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Teens, Nicaragua, Young Parent Program (YPP) and More

Young Parent Program of Milford Executive Director returns from Nicaragua and discovers parallels between her community service experience and the mission of her program.

HOME.

Returned Sunday from Nicaragua. The student group of Builders Beyond Borders worked along side a young adult group called Techo. This group originated in Chile and now has a presence in each Latin American country. Their goal is to end injustice of poverty in their country. They have a 3 step process. I was struck by the similarities between YPP and their mission. Their first goal is the visual of a house.

We built 10 prefabricated houses. Each owner contributed $100 towards this after being diligently surveyed and selected among the needy community. The second is socialization. They are educated on options for their future and guided to establish goals and work to achieve them. Lastly, they become self-sustaining.

In YPP, we are able to give tengible items like a crib, books, toys, clothing, strollers, get health insurance and medical care to a pregnant teen. Secondly, we instill aspirations for their future. We discuss and explore options, ways to achieve goals. We navigate institutions with them for daycare, scholarships and advocate  as needed. Lastly, we strive for each to become self sufficient, independent and productive members of the community.

Now, getting back to Nicaragu... we divided into teams of 6 for each of the 5  houses. As Advisor, I stayed at the same house to lead my 'squad'. I got to know the 'Techo' well. My Spanish and their Englsih made for funny conversations. But, who needs to speak when you are learning to hammer, put hinges in windows and doors, carry floors, walls and connect them? I was more the motivator,  I admit, and less the carpenter. These students were incredibly hard workers.

Each day after work had an excursion. We learned how to salsa dance, were entertained by a band, went to a beach and the highlight was volcano boarding.

Who would think this sport would be an addition to my resume? I actually excelled after the hike up the volcano, put on my green and yellow painter-like uniform with full set of knee and elbow pads and of course the goggles. No 'problema' on my sled.

Each day the Techo shared some team building activity. They walked the walk as their commitment inspired us.

I don't know what I was most impacted by. The woman whose home we had built lived in a shelter of branches and garbage bags. She was tearful as we put the final details of a lock on her door and asked her permission to enter. She cut the ribbon that had been placed across her door and we celebrated. Each student was given a piece of this ribbon. A 'Techo'' tradition.

At the airport, 4 of us were bumped due to overbooking on our connecting flight. Four advisers had to stay behind in El Salvador. I was included among this group who had to endure a 5 star hotel for an evening.

We struggled as we ate and bathed (although I had gotten use to my bucket showers) apart from our new family group. As we checked in I asked jokingly (of course) if we could have first class seats after our inconvenience. I was told the plane was full and he inquired about the contents of my suitcase.

I told him, only disgusting clothes after building houses with a student group....he took out his wallet and showed off his blue and white piece of ribbon. Still, there were no first class seats...but I am home!

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Marcy Winkel February 29, 2012 at 03:50 PM
What a wonderful and rewarding trip! I am in awe. Welcome back!
Sue Foss February 29, 2012 at 08:30 PM
Sounds awesome Karen!! I want to join you someday!!
Pam Landry March 01, 2012 at 02:18 AM
Welcome home! Looking forward to seeing some photos from your trip.
Audra Wilder March 02, 2012 at 02:05 PM
What a amazing journey! Welcome back!
Patti Pancoast Early March 03, 2012 at 03:19 AM
Karen -- I admire you and the good work you do -- at home and afar!

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