The Community That Changed My Life


Lindsay Blackford, Contributing Writer

I was born in Costa Rica and lived there until I was 11 years old. Due to geographical closeness, I had a lot of interaction with people from Nicaragua growing up, but I had never actually visited the country. When I found out that the AWOL international trip was heading to Nicaragua, I knew that I wanted to take part in that experience. I loved it so much the first time, I knew that I had to do it again. As a result, I have been to Nicaragua for spring break two years in a row. 

On my first trip to Nicaragua, my group worked in coffee fields in Los Fierros, a small, local community. We helped prepare the land for new coffee trees to strengthen Los Fierros economic development. This project is a part of a long-term plan to help the community be more self-sustainable. This means that once the trees have matured, they will be able to sell the coffee beans and make a profit for their community. Since we worked for so many hours in the fields, we were able to really get to know the people that worked alongside us. They are extremely hospitable, kind, and open people, and speaking to them was truly the best part of my trip.   

I originally did not sign up for the second trip to Nicaragua, but two of my roommates were going and when the opportunity presented itself for me to go, I decided to sign up. When I found out we would be working with the same community, I was so excited because of the connections I had made the previous year. On this year’s trip, we worked on a multitude of projects but the main one was a honey project. The community wanted to make and sell their own honey, and our job was to help them make a product label and bottle the honey for sale. 

Overall, these experiences taught me what’s truly important in life. In the U.S., it is very common to place a lot of value on material things, something that I am at fault for. The community of Los Fierros does not have much, but in my opinion, they are much richer than us. They taught me that the most important thing in life should be the connections that you make with others and that you should always strive to help everyone around you. They were always trying to help one another, even though they were struggling themselves, and that is not something that I witness often. Most people are too focused on their own issues, they don’t pay attention to what is happening around them. The community members of Los Fierros have been so impactful in my life, I know I will always carry this lesson with me.