NICARAGUA May 2017
Open your Mind, Change your View, Leave your Mark by / STACEY BURLING The premise behind the NoFilter program is that in order to understand and give meaning to what is going on in the world, you have to see the world. For example, the places I’ve visited and the things I’ve done in these places have contributed to a large part of who I am. If you were to look at the world through the lens I have created you would see that I believe travel has the ability to open minds and hearts, expand ones’ thinking, and breed tolerance - all things that are fundamentally good for societies. While we may think we have ourselves figured out, these
personal constructs are always in flux. There is always a new experience to be had, new people to meet, and new things to try that will shape us into who we are. A question was asked of me the first night in Nicaragua - what are you most looking forward to? What I love most about traveling, and traveling with others, is to see what is gained from the overall experience. Whether it’s learning more about who they are as a person, seeing things with a new perspective, creating meaningful relationships, expanding their awareness, etc., it’s different
for each individual. It is especially wonderful for me to witness the student-athletes test hypotheses about the world, and revise them as they have different experiences throughout the week. The following pages will give you a deeply personal look through the student-athletes’ lenses as they describe their eight days spent in Nicaragua. It’ll become evident that how the student-athletes viewed life before traveling to Nicaragua is much different now that we have returned. They have opened their minds, changed their views about the world, and in the process, consolidated a new set of personal constructs that will leave a mark on who they are for the rest of their lives. To those who contribute financially to the NoFilter
program, thank you for recognizing this experience is more than just a service trip abroad. To the student-athletes who traveled to Nicaragua, thank you for being inquisitive and driven by your own explorations to make sense of everything that was around you, as well as revising those constructs in light of your experiences. And lastly, to Nicaragua and the Seeds of Learning organization, thank you for being part of our journey – you are central in shaping how we will continue to explore.
BRIANA HOLMAN / VOLLEYBALL I went on the NoFilter trip to the Dominican Republic last year and the impact it had on me was very humbling, life changing and meaningful. Since returning from the trip, I have a completely new perspective on life. I will be honest, there are little things that we have here in America that I took for granted and never thought about prior to going on the trip. Things such as running water, electricity, refrigerators, and so many other things. The trip not only made me a better person, it also made me a better athlete, student and daughter. It made me better because I got a chance to experience the problems that other people in the world face. It made me realize that my problems are never as big as they seem and that there is always someone out there who has it worse. I know that by going on this trip again I will continue to change and be shown that there is so much more to life. Needless to say, I am excited to get to Nicaragua and get to work! I feel that this yearâ€™s trip will be so much more rewarding. I also feel that this project will have more of an impact on the community. This project will directly affect these childrenâ€™s education. School is very important and knowledge is power. These children are in poverty. When in poverty and surrounded by it, it is hard to get out. I feel that I am giving them a chance by helping to improve their education. A chance to learn and a chance to better themselves.
Sunday, May 7 / NoFilter
“I think as human beings we owe it to each other to
help one another. Our purpose may vary amongst individuals; however, we all have kind hearts. We all care. We all feel. We all have someone we love.”
My whole life I’ve always wanted to do something like this. It’s not only a way for me to travel, but also a way to help people. We’ve finally made it to Nicaragua and it is so hot! It’s like scorching hot, but I am so excited for tomorrow. Funny story is I was supposed to go on the trip last year but my dog ate my passport (literally ate it). So, I’m just so happy to be here right now. Being a part of this special group makes me realize how impactful this experience is going to be. My purpose for this trip is to love, care and feel in ways that I never have before. I really believe in the NoFilter slogan, “Open your mind, change your view, leave your mark.” I hope that I leave from this trip better than I came in. ESTHER RAMACIERI / BASKETBALL
NoFilter / Sunday, May 7
We woke up in extreme humidity under our nets used to protect us from bugs, scorpions, etc. Thank the Lord for fans. Day 1 and it’s already the small things…. We visited the site where we’ll be working – for sure it will be tough work with the rain and mud creating setbacks. After a short welcome celebration, we went back to our place to have lunch – the food hasn’t disappointed! Oh! And the kids at the school view us like the coolest thing since sliced bread. It’s fun to give them a little change of scenery. They love being picked up, hugged, and loved on. Work was difficult as we cleared out the mud with shovels, buckets, even our hands. Everyone is eager for a shower and the clouds look ominous. TY BETKA / FOOTBALL
WE WOKE UP TO THE SOUND OF THE BIRDS IN
the morning. Some thought it was peaceful, others were annoyed by the sound, and Esther brought up the question, “But isn’t this what it is supposed to sound like?” This could lead to a lengthy discussion, but it is worth thinking about. At times, we forget how simple and natural the world can be, because we do not see it in our daily lives. The world we live in can be so plain, yet so complex. It is terribly hard to comprehend and envision what the world was like before
NoFilter / Monday, May 8
we developed it. I am very grateful for the opportunity to explore the unknown just a little, and be able to widen my perspective. The meals were fantastic and the cooks, Rosa and Marta, took great care of us. Rosa’s daughter, Emma, was in charge of the keys for the cabins and made sure we were always kept safe. All of the workers and drivers stayed in another cabin and were with us for the whole week. At the end of the trip, we learned that Emma made $30 for the whole week, putting money in perspective for us all. The morning consisted of an orientation for us to get to know our group a little better, then we headed to the school. The school consisted of three buildings, two separated by a courtyard where the kids could play with a stage on one side for performances or speakers.
