Ten New York Institute of Technology students are venturing to Rivas, Nicaragua, on the western coast of Lake Nicaragua for an alternative spring break trip next month designed to help local residents improve water quality. The student volunteers plan to construct a small-scale water filtration system to maintain a supply of fresh drinking water.
“I applied for the trip to better my experience and knowledge in architecture…I also applied to give back and to experience another culture,” said Anthony Holloway, a sophomore majoring in architecture with a minor in construction management. “I [have] never been out of the country and I’ve just recently been on a plane so this is an amazing opportunity that I have been blessed with. While I'm there, I want to learn some Spanish, while learning how to build water lines and getting to know the people and more about Nicaragua.”
The weeklong trip also includes a three-day stay at Camp Alegria, a camp for low-income children operated by the non-governmental organization Chop Point Inc. NYIT students will develop educational and recreational activities for campers including lessons in math, science, engineering, art, and swimming.
Nicaragua is the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, according to Chop Point Inc., which notes that residents who can find work typically earn only six to ten dollars a day. In addition, an ongoing drought has led to rising inflation. NYIT students involved with building the water filtration system will use locally sourced and inexpensive materials to keep costs down.
Next month’s trip is the fourth alternative spring break experience offered by NYIT’s Office of Career Services. In recent years, students have traveled to Peru and Ecuador to perform community service.
“I am a firm believer that if you take action to help someone in need, that you have taken a positive step forward to make this world a better place,” said Genesis Osario, a junior majoring in interdisciplinary studies.
Between now and the time they leave, students are researching ideas and determining the best way to design and implement a filtration system with the help of residents.
“The students are actively doing pre-departure research so that when we arrive we know which materials would be best for what design,” said Assistant Director of Experiential Education Rosalia Davi. “Students are really relying on critical thinking skills, understanding, accessing and working collaboratively across majors to work on a solution. The student leaders going will gain a larger world experience…They will practice communication skills, teamwork, and learn to grow in cross cultural competency in a diverse environment.”
School of Education Assistant Professor Jim Martinez and Career Services Coordinator Larry Kamguia (MA, ‘13) will accompany the students.
“We want a sustainable partnership with the community in Nicaragua where the students will be staying,” said Davi. “The goal isn’t to spend ten days abroad, it’s to spend ten days abroad and make a permanent and effective change, one that is a lasting difference”
The students started personal fundraisers to help offset the cost of the trip. Many are using media sites such as Facebook to accept donations. Students also plan to sell Nicaraguan coffee beans on campus this month to help raise funds.