The toughest vacation you will ever take will be one of the greatest weeks of your life.
Pathway to Progress Nicaragua works with churches, schools and other organizations to schedule service trips to Managua, Nicaragua. Service trips are available to groups or individuals who want to learn more about and contribute to the work done through Pathway to Change in Nicaragua. These trips provide the opportunity to witness the great need in Nicaragua and the beauty of the people and environment. We hope each person will bring gifts and talents to share through the work projects and be open to receive the gifts and blessings offered by the people encountered.
In Nicaragua, the trip includes visiting and working with the families supported by the program and helping with a work project at a local school or family home. Time is spent visiting with local people who share insights about life in Nicaragua. Several opportunities for cultural visits are planned during the weeklong visit. In order for each service trip to be a meaningful experience for all, it is essential that participants demonstrate a level of cultural sensitivity. Each person will travel in a spirit of humility, with a genuine desire to meet and talk with local people. It is important to be acquainted with and respect local customs, and welcome what your hosts offer with graciousness and sincere appreciation and reflect daily on each experience to better understand the world from a perspective perhaps different than your own.
Trips are open to individuals nineteen years and older who complete an application form, provide relevant medical information, pass a background check, sign a liability waiver form and hold a valid passport. Passports must be valid for six months beyond the departure date for the trip. Individuals under the age of 19 may attend a trip only if accompanied by a parent or guardian, who complete the same requirements as adult volunteers and are approved by the Trip Coordinator. Parents or guardians must sign a liability waiver for their minor children.
Pathway to Progress Nicaragua does try to tailor trips to the abilities and talents of individuals, however, because these trips might involve physical labor and very high temperatures that can be dangerous for those with health limitations, the organization reserves the right to ask any trip participant to provide a doctor’s statement verifying that individual’s ability to participate in such a trip. Pathway to Progress Nicaragua also reserves the right to disallow an individual to participate in a trip for any reason at any time prior to the group’s departure.
Special arrangements may be made for youth groups (groups of youth 15-18 years of age) to participate in service trips with their church or school for special service programs. Youth must be accompanied by the appropriate number of adults who possess the skill and authority to properly supervise young people both during work assignments and in their free time.
It is each trip participant’s responsibility to get the proper immunizations. Pathway to Progress Nicaragua does not require specific immunizations. Each participant needs to discuss this with his /her doctor. The participant's need will be based on his/her-health history and medications presently being taken.
Pathway to Progress Nicaragua does not provide travel insurance but we can suggest programs offered through the travel agent with whom we work.
The journey actually begins with the first Group Members meeting. These meetings help to bring unity to the group and allow us to coordinate plans for the benefit of the whole group. Participants will be expected to participate in two Group Member meetings. Groups who wish to plan a service trip usually begin planning at least a year in advance.
Service trips to Nicaragua cost approximately $2,500* per person. Pathway to Progress Nicaragua will generally accept 14 participants per trip. We reserve the right to cancel any trip if the required number of participants does not confirm reservations and make a deposit by the date that is determined.
* Price is subject to change as airline prices, fuel, and cost of work projects change and with foreign currency fluctuations
To confirm intent to participate in a service trip, participants need to complete and return the application form (and the other forms/requirements outlined above), along with a $200 non-refundable deposit. Final payment is to be made in full thirty days prior to departure and is non-refundable at this stage. Pathway to Progress Nicaragua is a registered charity, so the fees you pay for a service trip may qualify for a Canadian income tax deduction.
Pathway to Progress Nicaragua works closely with a local travel agency to arrange the airline travel portion of the trip for our groups. There are several advantages to arranging your flights in this way:
Barring last-minute changes on your part, all the group members will get the same fare and get booked on the same flight to make it easier to coordinate airport departures and arrivals.
Group bookings with an agent give us more options for alternative travel in the event of missed or cancelled flights, and other similar problems, should they occur.
The travel agent may be able to offer help with lost luggage, missed flights, etc. but cannot assist if a person books individually.
This added security and convenience for your trip typically means, however, that the fares we quote could be higher than what an individual can find on their own. We cannot match “sale prices” that the airlines periodically make available. Because our primary concern is for efficiency in planning and the security and convenience to the group, we do not try to locate the cheapest seats or “best deals.”
If the trip should need to be cancelled by Pathway to Progress Nicaragua the participants will receive a refund of their money.
If the individual chooses to cancel within 45 days of the departure date, the trip fees are non-refundable.
Trip participants are expected to follow the lead of the group leader putting the interests and welfare of the group above individual interest or intention. While participating in any service trip:
- Participants are requested not to distribute or promise any money or goods to anyone without approval of the Pathway to Progress Nicaragua representative on site.
- All donations to any of our partners must be made through the Pathway to Progress Nicaragua office.
- All requests for schedule changes or deviations from the itinerary are to be approved by the group leader and Pathway to Progress Nicaragua representatives on site.
- Participants are not to leave the work site where the group is assigned without express knowledge of the group leader and Pathway to Progress Nicaragua representative on site.
Participation in any service trip is for the purposes of advancing the mission of Pathway to Progress. Therefore, all final decisions regarding participation in, scheduling of, and activities scheduled rests with Pathway to Progress representatives.
At the completion of the trip, all participants will be asked to fill out a comment sheet.