The third was behind the others and adjacent to the worksite. The buildings reminded me of the blue house we had in elementary school, minus the glass windows and siding. Rather, they consisted of cement blocks, metal roofing, and metal bars on the windows. The kids welcomed us with open arms and excitement. They had smiles from ear to ear, and it still amazes me how much compassion they showed even though they seem to have so little. But I guess, what does it mean to have a lot? On the bus ride back we talked about religion because the school started off their opening ceremony for us with a prayer. A few of us had learned
it in school, and we followed along. The language barrier fell quickly as we would use actions to describe what we were talking about and they would do the same. The school welcomed us with a ceremony full of dancing and then we headed off to lunch. After lunch we went to work on the foundation of the new school building. Since it was rainy season, all of the mud that had been dug out slid right back onto the metal framework. So what was our first job? Remove the mud. We spent the whole afternoon shoveling the mud out, filling buckets with water and mud, and when tools ran out, we used our hands. Once we had finished, we prayed to God that it didnâ€™t rain again that night and push all of the mud back inâ€Śbut it rained anyways. We were dreading the next day of work and full of discouragement. SYDNEY TOWNSEND / VOLLEYBALL
I WAS A LITTLE NERVOUS TO WAKE UP THIS
morning because I honestly did not think I would be able to sleep much. I often have a hard time sleeping anywhere new, but to my surprise, I slept fantastic! Our room remained cool, and I slept all through the night. I was a happy camper to find there was coffee at breakfast, which personally I believe is much better than American coffee, as it has more rich, natural flavors. I am going to need to purchase some to take home with me later this week! The morning activity/orientation was a great way to kick off the week. I got to know a little more about each of the members on the trip and the Seeds of Learning staff. It was motivation in itself to get to work and help out the community. The bus ride from the retreat to the worksite was eye opening. Now that it was daylight, I was able to really see the environment around me. It was my first time ever seeing a country that primarily lives in poverty, and it was gut wrenching to see the living arrangements of the majority of the
NoFilter / Monday, May 8
community members. I was surprised by the amounts of litter, and how it seemed to be an unnoticeable/ common issue. Arriving at the school was one of the most heartwarming experiences I have ever been a part of. The young girls latched onto to me and others and they were beyond excited to see us. I donâ€™t think I have ever been so invited or appreciated by a community that I had just met. It was an overwhelming, yet contagious feeling and is a memory that I will hold with me for a long time. The welcoming ceremony was a great introduction about the community and the Nicaraguan culture. At one point, I went up on stage with a few other athletes and completely embarrassed myself by trying to dance. I have not laughed at myself that much, probably ever, but it was incredibly fun. Very much outside of my comfort zone, which is exactly why I wanted to do it. The afternoon session was the first work period of the trip. Not going to lie, I was more exhausted from moving mud out of the trenches than playing a double overtime soccer match. It was
frustrating, challenging, yet empowering. It was definitely one of the hardest things I have had to do, mentally and physically. However, the work gave me an entirely new perspective for workers, not only in Nicaragua, but anywhere in the world, who do this type of work day in and day out for a living. After the work session, we had a cultural interaction with some of the locals. Discussing and exchanging various questions and stories about lives in our respective countries was a great way to learn more about the Nicaraguan culture. My main takeaway point from today is that the people of this country are proud to be here, and they very much enjoy their lives. I definitely came into this trip believing that these people thought of life in the US as an ideal way to live, but I couldnâ€™t have been more wrong. The people of this community are content and proud to live the lives they live, and to me, that is empowering. SYDNEY MIRAMONTEZ / SOCCER
IT’S CRAZY TO THINK THAT JUST 48 HOURS AGO I WAS CONFINED
to sleeping on a mat in a tiny room at the Nicaraguan airport alongside guards who wouldn’t let me out of their sight. I arrived in Nicaragua under the impression that I had all the necessary documents I needed to get into but it turns out that I needed my green card. I learned that Zambia and Nicaragua have a complicated relationship, so it wasn’t as easy for me to get into the country as it was for the American citizens on the trip. I needed to prove I was a resident of the United States before they would let me in the country, which meant they
NoFilter / Tuesday, May 9
needed to fly me back to Atlanta in order to figure things out. Luckily, arrangements were made that allowed me to make it back to Nicaragua just 24 hours after the rest of the group arrived. The whole process really prompted me to think about the opportunities I’ve been given, specifically comparing the education I’ve received to those of the kids who attend the school in Villa Japon. I’ve had the opportunity to go to school without being involved in the process of building the school itself. I’ve been fortunate enough to receive a quality education
that has influenced my growth. This trip would not be possible if it wasn’t for opportunity. Here in Nicaragua, a majority of the students go to school, but they don’t necessarily receive a quality education, therefore they do not grow nearly as much as they should. Unless someone in the family can gain a quality education, chances are that poverty will become or continue to be a normal part of that family’s life. While the people here may not have the same opportunities that we have in the United States, it isn’t hard to see that they are still rich in spirit. These are people
who do not let their circumstances dictate their happiness, although it may influence it. I can’t help but draw comparisons to my first attempt at entering Nicaragua. I did my best to keep a positive attitude, even though the situation was out of my control. I’m very thankful to finally be here. CHONGO KONDOLO / FOOTBALL
Tuesday, May 9 / NoFilter
“As student-athletes at Nebraska we represent something bigger than ourselves.”
