Point of View

It’s March in the Manna House, and that means it’s Spring Break season. We’re kicking it into high gear as we host four different groups of college students throughout the month. Time has really gotten away from me over the past two months (seriously, where did February go?!) and I have to remind myself to stop and absorb what I am learning and experiencing.

Outside of our program and organizational duties we’ve been doing a lot of traveling, visiting beautiful beaches and staying at hostels. I’ve posted quite a few picturesque photos but as I’ve reflected on my time here, it’s occurred to me that this might not be the most accurate depiction. While photos like those are nice and show the glamorous side of being here, I have to remember that this country is much more than sunsets and palm trees. We volunteers are extremely fortunate to have the option of visiting places like Leon and Granada and Somoto Canyon on weekends and holidays, and the perfectionist aspect of social media may sometimes make it easy to forget that vacations are a tiny fraction of the work we do. To put it bluntly, Nicaragua is the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and poverty here is ubiquitous, unforgiving, and very very real. Our programs here at ‪‎Manna Project‬ serve a need- a need that unfortunately is not going to go away anytime soon.

I say this not to cast a negative light on volunteering in Nicaragua (or volunteering abroad in general); it’s actually quite the opposite. Some of the most beautiful parts of our lives come from recognizing the dual nature of people, places, and societies. I firmly believe that nothing is one-sided and all people have stories which deserve to be heard. Life isn’t a storybook.

For that reason I want to challenge anyone who is reading this open their minds to other people. I think we are all guilty (myself included) of making judgments on others, sometimes unconsciously. These past two months have been a consistent reminder that people are an amalgamation of their experiences, their tragedies and their accomplishments, all of which are not immediately visible. I know it’s cliche, and it’s cliche to say “I know it’s cliche,” but everyone has a story. If we take the time to listen, our lives are much richer for it.

Heidi Tso

Interested in working with Heidi's team in Nicaragua?