This past spring break, I was one of ten students from the Lundquist College Honors Program who traveled to Nicaragua on a service trip. Working in partnership with Panorama Service Expeditions, we built a house in Los Fierros, a village near the city of Managua.
This experience was made possible by the incredibly generous donations from the Lundquist College of Business, Oregon Community Credit Union, Allann Bros, and Mike Dore. We are also very grateful to Deb Bauer, director of the Honors Program, who spent her spring break working side by side with us and contributed greatly to our experience over the week.
For all of us, the experience offered the opportunity to give back to a community that desperately needed assistance while also immersing ourselves in Nicaraguan culture. It also gave us a new perspective on the endless resources we are provided with in the United States.
The purpose of the week was to give back to the community of Los Fierros by building a house for a local family—in just five days. Our group worked together with students from University of California San Diego. Each morning we traveled about forty-five minutes on what was mainly a dirt road to reach the village of Los Fierros. There, we worked tirelessly in the 100-degree weather to reach our daily goals. On Monday, we built the foundation for the entire house. By Friday, we added the finishing touches to a completed house.
As college students, we live in our planners—especially during dead and finals week—so I didn’t have time to really cultivate any expectations for this trip before we plunged in to it. But once we landed and were welcomed with open arms to help this community, I realized how big a difference we were making in the village of Los Fierros.
We spent each day working on the house, but we also took the time to get to know the family that would live in the house, as well as people from the community, and all the children we came to help. We will carry these interactions with us forever, because they changed our perceptions, our way of thinking, and what we are grateful for. We all left a little piece of us in Nicaragua, but we will always have a little piece of Nicaragua wherever we go.
This opportunity not only put things into perspective, but it was also an opportunity for all of us to find fulfillment individually and as a group. I spent seven days with some of the hardest working and most dedicated students I have ever met. I believe that our experience in Nicaragua has inspired all of us to continue making a difference in the world.
Now that we have been back for a couple of weeks and I’ve had a chance to reflect on the experience, I couldn’t imagine not having had the opportunity to participate. When I look back on Nicaragua I think of all the wonderful memories our group was able to develop and the difference we made, but I also see how we came back changed for the better. While many skills are important in the workplace, I believe that empathy is a skill that can help anyone in their life and with whatever career they pursue. Empathy is the force that moves businesses forward, and if we as students can embrace this skill, not only will it set us apart, but it will also strengthen the relationships in our lives.
On behalf of the Lundquist College Honors Program, it was an honor to represent the University of Oregon on this huge accomplishment outside of the country. Go Ducks!