TODAY WAS OUR FIRST FULL WORKDAY. I LEARNED THAT WE WERE
the first group of volunteers for Seeds of Learning who worked both in the morning and afternoon. As student-athletes at Nebraska we represent something bigger than ourselves. We have to work harder to get good grades, perform best in our sport, and stay out of trouble because many fans look up to us. I know the Seeds of Learning staff were apprehensive about allowing us to work a full day; they didn’t want us to feel overworked, but we reassured them that hard work is simply in our nature. There is a reason we have the saying, “Go All-N.” Our task in the morning was similar to the day before. We had to finish clearing the mud from the iron beams. After getting the big clumps out with our hands, we went in with small brushes and buckets of water to get the compacted mud off.
NoFilter / Tuesday, May 9
Removing mud is not a fun task, but I was so happy with the work ethic of the group. We divided and conquered and reached our goal of clearing all the mud away before lunch. After lunch we began mixing concrete. I was surprised to find that we had to shovel together gravel, sand, concrete, and just the right amount of water to create the perfect batch. There really is an art to mixing concrete without a mixer. Even though mixing concrete was a tedious task, it felt so good to have accomplished something. Sergio (a Seeds of Learning staff member) told the group that if they didn’t have our help, they would have been forced to stop the project completely. It would have broken my heart to learn the children of Villa Japón wouldn’t be getting the school they so badly needed simply because the weather set the project back.
After a hard day’s work, we had the opportunity to visit a nearby community called El Triunfo, “The Triumph.” Seeds of Learning did a project with their community in 2015. They built a playground and small learning shed for the children to gather. Something I found remarkable was that the community was run and organized by women. I am always a supporter of girl power. One of the women brought us down the road to her grandfather’s farm. Horacio (the farmer) was so hospitable. He welcomed 26 strangers onto his property with open arms. He gave us a tour of his farm. He grows papaya trees, plantain trees, banana trees, limes, oranges, watermelon, cashews… the list goes on and on. In the middle of the tour Horacio left us and returned with a fresh papaya. He cut it up and gave
love or you hate. Unfortunately, I am not fond of the orange some to each of us to try. I learned papaya is a fruit you either melon-like fruit, but plenty of others in the group devoured it. Horacio even showed us a traditional Nicaraguan home. I was surprised to see there was only one room with one bed, but there was a TV. We learned that often times people will strip a wire and connect it directly to the power line running through the community so they can have electricity in their homes. They risk electrocuting themselves or starting a fire to get something I take for granted. Reflecting back on day two in Nicaragua, I have a lot of feelings, but mostly I feel appreciative of how resourceful the people who live here are. AMANDA MCCLANAHAN / SOCCER
Tuesday, May 9 / NoFilter
TODAY WE EXPERIENCED MORE OF
Nicaragua. We started off with breakfast where we enjoyed eggs, bread and rice. After this, we went to work. Today we left the retreat center hoping to get the wires of the foundation cleared off and some concrete poured in. We spent the first half of the day cleaning mud, similar to yesterday’s job. It was a much longer time period than yesterday. But eventually, we cleared enough of the mud off of the wires, and then used water and brushes to clean off the steel even more. As we worked our way around the wires, others began setting up wood molds for concrete. Our main job during the second half of today was to mix and pour concrete. While this was being done, a few others and myself continued digging and cleaning off the wires. My small hands made it easier for me to scoop out mud from tight spaces, so I used that to my advantage and hopefully saved some of the others with bigger hands some frustrating work. Just like yesterday, heat was a big factor in the speed of our work, so we tried to remember to hydrate as often as possible.
