It was just starting to get dark while all the children of the small village of Madriz, Nicaragua had settled into their places to watch the movie. They giggled as they yelled “We love Despicable Me!” Popcorn kernels were being popped, filling the air with its strong butter scent.
The Amigos Program had taken new heights in the community of Madriz, Nicaragua. East Junior Allie Libeer and several other high-level Spanish students from across the United States had worked together to organize a movie night in the impoverished area.
Libeer said, “It was a struggle to organize. We all worked so hard to get it together for all the kids and when we were finally able to do it, it felt so good.”
A movie night wasn’t the only thing the team worked on. To find what would be best for the community, a meeting was held between the leaders of Madriz and the amigos. They brainstormed in order to think of projects to work on over the summer.
“Holding the meetings was a little nerve racking because I had to talk in Spanish for the whole time but it gave me a lot of confidence when I found I could do it,” Libeer said.
To make the community stronger, it was decided that building a music school would be best for Madriz. The Amigos bought guitars and started construction on the small central building. The students worked hard everyday for weeks to sure the community got what it needed.
Along with the construction of the music school, students met daily with the kids of Madriz for two hours. They taught them lessons like how to stay clean, be kind and be respectful to elders. These times were called Complamentos and were meant for the Amigos to use more Spanish at the same time of helping the children.
The Amigos also held fundraisers for different causes such as the local soccer team. They raised enough to buy the Madriz team all new bright-orange uniforms.
The eight weeks spent in Nicaragua sent Libeer on a cultural adventure. She learned more about the Spanish language by speaking it all day, everyday and emerged herself into the Central American culture of Madriz.
Libeer said, “I learned so much on the trip about taking things for granted. When I got back and realized I had a nice mattress and a working shower, it showed me I needed to be grateful for what I have.”
For Junior Maddie Housh, the Amigos Program strengthened her Spanish-speaking abilities and self-confidence. She went into the trip not having the strongest Spanish skills, thinking she wouldn’t be able to be the leader she needed to be to help the community thrive.
For seven weeks, Housh worked on projects in Independencia, Dominican Republic. She worked with the youth that were her age, planting trees, making T-shirts and fixing computers.
Housh said, “I thought it was really cool working with the kids my age. We just kind of hung out.”
Housh and the rest of the Amigos had to do Complamentos five days a week for two hours. She struggled to get those going for the first week with the kids but once she got it started, she felt it was easy to use her Spanish skills with the younger children.
Along with the Spanish, Housh learned how to speak some Creole when they visited Haiti for a week of her trip. She stayed with a family and learned a lot about the language. Housh has become extremely interested in the language since and has decided to take French her senior year at East, since it is so closely related to Creole.
The Amigos Program helped Housh learn more about herself than she ever thought. She was put in situations where she had to help herself out and discovered what she was capable of accomplishing.
Looking back on her experience in Independencia, Housh sees how much of a difference she made and the things she did for the community. She still keeps in touch with the people she made a relationship with through Facebook.
“I learned so much and did so much for the people of the Dominican Republic. It’s so rewarding to see everything we did for them by ourselves.” said Housh.