Two Rising Tide Capital AmeriCorps VISTA Members Volunteer in Nicaragua
Earlier this month, two of our AmeriCorps VISTA members, Shantia Smith and Bryan Franklin, took part in a mission trip with Mustard Seed Communities to Nicaragua (June 9th - 16th). With a group of 20 others, they traveled to an orphanage in Diriamba, where they helped lay the foundation for a chapel, spent time with the local children, and built lasting relationships with fellow missionaries. In this story, Bryan shares a compelling story about his visit to the capital city’s dump where he witnessed the spirit of microenterprise in action.
Our trip to Nicaragua was filled with many unforgettable moments, but one particular experience remains etched in my memory. One day of the trip, we toured Managua, where we witnessed the beauty and ugliness that makes up the capital city. The day began with a visit to La Chureca, the main city dump in Managua. This dump covers nearly 40 acres and is home to approximately 1,500 people who are forced to sustain themselves by scavenging for things others consider trash. It was a difficult sight to bear, to say the least. What followed, however, was incredibly beautiful.
In 2006, Mustard Seed Communities partnered with Christ in the Garbage Ministries to open up a sewing center. The center’s mission is to empower the women of La Chureca with a new way to provide for themselves, their families, and their communities by teaching them practical job skills. Today the sewing center has evolved into a place where women can also take baking classes and English language lessons.
Meeting the women in the class and hearing some of their stories was amazing. They exemplify the resilience and perseverance we see in so many of the Rising Tide Entrepreneurs we work with on a daily basis. We returned to New Jersey in the middle of what we would call a hot spell- hot, humid, 95 degree weather. Yet many of these women walk over a mile to and from this school in this same weather just to attend class. In doing so, they take a huge risk. The time spent walking and attending class is time that could be spent gathering food, doing laundry or selling items. They leave with the hope that the skills they learn in class will lead to a better, more independent life. That’s the spirit of microenterprise at its best.
As AmeriCorps members, we each pledged a year of our lives to serving America. It was great to take that pledge beyond the United States to what felt like an entirely different world. While Nicaragua is considered an underdeveloped country, we witnessed firsthand the happiness that comes in simplicity. Free from the “advantages” that come with technology, people are so much more focused on simply living. We return to Rising Tide Capital humbled and inspired to continue doing all we can to serve Northern New Jersey.
(left) Shantia and Bryan walking with local children