NoFilter / Tuesday, May 9
After we finished our work for the day, we went to a local farm, where we saw dogs, chickens, and fruit trees. The man who’s property we were on showed us his crops, how to pick good fruit by separating the ones that had been eaten by bugs, and showed us around his home. We tried a papaya and a couple other crops. We also found a plant whose leaves smelled like lemon! After the farm, we went back to the retreat center for dinner and to clean up. At the end of the day, we had our group discussion, where we talked a little bit about our thoughts and feelings about everything we had seen and experienced so far. We also discussed the difference between a home and a house. To me, this is a topic that I have thought a lot about. As an educator, I think the differences between a home and a house are very important, but being in Nicaragua really gave me a visual and real life example that made me think more about the differences between a house and a home. A house to me is just a building. It is structure inhabited by people, and may
even be a location where people live or spend a lot of time at. Over the course of time, houses may change, families may move, and the people living inside them may also change. A home is a place filled with love, where family supports each other. Home is a safe place where no matter what, you trust the people you’re with. It is a place where you feel the comfort of knowing you are and will be accepted no matter what. To us, when we walk down the streets in Lincoln, or the city where you are from, there are very few places that you call “home.” Every other building on your street is just a house, but the one place that you call yours, where you are loved and cared for, is your home. I think the idea of a house being different can be made very distinct when you look at the culture of Nicaraguans and how they make their houses into homes. They may not have a lot, but you can tell how grateful they are for the things that they have. MEGAN KUO / GYMNASTICS
AUSTIN EPPERSON / GYMNASTICS I’m continually amazed by the day-to-day activities we are presented. For a “rest day,” I feel as depleted as I would have been after shoveling dirt. We woke up to our 7 am breakfast, potatoes and eggs, and road tripped to our first adventure… the top of an active volcano! The steam rose from the waves of molten lava, carrying with it a subtle sulfuric odor. Breathtaking! Next, we ventured to San Juan de Oriente to visit a master potter. He showcased his impressive skills on his pottery wheel, and created two masterpieces with ease. We were encouraged to examine and purchase any of his finished inventory. It also happened to be my mother’s birthday, so I picked the best piece I could find for her. (Happy birthday mom!) We then went to the local market where we were exposed to the entrepreneurial persistence of adults and children alike. I ended up purchasing a coffee mug and jewelry for my friends and family back home, so kudos to them for their sales pitches. Lunch was a much-needed break before we hit zip lining! My goodness this was a fun tour. The views were amazing and the staff were so helpful. A definite highlight of the day! Last on our stop was the city of Granada. Dropped off in the middle of their town square, we saw a park with trees and fountains, a church and active service, and met a chocolate salesman who was all too accommodating for us tourists. Great day, but looking forward to getting back to work on the construction project tomorrow.
NoFilter / Wednesday, May 10
WEDNESDAY IS OUR OFF DAY AND OUR CHANCE
to experience Nicaragua away from the construction site. I have already learned more in the last few days than I believed possible, from how to tie a mosquito net to how to mix cement without machinery. Today, I am excited to learn from local artisans, embrace Nicaragua’s culture and experience the cities of Masaya, San Juan de Oriente and Granada. After visiting the Volcán de Masaya, we traveled to San Juan de Oriente to visit a
NoFilter / Wednesday, May 10
market filled with local artisans. We sat down in Pedro Guerrero’s pottery shop to learn about his craft. Pedro explained that he is a 4th generation potter. He was accompanied by his teenage son, who is his apprentice and the 5th generation potter in their family. Casey from Seeds of Learning translated his introduction and let us know that Pedro is well-recognized for his work. In early 2000, he was voted Master Potter of Nicaragua. Pedro has also traveled the globe to showcase his work and learn new techniques, including art shows in Italy, Taiwan, Colombia, Venezuela and all of Central America. Pedro does not simply make pottery for a living. I could hear it in his voice that he lives for his craft and is passionate about developing his skillset, even after 30 years of working with the clay.
Pedro explained that he has three main lines of pottery: pre-colonial, creative and artistic. He took out a fresh piece of clay to demonstrate his technique. Pedro used a manual wheel, which he must constantly spin with his foot. We all watched in awe as he flawlessly transformed the pile of clay into a smooth vase. There was no way to describe his motions other than he was “one with the clay.” He next demonstrated an original technique named “high relief.” He gently worked the clay on the inside and outside of the vase to apply the precise amount of pressure to create a perfect sea turtle on both sides. He admitted that
he punctured a number of projects while learning this unique craft over the course of a year. His commitment showed us that you must be willing to fail and dedicate thousands of hours to your craft in order to become a true master. After Pedro had answered all of our questions, we were allowed in his showroom to view his finished creations. Each piece of pottery requires multiple coats of paint and gloss, and the entire process typically takes 15 days. I proudly purchased two pieces of pottery for my home and two pieces to give to my family. I feel very connected to my beautiful matching set knowing that the pieces came from a man who puts his heart, soul, spirit and passion into his work- the Master Potter of Nicaragua. MATTIE FOWLER / SOFTBALL
