“Why did you decide to go to Nicaragua for 12 weeks?” “What were you thinking?” “What do you think this will do for you?” “Do you even want to be a teacher?”
So many questions have surrounded me since I announced I was leaving to come here. Some questions have been asked by teachers, some by friends, some by those very dear to me, and some I have asked myself.
So what did bring me here for an entire summer? I could be applying for jobs. I could be looking for a place to live and moving out of my moms. I could be doing so many things to “further” my life. But I chose to spend 12 weeks in another country. Why?
I will tell you why. Passion.
I came here because I have passion. So much passion, in fact, that it occasionally pains me to not be able to express all of it. I came here for a week in March, and I fell madly in love with this city, this country, and these people. I am enamored. And I am so incredibly humbled that I have been welcomed with open arms. Outreach360 and I share a passion to do absolutely everything we can for these children, their families, and the community of Jinotega.
I came here because I have a passion for travelling and seeing new things. I don’t even have to like the stuff I’m seeing. It helps if I do, but I just love to see. I have been able to indulge that passion almost nonstop since I’ve arrived. I have been to the capital city of Managua, for airport duty but also to take the little balls of wonder and curiosity (AKA students) to see their opportunities. To show them new things. Seeing them discover some of their passions during their field trip made me ecstatic. I also just got back from an amazing weekend in Granada. I felt almost transplanted into Spain. It was so beautiful. I got to see another corner of the country of which I have been growing fonder and fonder. I have sufficiently scratched my travel itch for now.
I came here because I have a passion for learning. Since arriving I have learned so many new things about my host country. I have begun to unravel its history and its relationship with my home country. I have gobbled up biographies of famous (and infamous) historical figures and voraciously read news articles about current events. I learn every day that I teach. I learn about these children, the way they think and live. I learn about their families and their hopes and dreams. I learn how to teach, something that is an ongoing process and a concept that can never fully be mastered. Every single day I learn about myself. I learn how to better handle stress. I learn my limits on homesickness. I learn how to let the little things go and to live in the moment. I am still learning. I hope I’m never done.
I came here because I have a passion for people. I don’t think there’s anything more thrilling or more fulfilling to me than meeting new people and getting to know their stories. This experience is an abundance of new people and new stories. Each week a new group of volunteers come in, and each week I expand my views on life, whether an almost minuscule amount (by remembering what it is like to be the “weird kid” and sympathizing instead of complaining) or by larger amounts, depending on the individuals and the stories they bring with them. I am in love with the repetitive pattern of Outreach that provides me with enough stability to rely on a weekly schedule but also allows for extreme variance in my weekly duties, roles, and lessons.
I came here because I have a passion for teaching. Since my senior year in high school I have known I wanted to be a teacher. I student taught in 3rd, 8th, 9th, and 10th grade classrooms. I loved the middle schoolers, not so much the little kids. I was indifferent with high schoolers. In college I realized I’d rather teach at a university than any grades K-12. Do you know how long it takes to get ample education enough to teach at a university? A long time. I’m impatient. So I came here to teach. I found, surprisingly, that I love these children. I never thought I was a “kids” kind of gal, but here I am with 8-13 year olds. And they’re great! They want to learn and that of course makes me want to teach! I am having such a great time lesson planning, preparing objectives, and teaching. I never, ever thought I would ever teach such young children. Now I don’t know what I would do without this opportunity! I came here and discovered that it doesn’t take a degree to be a teacher. It doesn’t take a special license or a grade on a test. It takes dedication and (oh, what’s that?) passion. I know those two characteristics won’t get me far on a PRAXIS, but you catch my drift, right? Maybe pre-school stuff or subbing is in my future on my way to further degrees.
I came here because I have a passion for helping others learn their passions. I touched on this earlier. But this really ties in with O360’s sort-of tagline of “Release the Hero Within.” This statement shows Outreach’s desire for normal Americans (or anyone else who volunteers with the program) to realize their true potential and release their inner hero through the service for these children. But the statement also shows Outreach’s desire (and goal) to show the children in the program that they have heroes within themselves. They can make a difference. And that is where my passion comes in. Every day I see a new lightbulb moment. Every single day that I get to spend with these amazing children I get to see new passions arise. I witness older students helping younger students with physical tasks, see students who understand the lesson help those who don’t, and I can tell when an idea finally clicks. I live for these moments, now. I live for hearing these students say things like “but teachers help us make our dreams!” or “I know I have to study hard because I see children begging in the street in Managua.” I see passions ignited every day. I see it in my roommate, I see it in the children at the Learning Center, and I see it in the volunteers who come here to have their life changed in a week.
So, you see, I came here for many reasons. I like to go with the flow. I like to let my passions guide me. And I am so incredibly elated (and any other word that means “even more ecstatic than elated”) that my passions have collided me with an organization that holds dear so many of the things I care about. Every single day I’ve spent here has been a learning experience. Every learning experience becomes a teaching experience. And absolutely every second I’ve been here has been better than I could have ever imagined. I am so grateful I have a life filled with people who support my passions and the sharing of them.
A huge thanks to everyone who has ever encouraged me to do what I feel is right. You are all part of why I am here.