8:09 AM Marcie Parson 0 Comments

As reluctant as I was to give up the summer weather, I happily welcomed in the adventures that Fall brought me. I road tripped to Arizona, turned 21, celebrated Halloween as a zoobie, planned a concert for HELP International, spent a weekend in New York City with the Prince women, voted in my first presidential election, and spent Thanksgiving in Cedar. 

Fall semester flew by, and I'll be finishing up the semester in only two short weeks. Then I'll be off for even more Christmas break travels and adventures. Thanks, autumn. Time for winter (and cold! eek!). 


so upperclass

10:05 AM Marcie Parson 0 Comments

I'm a junior. How in the world did that happen?


soy nica ¿y qué?

9:08 PM Marcie Parson 0 Comments

Buckle your seat belts. This is going to be a long one.

People keep asking me what the best part of Nicaragua was. Do you realize that's just like asking me how living in the Holy Land for 4 months was? "Incredible" doesn't do it justice. It's impossible to describe, and it's impossible to pick just one "best" part of the whole experience.

Volunteering for HELP International in Nicaragua for 6 weeks was eye opening. I learned so much from and connected with a culture that was unfamiliar to me. I began to learn what development work was all about, and I experienced firsthand the challenges that come along with it. I made meaningful relationships with the people there, and most importantly, I was able to leave my mark in the form of sustainable development projects. At the beginning of the trip I was worried that I wouldn't be able to measure my success and that I'd never know if I was making a difference or not. Upon completing my projects, I feel like I successfully "did good" while I was there and know that was exactly where I was supposed to be.

The last few weeks in Nicaragua felt like a whirlwind of wrapping up projects. Julia and Cheryl taught a nursing seminar at the HEODRA Hospital. Charlie finished his dance classes. Cheryl led our group in conducting needs assessments for future HELP teams. English classes ended with a graduation party. The bottle school was completed, and keys were handed over at a ribbon cutting ceremony. Julia and I personally handed out 50 water filters and replacements to the community of El Tamarindo. Megan and Amanda somehow managed to keep us all alive through our "7 days of happiness" as we stressed over the completion of our projects and all of the paperwork that went along with it.

I have two go-to answers when someone asks me what the best part of Nicaragua was. The first is the feeling of handing a water filter to a young mother and her children, knowing there is a brighter future for them because of what you've done. Nothing beats that. Upon distributing the first round of water filters in El Tamarindo, we walked up the dark streets to the bus stop, and Salome pointed out a water filter in someone's front room. As we continued walking up the street, we could glimpse through front windows and see our water filters surrounded by their new proud owners. It was easily one of the proudest moments in my life.

The second is our graduation for our English classes. Even though I jumped in as a teacher halfway through the summer, I loved those students. I never expected to love teaching beginning English so much, in fact I was certain I would do a horrible job at it. I was surprised week after week when I could see how hard some of the students worked, and they began to progress. This project became one of my favorites because I could see the immediate results of our efforts. At graduation, two of the students gave speeches that brought me to tears. I was so proud of them.

After wrapping up our projects, we spent the last few days in Nicaragua saying goodbyes to our friends and then took off to spend the weekend on a hammock at the beach. It doesn't get much better than that. It just doesn't.

To conclude, here's a little list of things I take for granted in the States (compiled solely because I lived without them for 6 weeks):
  • Washing machines & dryers
  • Hot water
  • Clean water
  • Water pressure
  • Air conditioning
  • Stop lights
  • Carpet
  • Microwaves & toasters
  • Dishwashers
  • Seatbelts
  • Garbage disposals
  • Post-it-notes
  • Reliable snail mail
  • Screens for doors & windows
  • Liquid dish soap
  • Absence of kissy noises
  • Public trashcans
  • Clean hospitals/ambulances
  • Paved roads

You better believe the first thing I did when I got back was wash my laundry in a washing machine. God bless the inventor of the washer and dryer.


عائلة, משפחה, familia, family

9:25 PM Marcie Parson 4 Comments

I'm home from Nicaragua. I have so many more things to say about it, to blog about, and to share with the world, but other things are on my mind.

When I came home from Jerusalem, I felt like my heart was breaking. It was hard to leave such a special place I loved so much and especially the group of people I shared it with. While everyone else was excited to come home to their families, I felt completely alone. I don't exactly have the luxury to go "home" to my family. It was a rough transition.