TODAY WAS MY FAVORITE DAY OF THE TRIP
thus far. We got back to Villa Japón to continue our work and we had a scheduled activity with the kids. The day’s assignment was to tie the wires around the metal framework and pour more concrete. The work was not as physically engaging but nonetheless, we needed time to finish such a delicate job. To go with my favorite day is the favorite lesson, a lesson of small deeds and big hearts. During our short breaks, we would go into classrooms to meet and play with the kids. Two of us would sit around the table with six kids and you could see their faces light up as soon as we took out some construction paper and green and yellow paint. During that short break, we were teachers and the kids were our students. Each of us would take a paper, some green paint and show a kid how they should make corn leaves with palms of their hands. Then, we took some yellow paint and made the cob in the middle. Minutes later, the kids could see a corn and we could see how happy they were. Another activity we did with the kids were the Mother’s Day cards. In Nicaragua, Mother’s Day is celebrated on May 30. On our first day in Villa Japón many children said their mothers are their role models so taking
NoFilter / Thursday, May 11
a polaroid and decorating the card with glitter seemed like a perfect idea. When we came back to Tipitapa, an instructor and several students gave us dance lessons. That night we were able to experience that music is the world’s most famous and popular language. There was not a single person who hadn’t stood up and danced to the Nicaraguan and American beats. We even got to try on their colorful dresses and straw hats. Our stay was filled with small deeds, and it was the kindness behind them that made them so meaningful to the community. And as if the time wasn’t flying by too fast already, tomorrow is our last day in Villa Japón. For many of us, it will probably be the last time we will ever see the kids, their smiles, little uniforms, and give them a hug goodbye. In so many ways, the kids in Nicaragua are relentless – they have come into the trenches just to help us dig the mud faster, they have come to the activities to see how people from outside their country look and sound like. I can say without a doubt that the fierceness they hold will make it easier for me to shoot for my team, talk to new people, and share my stories. They have proven to us that poverty is nothing to be ashamed of, nothing that
makes people less human. Instead, poverty is a situation they are in and against which they are using their smiles, hands, and feet. In Serbian, my first language, we have two words that both represent wealth. The first one is “bogatstvo” which has the word “God” in it and represents the spiritual wealth of a person – the happiness from within. The other word is “imucstvo” which represents financial or more specifically property wealth. Calling people either just rich or just poor may sound unfair because wealth entails so much more than the newest iPhone or a threestory brick house. Wealth is about seeing beyond materialistic gains and recognizing necessity, understanding personal privileges and selflessly helping others overcome adversity. The wealth of the kids of Villa Japón are their smiles which will make them new friends, their hands which will make Mother’s Day cards, and their feet which will take them to their new classrooms. My wealth is about being a Husker and getting the opportunity to open my mind, change my view, and leave my mark in Nicaragua and elsewhere. NINA RADULOVIC / RIFLE
I am already yearning for a mix up of food. Remember when I said I loved rice and beans? Well, not so much anymore. The main source of vegetables seems to be tomatoes, onions, and green peppers. The staple dishes consist of rice and beans and some sort of meat. I am PRIVILEGED. I give so much credit to our cooks for their creativity each day with these ingredients. In the U.S., we have so many varieties of foods that just “magically” appear. There are countless options in the grocery store and restaurant market that when we get bored of something we have instant gratification to switch it up. Getting bored of food is almost impossible because of how easy it is to switch things up in America. I have heard so many people complain about the Training Table options after four years because you learn the cycle and it gets “old” (I have been a part of this complaint before), which makes me feel so guilty in this moment. Although the natives here are used to these dishes being their main source of food, I still can’t help but feel very privileged for what we take for granted every single day. Being a nutrition major, I do worry about deficiencies in vitamins/ minerals that Nicaragua has due to their diet. Variety is almost essential with fruits/ vegetables in order to receive a lot of the needed nutrients for our body. On the work aspect of things… I have never sweat so much in my life as I did today. We got so much done today and all worked really well together. This trip has been nothing but eye opening and fun to do something bigger than ourselves. I also am getting sad that it’s nearing the end of the week already! I feel like this is flying by! JULIA ROLLER / SWIM & DIVE
HOW DO YOU DEFINE SERVICE? HOW DOES SERVICE IMPACT A
community with the infrastructure that is present? The community is happy with what they have and are given. Why are these kids hugging and hanging on me during my service trip to Nicaragua? The kids go to school in square classrooms. They go to the bathroom in an outhouse. They drink bacteria filled water. Trash lies on both shoulders of their pothole filled paved roads. The cattle are thin. The humans are skinny. The grass is brown. Their house is on a dirt foundation. How and why does every Nicaraguan I see and meet smile with such enthusiasm?
