Focusing on a glass half-full – Week 5

We were very fortunate in our LACS20 class to meet Michael Boudreau, executive director of Compas de Nicaragua. Michael talked about the empowering work of Compas de Nicaragua, from their women empowerment program to improvements in sustainable agriculture. I was amazed by the work of Michael and the Compas de Nicaragua team – here was definitive proof of positive, life-changing and community-changing work.

Because of our studies in class, I had learned to be skeptical of development work. Considering the history of development in Nicaragua, especially from the U.S. perspective, there are a lot of reasons to doubt the work. The U.S. has sent the navy to bully and pillage, backed a dictator, fueled a war, and manipulated trade to reap economic benefits and maintain control in Central America. Many organizations claim to help, but often make futile efforts at lasting change. Which is why I was especially impressed by and admired Michael for his dedication to his work and his love for Nicaragua. He moved to La Paz to live and work in Nicaragua all year, except for occasional visits to the States.

Seeing true dedication and my skepticism of the international worker, I felt discontent with myself. Why was I going on this trip? I’ve had international experience and learned a lot of the crucial lessons already, so is it ethical for me to go anyways? I seriously considered dropping the trip.

Two things happened. The first, our class was able to speak via Skype with Hugo González, Eva Pérez, two Nicaraguans who work for Bridges to Community. From their perspective, they really appreciate an organization such as Bridges to Community for employing them, obviously, but also for the lasting impact despite the rotating cast of Dartmouth students who visit. Our class also spoke with Peter Mason, a board member of ACTS Honduras. I talked with Peter one on one about my doubts, and he told me that I’m underestimating how much I can do. Especially should I choose to continue traveling to Central America, my past experience allows me to adjust quickly and focus on the work to do.

I’m not sure what my future plans are with regards to international development work, but for this upcoming trip, I am encouraged by my opportunities to help and learn. I realize there is still more for me to learn with each experience. I’m still trying to figure out what being “el chino de Japón” means, but in the meantime, there is work that I can do and intend on doing my best.