I had expected to feel that same way when I left Nicaragua, but this time it was different. I had a family to go home to. I was bubbling with excitement to go home to America because the day I got back I was going on vacation in Bear Lake with my family. My Jerusalem family.

Our relationship is impossibly difficult to describe. We all arrived in Bear Lake at different times, and each time a new car of people trickled in, it was the same explosion of emotions. Squealing, bear hugs, smiles, catching up. It lasted for literally hours. You'd think that with over 80 of us the reaction would settle down, but it doesn't. When we are together, we feel whole, and just being near each other makes us smile.

One thing I learned in Nicaragua was that even though my family is very spread out right now, God always sends me to places where a family is waiting for me. In Jerusalem, it was these people. Sharing something so special brought us so close. and the Rowdys (Ludlows) became our temporary parents.

In Nicaragua, it was our next door neighbors Miguel and Miriam that adopted us into their family. Miriam actually called herself our Mamá Nica. They fed us, washed our clothes, told us what was safe and what was not, told us where to find the best food, taught us about holidays, shared stories about their lives, made us promise we'd never forget them (like that could ever happen), and cried when we left. They became my Nica parents. Some of my best memories of Nicaragua will be just sitting in the living room talking to Miguel and Miriam. 

Living so far away from my parents and siblings has been difficult, but I'm so blessed to have found family wherever I go and to be able to make meaningful relationships with people all over the world. 
Being reunited with my Jeru family feels like home,
and it's oh so good to be home again.


okay, chicken?

8:29 PM Marcie Parson 0 Comments

Amanda la que manda wrapped up our chicken coop project in Ceiba and blogged about it here. Since I wasn't there myself, I thought it would be best to steal her blog post for your viewing pleasure. The following is Amanda's post:

"Yesterday was the last day of our chicken project in the rural community of La Ceiba. For this project we surveyed 20 families (picked by the local mother's counsel) and from them picked the 8 most needy and willing to participate.

Then they had to attend three workshops. The first was on nutrition, then I taught the second one on saving money, and a vet guy taught the third one on how to take care of chickens.

Me teaching about saving money. Only one of the families had any kind of money saving plan.
Then came the fun part, la entrega. We gave each family 3 hens and 1 rooster, as well as enough feed for the next couple days. I'll admit, I'm not the most graceful chicken-passer ever... but I get the job done.

The next fun part is going to happen after we leave.
First, the eggs that the hens lay are going to supplement the health of every family member - and every family selected has a child in elementary school.

Second, there will be even more extra eggs that the family will be able to sell for supplemental income (none of the main providers for the families selected has a permanent job).

And third, as part of the contract these families signed to be a part of the project, they have promised that once they have baby chicks, they are responsible for donating three pairs (one boy and one girl) to three different families on our needy list. So eventually, this project will have positively influenced almost 40 families."

I am so proud.


masaya & catarina

8:13 AM Marcie Parson 0 Comments

We're weekenders. We work all week and play all weekend.
Last weekend, four of us headed down to Masaya to shop at the largest artisan market in Nicaragua.

But sometimes Salome (below) takes us on surprise adventures during the week. For example, on Thursday we thought we were headed to get water filters. Wrong. We took a pit-stop in Catarina on Thursday to each lunch by la laguna de apoyo, followed by many other surprises along the way.
We had no idea what was going on. But she did. And that's all that mattered.

Last night as we were leaving Tamarindo, we realized we had missed all the buses. 
Salome told me to show some leg and we'd hitchhike to Leon.
And that, my friends, is why we work so closely with Miss Salome.
She is awesome.


¡por fin!

10:03 PM Marcie Parson 0 Comments

After 12 hours of travel, we picked up our water filters from Filtron and distributed over half of them! The rest will be distributed Monday afternoon. PHEW! It was a long day, but we are SO pleased with our work. Nothing beats the feeling of looking a child in the eye and knowing they will have a healthier life because of the clean water they will drink from the water filter we provided.

Read more about the water filters we provided here (the site is in Spanish).


this means war

12:38 PM Marcie Parson 1 Comments

On Monday, it was my turn to take an early morning 6-hour shift in La Ceiba working on the bottle school. Amanda and I headed out the door, grumbled past "I love you's" and "chelitas," and hopped on the bus. Restraining myself from buying an ice cream cone at that hour in the morning, we snoozed during the whole bus ride to the school.