NoFilter / Friday, May 12
Life can be blessed with the little things such as running water and air conditioning here in the states. We, the studentathletes, have our smartphones, food on our table, we don’t live in poverty, yet still we complain like children when we are tired or thirsty. This isn’t a notion to say that these studentathletes are lazy or out of shape, but to show that my… no, our smiles have been bigger and brighter on this trip than ever before. The thing I value most in life is not material possessions, it is my family. That is the single, most relevant and valued thing in this country. On the trip to Nicaragua while building the
school, the people valued the time spent with us more than the school that we were helping to construct. Placing family as a priority is one we should all live, learn and breathe. Service is a privilege to help impact the lives of the less fortunate. It teaches us to be humble while committing to a greater cause. This service project of helping build the foundation for a school has taken many of us by surprise. The site was tough, muddy work, but the group jumped to the beat of accomplishing our task. The development of this society was run down but they sought an education. We worked full days to show these kids we cared about them through the school we were trying to
construct. I couldnâ€™t believe the interaction our group had with the kids from the school. They taught and showed us forms of dancing to show us their gratitude. The whole group fell in love with their culture and was willing to try to speak Spanish. We laughed, played and danced as if we wereâ€Ś family? The Nicaraguans valued our time and commitment to them in their poor community. Am I the one who is poor? Do I not cherish the right things in life? ERIC COUFAL / WRESTLING
Friday, May 12 / NoFilter
“And if it weeps and we can’t hear it, does that mean nothing is wrong?” TODAY WAS A HARD ONE. NOT BECAUSE I WAS TOO TIRED OR TOO
sunburnt or too sick. It was a hard one because it was our last day at the school, which meant it was our last day seeing the kids. We worked hard like we always did, moving large mounds of dirt, sweating like crazy, just trying to do everything in our power so the kids could have the very best. Just before the goodbye ceremony, I met a 10-year-old boy named Hector. We danced to the music and I twirled him around my finger. He sat by me the whole ceremony, drawing a picture of us together. We had the chance to hand over the materials and donations we were going to give to the school. I went to help carry the bag and next thing I know I found myself on stage alone next to the principal with a microphone in my hand. It was hard to come up with the words on the spot to thank the school and the community for welcoming us with open arms. I did my best, thanking the children and encouraging them to continue to pursue their education, to dream without fear, and to set goals without doubt. To be all
NoFilter / Friday, May 12
that they already are, appreciating what they have and where they’re at, but knowing that it’s okay to look further and want better. We then had to do the hardest thing on the trip so far, say goodbye to the kids. We all did our best to soak up every little amount of joy, laughter and smiles while we could in these last minutes. As I sat in the van with the door open, waiting for everyone else to load up, I was overcome with emotion. I stared out of the van at the children, Hector being one of them, and my heart ached looking into their eyes. We were leaving them to head back to our own reality, but for them, for these children, this was their reality. I have spent so much time with these children; entertaining them and making them giggle and smile from a simple twirl around my finger or a too fast high-five. They don’t need much to make them full of life, they just needed some hands to hold, some smiles to share, some attention and compassion. That was enough. This was all they knew and this was enough. That’s what makes it hard. We
know better to know that this isn’t enough, as much as I wish it could be. They aren’t getting an education that will prepare them for much past this world they live in. An education that will give them opportunities for all and any of their future goals and dreams to come true. So, I cried. I cried because I understood. They watched my tears falling, questioning, because they didn’t know any better, they didn’t know any life more than the one they lived. And that broke me. It tore me up inside. Back home, I live my life every day. I am faced with images of struggle, of hardship, of poverty. But until this trip, until this moment, that’s all those things were, just images. Something I knew existed, but something that was not part of my reality. But now, I have names, faces, eyes and hearts to match these images to. Now, I have seen and experienced it. Now I understand this reality. I read a poem that references the struggles of this world and the last two lines read, “And if it weeps and we can’t hear it, does that mean nothing is wrong?” These lines resonated with me, with this trip, if we know/see the struggles but don’t
recognize it or experience it as a reality, then we turn our eyes away from the problem. We will continue to live as if nothing is wrong because it doesn’t directly affect us. But if we have the opportunities, the privileges, the resources to make a difference, to have an impact, even if it is just a small one, we would be crazy, we would be selfish not to take it. At the end of the day if I live a life that is built around just myself, that is not a life I would be proud of, and one I would not be happy to be living. Selflessness – the act of giving more than you take. Thinking about yourself less and others more. Loving like you are made solely out of it. Committing your time, energy and compassion to bettering those around you, lifting them up to new heights. This is where you get your energy from; this is where you experience the full greatness of life. Thank you Nicaragua for showing me this, for teaching me this. ALLI PETERSON / SOCCER
Friday, May 12 / NoFilter
FRANCESCA GIGANTI / SWIM & DIVE Today was our last day with the kids and it was over in a blink of an eye. I feel like not many of us worked for very long because we wanted to make the most of every last minute with the kids. I worked alongside Roger and he helped me more with my Spanish than I helped him with the worksite. He recognized that I wasn’t as strong as him so he kept taking the hammer from me to help out. My stomach started hurting when the sun came out, so I took over the jump roping station. These kids were so eager to do anything with us and I am going to miss seeing the joy in their eyes every time you look at them. Meeting so many kids at once made it difficult to remember names, but Stefania and Johnny are two that I will never forget. It kills me to think that they may not reach their full potential because of the restrictions of their community. They may lack money, and some educational resources, but the people here are so happy it makes me jealous. I cannot put down into words the mutual feeling of happiness that radiates from each and every person in the community. I hope I never forget how easy it has been to make myself happy by helping others and surrounding myself with genuinely happy and care free people. Lunch was chicken (drum sticks), rice, some vegetables, and beans of course. We showered quickly, packed an overnight bag and headed to a community to learn how to make tortillas. They were so delicious and once again, everyone was so welcoming and helpful. When it was time to leave, we passed by the school and we saw some of the kids we got so close with. I was so happy. The ride to Selva Negra was around two hours. The views on the way there were very cool, everywhere we looked was so full of trees and plants. Selva Negra is high up in a mountain, so it is a lot cooler here. It was fun watching us gain elevation because we were able to overlook the city. For dinner, we got salad!! First time I’ve eaten a leafy green in nearly a week. This place is amazing. I’ve seen so many new bugs, animals and plants. I’m being a typical tourist and have taken pictures of every single one. I don’t want to forget anything about this trip. We leave tomorrow so I am going to make a very conscious effort to observe and absorb every single aspect of Nicaragua.
