Winds of Change: April Trip Itinerary

Dates: November 4 - 11th, 2018

# Volunteers: (Estimated) 20

Leaders: Rob Scott

Location of Project: Mesas de Acicaya

This trip is a reschedule of the trip planned for April 19th 2018. That trip was canceled at the last minute due to growing protests which rocked Nicaragua, leaving over 65 dead. We are optimistic that things will stabilize and normalize well before this next trip planned for November. In the interim, we are providing funds to Seeds of Learning to continue work on the school in Mesa de Acicaya and a library in another village.

The project planned for November is in a remote village about 90 minute drive from the nearest hotel, so we will stay in the village. This will provide an amazing experience to enjoy a culture unique in Central America. The village of Mesas de Acicaya was founded over 400 years ago - and they still have the land deed signed by the King of Spain. They celebrate unique customs and festivals that can be tied back to that period of history in Spain. It is a small town with a very strong sense of community and civil society. Our colleagues at Seeds of Learning have done previous trips with students to work on a resource centre. We will be taking on the building of a much needed school.  

The Community

Mesas de Acicaya is a rural community of about 856 people located in the municipality of Tipitapa. Most are small farmers who grow beans, corn and sorghum. Some also have small, informal businesses. There is electricity available, but there is no water in individual homes. People must walk to the nearest communal spout and carry water home in buckets.

The community has a small school with three classrooms for 148 elementary school children. Additionally, 64 high school students are enrolled in a rural secondary program offered on Saturdays. As in most schools of Nicaragua, educational resources are scarce to almost nonexistent. Teachers struggle to find books and other materials for their classes, and for students it is almost impossible to find outside resources for research. Few students can afford to travel to the closest Internet cafes or libraries.

In 2017, SOL worked alongside the members of the Mesas de Acicaya community, Rotary Club of Sonoma Valley, and international volunteers, to build a Learning Resource Centre. The centre will house reading materials, digital technology, and a variety of educational and recreational materials, such as puzzles, craft supplies, sports equipment, and musical instruments. The long-term vision is for the centre to eventually host tutoring and research assistance for students, music and dance classes, sports activities, and vocational training.

The centre will be open to all inhabitants of Mesas de Acicaya, as well as members of seven other nearby communities. The project was initially proposed by a local organization of 15 youth leaders named Caminos al Saber (Paths to Knowledge). They have agreed to take on the leadership of this project, charge of mobilizing community resources, organizing community participation and volunteer staff for the centre, coordinating local fund-raising efforts, and providing logistic support to Seeds of Learning in the community.

Special Thanks: SOL would like to thank the Rotary Club of Sonoma Valley generously funding the construction of the new learning center. We also thank the many volunteer groups who helped with construction: Sonoma Valley High School, Quest–University of Madison Wisconsin, and Sonoma Valley Summer Open.

Hi All,
I wanted to send my sincere thanks to everyone for such a special week.
Rob, I am so grateful to you for pulling together such an incredible group of people and all the amazing “extras” on the trip. From the volcano, the magical pool, the community visits, that bakery!!, poker nights, hearing about the revolution, Masaya, Granada, etc. It was such an incredible mix of inspiring people, beautiful surroundings and the very best of the human spirit.

That was an amazing experience. Thanks for providing me with the opportunity to really have my eyes opened.

With regards to your request for feedback…

·         What I liked:

o   Working on the project was amazing

o   Interacting with people in the community was awesome

o   Volcano and the fort/prison was really special

o   The team was great; especially the representatives from SOL

o   Accommodations were very nice

o   The kids! The kids! The kids! The expressions on their faces; watching them play…

o   The baseball game…

·Thanks again Rob! That was an absolutely fantastic experience.



Our Trip

This project will involve the building of a school. We will only get part of it done during our week, but other trips will keep things going. At this stage I don't know what phase we will be at. The construction work does not require experience - we can find roles for everyone. 

We are just starting to plan so you are the first to express interest. I will try to keep it between 16 - 20 people. That number works really well. This will be my sixth trip to Nicaragua so I have a pretty good sense of the place. Here are some common questions: 


Based on the questions I have received so far, here are few FAQs:

1) Yes, I will be going with you. I will lead the trip with local support provided by Seeds of Learning (SOL). 

2) Accommodation will be party at hotels upon arrival and departure, and in the village during the work portion. 

Four nights accommodation while staying and working in Mesas de Acicaya consists of two (2) bunk houses (male/female), latrines and bucket showers. Accommodation will be within walking distance to dining area and work site. Metal frame bunk beds with foam mattresses will be set up in bunk houses by SOL staff prior to group’s arrival in Mesas de Acicaya. All bedding will also be supplied.

Simple tin structures have been constructed by SOL as shower stalls and latrines for group use. Showers are bucket showers. Both are well maintained.

3)  A typical work day starts early with breakfast, then work from about 8:00 - 1:00, Then lunch and a rest at the hotel, Afternoon may be an excursion or a visit with community members where we hope to do future projects.  

4) Our hosts from Seeds of Learning (SOL) will meet us at the airport, host and transport us throughout the week. They do this a lot and have things well organized. Typical excursions include a trip to the colonial city of Leon, ziplining, volcano tour, or a historical tour of Managua.

5) If we are oversubscribed for this trip (its possible based on initial interest) we will arrange another trip in November 2018. For this trip we may cap the team at 16 people for the optimal experience and logistics. 

6) The cost is typically around $2500 per person (Airfare, accommodation, local transport and most food). There are few incidentals other than alcoholic drinks and shopping at the craft market. A significant portion of the amount is eligible for a charitable tax receipt. Payment will be due about a month before we travel. Hosting service trips is a key funding source for SOL. Note that this amount is significantly less than some of the high profile trips from organizations where a similar itinerary would start at $3300.  

7) Winds of Change funded over $45,000 of projects in Nicaragua in 2017. This project still requires some additional funding in the range of $15,500. Ideally each of us will commit to an additional fundraising goal which we can aggregate to fund the balance needed. When we visited in November we saw first hand how far the money goes in the communities we support. We will set up an online option for donations on Canada Helps, as well as accepting cheques. I encourage you to make personal goals as I understand that we are all in different positions financially. 

8) There are several flight options, but no direct flight at that time of year. My recommended option is to fly Avianca to El Salvador then Managua. It has the best connection, and frankly much better service and food than the big US airlines. We likely leave mid afternoon on Saturday April 21st and return very early in the morning on the following Saturday or Sunday arriving in Toronto on April 28th around 2:00 pm.

9) Nicaragua is much safer than neighbouring Costa Rica, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. It is a poor country so there is risk of petty crime. SOL will ensure our personal safety and awareness. I have traveled there five times and not had any issues or felt unsafe. Mesas de Acicaya is a relative small town with a reputation of being very safe. We are unlikely to spend much time in Managua where crime is higher. 

10) We will have translators with us at all times, but is STRONGLY encourage you to pick up a little Spanish in advance. It helps a lot and makes things more fun. 

11) This trip is suitable for teenagers over 14. We have already had interest expressed by a number of families with teenage kids. I've taken my kids twice and they LOVED it. 

12) Ideally we will firm up the team by the end of January. We already have an expression of interest from nine people, so please let me know if you are interested.