Fully anticipating another day amidst trash, sand, and plastic bottles, we were pleasantly surprised when we stumbled upon this:

The bottles had been put in the wall AND the sidewalk! We stepped in to shovel and sift sand, and as soon as the school girls saw that we were helping, they wanted in... which, of course, brought all of the boys over. We soon had an army of 30 or 40 school kids helping out during their 30 minute break at school. It was SO fun to see how excited they were about this classroom!

I may or may not have started a water fight that soon turned into a very serious WAR with two adorable boys. We were soaked to the core and coated with mud. Because we used all of the water from the workers' water barrels, we had to slowly refill them by carrying over buckets of water from a spicket 50 yards away. How did we carry them? On our heads like true Nicaraguans. We finished the day by eating otter pops until our fingers turned to prunes.

 I'd say it was a very successful day at the bottle school.


just want you to know...

6:56 PM Marcie Parson 2 Comments

... that we're working hard.

Bottle School

This project is well, dirty. 
We take 5 hour shifts of sitting in the dirt and stuffing plastic bottles with trash. We have hundreds if not thousands of bottles stuffed, and 2 classroom walls are about ready to be filled with bottles! It is a LOT of hard work, but the kids we work with make it all worth it. We're determined to get it done in two weeks!


The soilet is FINISHED! Hallelujah! Well done Bryce and Ashley. We're so excited for this school to have a sanitary latrine that doesn't contaminate their water.

Business Classes

Bryce held a few business classes that taught basic business principles to small business owners. He enjoyed it so much that he decided to hold a Business Seminar at Vivero Empresas for a larger audience. He taught the material himself (with translation by Amanda) alongside another keynote speaker. It was very successful, and Bryce rocked. He went home on Wednesday, and we miss him (especially Charlie, who is now the only boy living with 6 girls).

Dance Classes

Charlie "Chinito" Kaing is the token Asian volunteer. People stare at him even more than they stare at us white girls. He can't speak a lick of Spanish, but he somehow manages to communicate with everyone he meets. I still cannot comprehend it. Anyways. He likes to dance, and so he is teaching hip-hop workshops to improve the self-esteem of at-risk youth through dance. It's an awesome project, and I must say, it's a pretty fun class as well - why yes, I did indeed attend his b-boy class.

Tamarindo Water

Well this project is most certainly the one that consumes most of my time. Julia and I have been working hard to provide this community with clean water and eliminate the numbers of water-borne diseases there. Last week, we held a general meeting with the community informing them about the project, and we enlisted the help of several community leaders in spreading the word to the rest of the community who did not attend the meeting. This week, we spent two days visiting almost every house in the community to inform them about the water purification workshops we would be holding.

We held two workshops this week: one Wednesday afternoon and one this morning (Friday). The workshops were extremely important because in order to qualify for a filter, you must attend a workshop. In collaboration with the community nurse and MPowering People, we taught about the water-borne diseases in Tamarindo, water purification methods, as well as water filtration. At the end of the workshops we handed out surveys to assess the eligibility of participants (a certain number of criteria had to be met), and we proudly handed out vouchers for water filters to every person who attended. The filters will be picked up and distributed next Wednesday!

Today we discovered that the majority of the community works ridiculous hours in the salt factories and could not attend our meetings. Solution to the problem? Hold a workshop on the weekend! How simple! 

We walked around the town today stirring up interest for one more workshop to be held this weekend. We talked to people on the street, storekeepers, and even went inside a salt packaging factory and held a mini workshop while they were working! This meant that our volunteers actually stepped in and took over some of the work while the workers filled out surveys!

We've been incredibly resilient with all of our setbacks, and I'm confident this project will be successful!

Other projects:
English classes have been going super well. I'm getting to know the students, and they are a riot. We have one more week of classes before our final exam, fiesta, and mini-graduation. We're still working on painting the pediatric unit of the hospital, but we've mostly done a lot of prep work and sketching. Pictures to come! Julia and Cheryl are still working hard of their patient education plans to give to the nurses at Heodra Hospital. Jamee has almost selected all of the families who will be given chicken coops to supplement their income. Jamee and Cheryl have been working with a special needs child at a nearby orphanage. and last but not least, we are ALL involved in conducting needs assessments in neighboring communities for future HELP teams.

Sorry for the novel. Team Nica rocks and we're "doing good" down here!