This last week in communities has been a very special time for volunteers, as they put the finishing touches on community projects and take advantage of every last moment to spend with dear friends and family. The corn fields have just begun to yield ripe corn, and volunteers are eating corn on the cob just after its pulled from the plants, and making fresh, hot corn tamales with their host moms. It has been especially rainy, and volunteers and youth have responded by playing in the mud, dancing in the rain, and puddle jumping! This last week of campamentos has been focused on finishing final projects, and on the Right to Education. Media communities came together to share drafts of their final projects, with themes ranging from game shows to immigration stories, activism around machisimo to stop motions about children’s rights. Winding through the mountains of Boaco, volunteers and youth on the arts project have been seen busy at work painting colorful murals on the sides of many schools and community buildings.
This morning, host moms and youth counterparts turned best friends poured into Teustepe, leaving a mountainous heap of backpacks at the entrance to a balloon-decorated hall. Together, they recounted summer memories, shared final media and art projects, and told stories of the summertime. The tone was festive, yet somewhat subdued, as everyone knew that soon enough the time would come for volunteers to board the yellow school bus and drive away, and for host families and youth counterparts to stay behind, waving and remembering. And that moment did come, and it came with embraces no one wanted to end, and many tears. In the short time we’ve been here, people who were strangers seven weeks ago call each other son, daughter, sister, Mama, Papa, friend. In seven weeks, what were ideas have blossomed into community based initiatives and what were forgotten stories have been remembered in media projects. In seven weeks, volunteers have adjusted to a 7 pm bedtime and a 5 am wakeup, and in seven weeks, Spanish language has sky rocketed. In seven weeks, volunteers have given hundreds of campamentos on children’s rights and sparked energy for the formation of youth groups. In seven weeks, the Boaco volunteers wriggled their way into the hearts of twenty six communities nestled in the lush green mountains and likewise, those communities wound themselves tightly and lovingly around the volunteers. It is with mixed feelings we embark upon debriefing and the journey home: volunteers are excited to regale their families with stories and memories, to share pictures and projects and lessons learned- and at the same time, we all kind of wish we could have just a few more weeks in this magical place called Boaco.
So, to all the families about to receive home our dear Boaco volunteers, thank you. We cannot imagine a more inspired, creative, fun-loving, dedicated group of young people. When they walk off the plane in a few days, ask them about their community based initiatives and murals and videos, but mostly, ask them about the way their host mom laughed. Find out if they like the wet, squeaky cuajada for the dry, flaky kind. Talk to them about rising with the sun when they hear the roosters crow and someone chopping wood. Listen to what inspired them, and which youth they loved collaborating most with. Ask them about the way the light crept into their house through the wood slats early in the morning. Look at their pictures, cherish their memories. And from all of us and from their youth counterparts, friends, sisters, brothers, and Nicaraguan Moms and Dads, please give them big, giant hugs. We’ll miss them dearly- thank you for sharing your brilliant young people with us! It’s been magical.