NoFilter / Friday, May 12
IT IS 7:00AM OF OUR LAST DAY IN THIS
beautiful country. I am sitting by a pond in the middle of a rainforest, at a restaurant in beautiful Selva Negra. Reflecting on yesterday, here are a few highlights. We made homemade tortillas at a woman’s house in a neighboring community. It was very cool doing it so old schooled. The process involved grinding corn, kneading the dough that is formed, flattening and shaping the tortillas and cooking them on an open flame.
NoFilter / Saturday, May 13
By 5:00pm we were on the road for a two hour trip up the mountains. From my first impressions of Selva Negra, this place is beautiful. Our living quarters are more like a hotel! Fresh towels, blankets, hot water, and air conditioning! Though it is sweet to be here, Levi called this the “luxury life,” and said it was going to make us soft. Not that I am worried about that, but it was cool to think that I was actually starting to get comfortable living in rough conditions. I will always remember hanging my first mosquito net, constantly sweating, reapplying bug spray and sunscreen, not freaking out every time a bug lands on my body, always having dirt under my fingernails, worrying about whether the toilet will flush my excretions, and changing my socks two times a day to keep them dry. Though conditions are tough
here, I wouldnâ€™t trade my experience here for anything. I feel like I have learned so much, and this week has certainly tested my strength, will and grit. Words cannot describe how blessed I feel to have gained the experiences that I have. This may have been the first week in my life that I didnâ€™t think about bettering myself. I barely thought about school or gymnastics. I have always been taught that succeeding is my first priority in life. And up until this week, I always believed it. My goal for my return is to focus less on my own growth and happiness, and instead focus on others.
Looking back, I was excited to wake up each morning, just to go out and get muddy, sweaty and sore. I am trying to figure out exactly why that was the case. Maybe it was because I was doing something much bigger than myself. Maybe it was the people I was doing it for. I witnessed their struggles and that definitely made me not want to put down my shovel. Maybe it was the people I was doing it with. Watching my fellow Huskers grind was motivating, and we laughed and had fun in the process. Whatever the reason was, I need to figure it out and apply it to other areas of my life. I definitely think this week has changed me. The emotions I have felt the last few days are so strong. The connections I have made are indescribable. The fulfillment from the work we have done is powerful. I have opened my mind, changed my view and left my mark. ANTON STEPHENSON / GYMNASTICS
“This week has been inspiring, motivating and life
changing. I cannot wait to continue on this journey when I return to Lincoln. This is only the beginning! Thank you Nicaragua.”
As we sat around the fire Saturday night, everyone had the opportunity to share their highlight of the week. My favorite part about being with this group of student-athletes and staff has been our time to share experiences. It opened my eyes and it was beautiful to see how each person was impacted in only one week. Most people said the student interaction at the school was the best and I agree. They taught us so much and brought us so much joy. Austin finished the discussion by saying how proud he was of our group for showing another part of the world what Husker student-athletes are all about. He described our saying, “There is no place like Nebraska,” and how he interprets its meaning – close relationships, unity and family. He said that by going on these trips we are essentially bonding our culture with others around the world, expanding our family as we go. By connecting with the children and community we were able to demonstrate why the twenty-six of us stand for the saying, but we were shown it as well. The people of Nicaragua treated us like loved ones and cared for us like one of their own. They reciprocated what “There is no place…” means and gave us opportunity to leave a lasting impact through education and friendships. MADDIE SIMON / BASKETBALL
Saturday, May 13 / NoFilter
BRODY CLEVELAND / FOOTBALL I can’t believe our week is already over. I am writing this entry at 3:30 in the morning because I can’t quite bring myself to sleep the last night here. Sitting outside around the fire, I started thinking about how this place, so far from home, really in many ways isn’t that different. Looking up, the sky is just like home, june bugs all around, and I am surrounded by farms and cows. I have been trying to grasp all week why this place is so special, but I still can’t decide why I feel so content and happy to be somewhere that isn’t home. We ended tonight by building a bonfire, circling around and having one last talk as a group. We shared with each other what we considered to be our biggest highlight of the trip. After thinking for just a moment, my answer became quite clear. It was not a matter of what was the highlight of my week, it was the fact that this trip has been the best and most important highlight of my life. I never thought that anything could compare to the day that I won a state wrestling championship, or the moment that I found out I could be a Husker. Yet the truth is these moments are nothing compared to the week that I’ve spent here in Nicaragua. Not a day will go by where I don’t think about one of the people I connected with while here. They are going to have an everlasting impact on my life. Overall, I couldn’t have asked for more from this trip. It surpassed every expectation I had. I left Nicaragua with memories that will last a lifetime, an appreciation for a new country and culture, as well as being reminded that I should not take all that we are blessed with here in the U.S. for granted. This trip really goes to show that there is no place like the University of Nebraska and I can’t thank the athletic department enough for this opportunity. I want to thank them for providing me with the best week of my life. NoFilter was the opportunity of a lifetime and a lifechanging trip for the better.
