Leadership class fundraises for sustainable development in Nicaragua

by Jennifer Ingram

Jack Burns’ Leadership 350 class went door-to-door collecting money last semester to fundraise a project which they hoped would transform Whitworth.

The students have learned that Nicaragua is the second poorest country in Latin America  and close to half of its inhabitants live in rural areas. Most of the vulnerable people who live in these rural areas are farmers which are income-dependent on their agriculture and the animals they host on their land.

A speaker named Rick Ervin came to their class to show them 15 proposed projects they could help with to help uneducated farmers Nicaragua.

Poor people in these areas face many constraints including physical isolation, difficult access to natural resources, and many other obstacles that often send these workers to turn to alcohol and other substance abuse to cure their inoperable pains.

Rick, a veterinarian, and his wife, Mary a nurse, said that after 30 years together, they felt like God was telling them to go to Nicaragua and open up shelter there. Throughout this semester, the LS 350 class has been communicating with Rick via e-mail from Nicaragua.

Sophomore Trevor Zajicek said there is a cycle that these farmers suffer through, where goats in Nicaragua are being bred and inbred until their genetics are no longer sustainable to generate healthy animals. This issue takes a great toll on the people of Nicaragua.

This is where LS350 wants to come in.

“We are looking to really transform Whitworth,” Zajicek said. “We want to make them aware of the people in need nationally and internationally.”

Zajicek, group member sophomore Jamie Lyons and the other eight members of the leadership class, have decided to pair up with the Mahanaim Centro de Rehabilitacion and give them the help and need they have been waiting for.

The leadership class has a couple main goals it is looking to target during this project. First, they are hoping to raise as close to $5,000 as possible to send back to the rehabilitation center . The money will be fundraised in many different ways, including a camp out in the loop on April 26.

Zajicek said that all of the money donated during the fundraising will go straight to the rehabilitation center. The money does, in effect, greatly benefit the people of Nicaragua by sheltering drug and alcohol addicts at the rehabilitation center.

“The participants live at the center for a minimum of six months, but often stay a whole year,” Zajicek said. “After two years out of the program, 80 percent of the graduates remain drug free.”

All the participants receive free room and board and contribute to chores and any mandatory rehabilitation sessions. Along with these sessions, participants attend a lecture once a week and learn about sustainable small scale farming techniques. The lessons learned at the center are practiced by working hands-on at the center’s farm.

“People are in such a vulnerable state when they arrive,” Lyons said. “We just want to help teach them.”

Another goal group members said they are hoping to achieve with this program is watching all the participants Nicaragua learn to take care of themselves.

Zajicek said the farmers are really struggling because the production of these goats has been stuck in the same cycle for years, and it’s time to break loose. One of the major downfalls with rural communities in Nicaragua is the malnourishment of the goats.

“We are looking to build a self-sustaining community by spicing up the breeding cycle,” Zajicek said.

Group members said that the center will use part of the money raised to bring in new, strong goats to the rehab center. Milking, meat and productivity are some qualities that make goats extremely beneficial to these people.

“Our money will give participants beefier goats, be used to build housing for these goats, and hopefully create a sustaining market,” Zajicek said.

The way that the group members are planning to help the people of Nicaragua is by hosting a camp out in the Loop, titled “Surviving Nicaragua,” happening this Thursday, April 26.

Starting at 7 p.m., the LS 350 students have many different activities planned that they said they hope will spark a new interest in students across campus.

“We are currently working with the bands for Thursday night,” Zajicek said. “We expect to have two or three. So far we have ‘Take the Sky’ confirmed.”

Along with local Whitworth bands playing during the evening, a movie will be projected on a large screen, a bonfire will be lit for cooking s’mores, and tents will be set up for any students who wish to sleep in the loop.

The LS 350 group is not charging for the event,  but is accepting donations.

“There will just at a table in the loop, and it’s the honor system for collecting money,” Lyons said. “But the incentive is if you donate $5 you get a bracelet, and the first ten to donate $35 get a free t-shirt.”

200 handmade bracelets will also be for sale.

Contact Jennifer Ingram at jingram13@my.whitworth.edu.

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