"In the eyes of the children the future of hope and promise lives.
Laughter rings in an unfinished school yard.
It echoes in my mind, as I think of our state-of- the art gym.
No cares as one small girl twirls across a barren field,
and a young boy chases a barely inflated ball.
Teachers beam with pride and passion.
All eyes bright, while envisioning the new dawn."
This summer I accompanied 19 colleagues from other American Jesuit, Catholic colleges to Nicaragua. Our immersion trip presented opportunities to experience solidarity with the Nicaraguan people, their culture, their history and our collective future.
Each morning in the relative safety of our hotel, surrounded by barbed wire I drank coffee and tried to capture my feelings from the previous day. It’s one thing to travel to a third world country and only see the first world tourist side, this had been my experience. Many times I’ve left the airport, through cities and countryside only to arrive at a beautiful location for tourists. This trip I felt more like a pilgrim. While there certainly weren’t hardships for us, emotionally I was now seeing things from “the inside out.” I am clearly embracing the idea that our collective wellbeing is tied to one another.
We were well prepared for the trip, having spent time reading, journaling and talking to our cohorts by phone. As a group we bonded well, enjoying the camaraderie of a lived, shared experience. Each evening we gathered to share what we saw and how it moved us. The beauty, in the shared reflections, was the ability to immerse ourselves in other’s experiences.
We met amazing strong women of faith, those who’d been through the Sandinista revolution, and those that teach at the nearby Fe Y Alegria Jesuit School. They were articulate, passionate and strong in spite of often desperate living and eating conditions. We met talented craftsmen and women who again had deep pride in their work, their art. In our travels, we witnessed homes bare to the elements; school-aged children doing homework under a tarp in the rain. Most often, in all of our conversations and meetings, I was struck by familial ties, and pride in their work. It was a privilege to be with them.
My experiences are still with me. I continue to sift what it all means, and what I will do with all I’ve seen and heard. I left Nicaragua having a deeper appreciation of the Jesuit commitment to a faith that does justice. The painting above is one I purchased in Esteli, Nicaragua. It spoke to me. The poem I wrote on my return. I hope it speaks to you.