Students begin to organize 2nd service trip to Nicaragua

by Xakota Espinoza / Beacon Staff • February 23, 2012

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Nine Emerson students spent 10 days in Chacraseca, Nicaragua building a house for a local family.
Paige Trubatch
Nine Emerson students spent 10 days in Chacraseca, Nicaragua building a house for a local family.
Paige Trubatch

In the center of the village of Chacraseca, Nicaragua stands an old, unused well. Senior Paige Trubatch, who volunteered in the town last summer with a group of Emerson students, said the well is the result of organizations pouring money into projects they can’t sustain.  

“In the middle of the community is the eyesore of a rusty well,” said the writing, literature, and publishing major. “We don’t want to waste money on things that aren’t going to be effective.”

These aren’t the kinds of projects Trubatch is interested in, which she plans to discuss at the second annual Nicaragua Initiative Information Session Wednesday in Room 118 in Piano Row.  

Instead, Trubatch paid for her own plane ticket to Chacraseca — a suburb of León, a city on the western coast of Nicaragua —  where she stayed for 10 days. She went with eight other Emerson students to build a home for a local family last August. According to Trubatch the group established and reached their $5000 fundraising goal for the trip.

“What I liked about the project is we pay our own way, so we aren’t fundraising to buy ourselves plane tickets,” said Trubatch. “The fundraising we did went toward buying supplies related to the project.”

Early last May, Trubatch and other students met to discuss a philanthropic trip, spearheaded by the fraternity Phi Alpha Tau, as a part of the international service program Friends of New England — a sub-group of the New York-based nonprofit Students for 60,000, which raises funds for charity projects. 

The main project, Trubatch said, was working on building a house for a husband and wife and their young daughter. Trubatch said that on their way from the airport to the community they stopped at a woman’s house, where she and her family made all of the bricks used in the building process. 

“We immediately got into what we were doing and what we would be working on,” said Trubatch “You get the whole experience, not just the pre-packaged service.”

Sophomore Monica de Pinto Ribeiro Hancke, who is in charge of the trip this year, said that after attending last year’s information session she immediately became passionate about the idea. 

“It’s a very small village, very much based on the families contributing to the village itself,” said the political communication and performing arts double major. 

According to de Pinto Ribeiro Hancke, the village is spread out, with only 10 families living near the area they were serving. She said the residents, mainly farmers and merchants, weren’t as impoverished as one would expect—which she credits to Friends for Students of 60,000—but water and clean clothing were scarce. 

“It is still a basic and rural community,” said de Pinto Rebeiro Hancke. “They work on their own things to make ends meet.”

Trubatch said rather than giving away the houses built, the families apply for them, help with the building, and pay back the money over a period of 10 years.

“The people who do receive houses are committed to working with you and not letting things fall apart,” she said. 

Trubatch, who spent between $600 and $700 for her plane ticket, said this was one of the cheapest service trips she could find, but that she expects airfare to be even cheaper this year, as the planning stages are beginning much earlier. Trubatch said it can be difficult to decipher which trips are legitimate or worth the thousands of dollars they often cost. 

“It focuses on realistic, sustainable development and isn’t weighed down with a lot of excess costs that might accompany a more expensive commercial trip,” she said. 

 Trubatch said she thinks Emerson students would greatly benefit from service trips, not only for the reward of helping others, but also for their personal narratives. 

“I think that this is a really affordable and worthwhile trip to go on,” said Trubatch. “I think we as Emerson students especially want that sort of global perspective for our storytelling.” 

Barbara Platts, Beacon Staff, contributed reporting.