to Nicaragua with Bridges to Community, a New York-based non-profit organization that takes volunteers to developing countries to help build stronger communities.
When the students first arrived they did some sightseeing and participated in the usual tourist activities. Yet the real experience began with orientation. Here the group was informed about the community in which it would be living and working, La Borgoña in Ticuantepe, Nicaragua.
From Monday through Thursday the Wittenberg group worked on a total of six different houses. Family members in the community were encouraged to work with the group to help construct their new homes.
“While you are there you really see how grateful the families are that you are willing to leave your home, your family and your friends to help build a house for them,” Dahs said.
The trip was not a typical relaxing vacation that most college students embark on during spring break. Instead, the group performed a variety of laborious tasks as they poured cement, laid bricks and bent steel to reinforce the houses’ foundations.
Also during the week, Bridges to Community arranged a variety of activities to help the students gain a more comprehensive perspective about the community, the culture and Nicaragua itself. For example, a woman came to talk about the health issues of Nicaragua, and the students spent a day working and conversing with Nicaraguan university students. All of these activities contributed to a more extensive view of Nicaragua and its daily issues for the students.
A dedication ceremony was held for the families that had new homes built for them, and a farewell dinner included everyone in the community. On the last night in Nicaragua, a closing service gave everyone the opportunity to share and reflect upon important aspects or moments from the week.
“This trip has inspired me in many ways,” Dahs said. It has inspired my future, my outlook on life, and my outlook of the world.”
Joining Dahs and Martinez-Saenz on the trip were Lisa Bendure, class of 2006 of Springfield, Ohio, Lee Ann Dahs (Carly’s mother) of Sandusky, Ohio, Sara Hummel, class of 2007 of Gahanna, Ohio, Shannon Kesl, class of 2007 of Springfield, Ohio, Andrea Leistikow, class of 2007 of London, Ohio, John Lohman, class of 2006 of Saint Paul, Minn., and Jessica McClish, class of 2007 of Shelby, Ohio.
- Alecia Dimar '06