Wittenberg Students Build Homes
in El Eden, Nicaragua
SPRINGFIELD, Ohio - As Wittenberg University students and a faculty member reflect upon their life-changing trip to Nicaragua over Spring Break to build homes, they realize something more valuable was built in the process.
Throughout the week, students built houses in the small farming community of El Eden, Nicaragua, with local masons who taught them how to mix the cement, bend steel and lay bricks. The group also experienced a lifestyle much different from their own as they ate meals of beans, rice and fresh fruit and slept in tight corridors.
During the trip, the students built relationships as well as living quarters. They created relationships with each other, with the children of the community and with the local masons and cooks.
Blake Troxel '05 from Bluffton, Ind., recalls his time with the children as something special. "The children were the first to meet us and were nearly always by our sides," Troxel said. "We actually became really close to them in spite of the language barrier, because it didn't seem to bother them that we could not talk to each other. They still insisted on communicating, playing and learning with us - something I didn't expect."
Participating for a second time in this home-building project, the Wittenberg group worked in conjunction with the non-profit organization Bridges to Community, which provides service-oriented trips to poor communities that promise beginnings to a better future in Nicaragua, Kenya, Nepal and Cambodia.
Wittenberg alumnus Chuck Ramsey '68 is associated with the organization and helped the students obtain scholarships to fund the trip. Student-run fund-raising events included a meal-donation program through the university's dining services and a letter-writing campaign to faculty, alumni and students. Most of the proceeds went for building materials and food.
A.J. Kessler '06 from Carey, Ohio, devoted time this year as the organizer, doing everything he could to ensure the trip was successful. "After all the planning, it is well worth it in the end," Kessler said. "You get so much more back than you put into it. The people and the community are so generous and welcoming, nothing is comparable."
This trip proved to be an eye-opening experience for the group. For Kessler, Troxel and others, it was an experience to see how two-thirds of the world lives.
"The trip was not about giving material possessions to those who are without, but rather it was about connecting with people," Troxel said. "It was all about the realization that people of different cultures can work together toward a better life. It was the realization that material achievement does not equal wealth, and it was the realization that people can live better, if they are given the chance. From the people of El Eden, I received much more than I gave, and I sincerely thank them for that."
Kessler and Troxel agreed that this experience is one they will value and remember throughout their lives. "We were thrown into a community to work, live and play without knowing anything about them - in the end, we left with an experience that will never be forgotten," Kessler said.
Kessler now feels "a sense of hope in terms of making an impact on the life of someone else. The environment and the people of El Eden allowed me to realize the important things in life."
Miguel Martinez-Saenz, Wittenberg assistant professor of philosophy, noted that as the trip progressed the students grew more appreciative of the community and the rest of the world. "The students really got to see up-close how many people in the world live," said Martinez-Saenz. "The interactions the students were engaged in could not be taught in the classroom. Overall the experience can be emotional but far more rewarding in the end."
| Related Link:
|[an error occurred while processing this directive]||
• Book-Delivering Prof Named Ohio Professor of the Year
• Senior Class Selects Livestrong President & CEO Doug Ulman As 2011 Commencement Speaker
•Communication Program Honored Nationally With Top Award
• Wittenberg University Art Students Finalists For Scholarship Award