Service trips will generally be followed in approximately 2-3 weeks with a social gathering so that participants may reunite and share memories and pictures.
There are seventeen of us; some friends, some co-workers and aquaintances, others strangers to each other. We came together at the Halifax airport not really fully understanding the week ahead but eager.
Ed and Barb picked us up at the Managua airport Sunday night about 11 pm. All seventeen of us, along wih our luggage piled into the bus. Lotsa of bags join us - not all of our own, but bags filled with items for the children - clothes, shoes, school supplies, toiletries, sheets , you name it.
Our accomodations are super. The locals call it Casagrande - the big house. We share rooms but have lots of space and comfort. Quite a contrast to the home at the worksite for sure.
Day 1, November 4, 2013
Our project - to build two retaining walls at the very modest home of Miquel and Hazel; two students in the program. Their home is set high on a steep hill and the rain has eroded the land so much that without a barrier the house will soon sink into the ground. The house itself is not in bad shape relative to the neighbours' tin shacks-- it is a cinder block home, built a few years back by another group of travellers from North America. Still, by our standards, not a place we would be proud to have our friends by.
We are on the work site by 9:15.. A little confusion as all of us "Type A" personalities try to be useful and find a job to do. There are three main job functions. The cement makers who take up shop right in front of the house mixing water and cement mix bags. The rebar team -- charged with tying the wires to the metal rebar posts - very tedious but necessary work ( and the job I try most to avoid). And the cinder block layers - taking the cement buckets and laying and lining the blocks. There are other jobs too, but these are the main ones. What strikes me is how eveything is reused -- we take the nails out of the wood and someone's job is to bend them straight. We use brushes to scrape the hardened concrete off the old lumber in order to reuse it. We walk the yard to find a stick to mix the cement. What is garbage in our world, is a valuable and useful resource in poor areas of Nicaragua.
Jorge, Miquel's 70+ some year old granddad, and his mom, Anna, along with the rest of the family, work right along side us. Mixing cement, hammering nails, doing whatever needs to be done; very pleased and proud to be contributing.
We enjoy lunch at the Children's Centre with some of the kids in the program. Barb asks each of them to practice their English by introducing themselves and telling us their age and grade. They do great. We are all very glad we did not have to introduce ourselves in Spanish! The kids are fascinated with our Iphones and Ipads.
Our afternoon is made up of a road trip to visit the homes of two children in the program, Cersay and Pedro. With great pride their Moms ( through a translator) tell us how very grateful they are to have the opportunity for their boys to be part of the Pathway program. To get an education. Smiles and pride and many thanks. What great hosts they are to open their homes to us. In our eyes they have very little. But not so in their view.
Day 2, November 5, 2013
A little earlier to the site today -- about 8:15. We pick up where we left off. The two walls are really starting to take form now. The visible progress inspires energy in the group. Jorge inspires energy.
Back to the Children's Centre for lunch. Granddad Jorge and his family, along with the local construction team, join us. Its very tough to communicate with them - most of us have very little by way of Spanish words - but its enough just to sit and be present with each other.
Our main afternoon activity is a trip to a public school. The children in the Pathway program go to private school so this gives us a chance to see what the alternative looks like. The director of the school is very welcoming and fills us in on life in the public school system. Its tough to keep the kids in school. There are no truant officers and with no support at home many kids don't make it. The drop out rate is high. Most teachers are not qualified. The school days are half days with the younger kids attending in the morning and the teens in the afternoon. That way the older kids can either go to work in the morning or stay at home with their younger siblings while their moms' work. There is nothing in the way of tools in the classrooms we enter - not a text book in sight, no white boards, no computers -- just the scribbler in front of them. Left to take their own notes for reference. Easy to see why the drop out rate is what it is. One of the teens asked 'what is the objective of our visit' and his teacher explains (in Spanish) that we are here to help a Nicaraguan family. She tells her students that in the same way the Canadians came to Managua to volunteer and help, they were each charged with the same responsibility. She did not mean for them to travel to Canada and assist us -- but to share what little they had with those who had less. I know they do not realize how much they assisted us today.
Day 3, November 6, 2013
It will be a short one tonight. On the worksite for the morning and had both my high and my low for the day, all at once. Meyling is the fourteen year old niece of Anna ( Mom whose home we are working on). Meyling attends public school and lives with her aunt because her own home is too far north for access to school. This morning, Meyling approached Ed and said to him she wanted to be part of the Pathway to Change program. She brought him her last report card to show how well she has done in public school and how deserving she is. The high - that Meyling is so wanting of a good education. The low -- that we couldn't just hug her and sign her up. Here is a photo of Meyling (left) alongside Belkie, one of the students of Pathway.
Day 4 & 5, November 7 & 8, 2013
Outside of the project work, we had many afternoons spent with the children in the program. A game of baseball, soccer and swimming with the kids at a local pool will stand out as memorable highlights of the trip. Below are a number of my favorite pics from the trip; some of the children in the Pathway program, the travellers at work and some of the many beautiful NIcaraguan people we were blessed to meet during our experience.
Notes from a Trip, Managua, November 3-10, 2013
Check out the before and after photos from a recent service trip house build. The new home owner, Soledad, is pictured below, standing in the soon to be doorway of her home. The bottom two photos show a proud Soledad in her finished home!