NoFilter / Sunday, May 14
This trip blows my mind and I’m so grateful and humbled to be given this opportunity. Being able to go to another country and see how they live and realize I have it much “better” and “easier” than they do makes me feel a bit guilty. Feeling so helpless knowing that when I leave I won’t be able to help the community anymore breaks my heart a bit. The ironic part is that if you just watch how everyone in the community acts and responds to what is thrown their way you would never think that they’re “struggling” at all. To see everyone here take it day by day and look so happy is one thing I’ll remember and cherish forever. One thing the community in Nicaragua taught me is the value of appreciation. They showed me how to value the little things and take things as they come. After being with the community it’s proven that it doesn’t take much to be happy in life. My goal is to give thanks every day, use my resources wisely, complain less, be less wasteful, and more importantly help others. If I can do this everyday for the rest of my life, I will have no regrets and be able to say I lived a pretty great life. GAZMINE MASON / BOWLING
THE TRIP WAS TRULY A ONCE IN A LIFETIME OPPORTUNITY FOR
me. It changed my life in multiple ways that I am grateful for. The trip to Nicaragua opened my mind to a new culture and different way of life. After witnessing first-hand the customs and traditions of the community of Villa Japรณn, I realized the privileges we have in the United States and how often I take them for granted; most specifically the privilege of having public schools. After seeing how eager the kids in Nicaragua were to attend school and learn, I reflect back to all the times I complained to my parents about forcing me to wake up early and go to school and realize how silly I was. The NoFilter trip changed my view towards how I think about living poor and
NoFilter / Sunday, May 14
just being poor in general. To be poor with material items is one thing, but the community of Villa Japรณn were rich in life and how they thought about it. The people of Nicaragua might not have a plethora of material items like many of us have in the United States, but they know how to live their lives to the fullest. Interacting with the adults and children of Nicaragua has taught me to enjoy the smallest moments because those are what are important. Since returning I have changed the way I train. I do my best to train each and every day with a purpose. I recognize the huge opportunity I am given to be a valid asset to the University of Nebraska Wrestling team. Lastly, I can see the mark we left within the community of
Villa Japón. The friendships made are ones that will last a lifetime. Even though I may never see the kids of Nicaragua or any of the Seeds of Learning staff again, the friendships I made in just one week are sure to last a lifetime. I, along with the other student-athletes who embarked on the journey to Nicaragua, believe we left a lasting mark on the community of Villa Japón. We were able to work together and make major progress towards finishing the foundation for the new classrooms at the school. Each and every one of us had the opportunity to interact with and make joyous memories with the adults and children in the community. I didn’t think I’d ever go on a service trip, but now that I have I would
recommend it to everyone. I was able to see for myself just how much other nations like Nicaragua are in need of support from the United States. I hope that they receive the support they need so future generations will continue to have better and better lives. I cannot thank the UNL Athletic Department, as well as the Life Skills department, enough for giving me the opportunity to travel to Nicaragua. I can honestly say I was able to enter with an open mind, change my view along the way, and leave my mark while there. ARIS SHINO / WRESTLING Sunday, May 14 / NoFilter
“As we sit around the fire,
may this week be one that continues to inspire. And take us further, and higher.”
4am… you dirty dog, you came very soon, but I’m ready to head home. I enjoyed my time thoroughly in Nicaragua, but I’m excited to get things back in line in Lincoln. Last night during our last little “kumbaya,” we gathered around a bonfire to talk and have a little heart to heart. We did some singing and talked about our highlights from the week. For me, I loved seeing the passion and desire people had throughout the entire trip. Whether it was overcoming some barrier, finding a new passion, or further pursuing a passion… I love when people have a fire in their heart to become a better individual. I still didn’t get too emotional about all the experiences we had, but I was definitely “filled.” While I left behind some clothes and shoes, I took home much more… some tangible, some not. Tangible Mud boots Two bags of coffee Earrings Pottery Plantain chips Dark cocoa powder 55 córdobas Rojita
Intangible Greater appreciation for the student-athletes that make up Nebraska Amazing sights Fruitful conversations New friendships Better cultural awareness Contentment with minimized screen time Joy knows no dollar amount More importance on spiritual, rather than physical
This trip reminded me of the simple and important things in life. I know that I am very glad I was able to come on this trip. I know I want others to know the love I experience. I know that I want to experience life fully in all facets. I know that I have a purpose and a hope in this life. I know that I want to become a better man through new and challenging experiences. I know that I’m going to continue to experience life more and more. I know that moments like these are more than just an impacting moment. Until my next time of adventure… Gotta blast! LEVI GIPSON / TRACK & FIELD
NoFilter / Sunday, May 14
“Nicaragua will always hold a special place in my heart.
It opened my eyes not only in ways to see the world, but in a way to appreciate it. I met no poor man, nor woman in Nicaragua. They were all rich in love. These are the faces of Nicaragua.” ERIC ENGLER / WRESTLING
NoFilter / Sunday, May 14
NOFILTER - Nicaragua 2017