Island teens will participate in Nicaragua project
Teen coordinator Melissa Minto is their inspiration for the trip, which is part of a larger project created to foster a relationship between the sister cities of New Haven, Conn., and León, Nicaragua.
Jessica Bucklin, Victor Lambert and Eric von Hohenleiten are the three who have embarked on a fund-raising effort for their trip with the Connecticut youths scheduled for July 18 to 26. The high school sophomores have already started saving towards the estimated cost of $1,400 each. They drafted letters to ask family and friends for money to support their dream. "When we come back, we want to give a photo presentation to educate our own community about the work we've done," Minto noted. Through educational talks locally, they want to inspire others to make the trip next year. "The main focus is education."
The three students are athletes who dedicate free time to supporting healthy environments in their own community. Bucklin and von Hohenleiten regularly volunteer to set up and assist teaching at the after school volleyball program at the recreation center downtown. "I wouldn't be able to run the program without their help," said von Hohenleiten's mother, Andrea. Lambert volunteers his time with SailNewport at Fort Adams, sharing his skills with children who want to learn how to sail.
The teenagers have also offered community service close to home with the Substance Abuse Prevention Task Force.
Minto explained how the trip offered the opportunity to travel to another country, hone their Spanish skills and gain insight into the foreign culture of a third world country. The agricultural projects they will be involved in range from digging holes, planting and composting, to building shade gardens to protect plants from the intense heat. "They (the people in León) don't have systems of traditional disposal or using their waste efficiently. The projects engage the students and the community to encourage economic development through sustainable agriculture."
Minto went to León as an intern, working with children and farmers on sustainable organic farming practices. She went as a participant in the New Haven/León Sister City Project, a grassroots organization which strives to understand and celebrate the respective cultures. The project provides opportunities for internships in areas of public health and education, in addition to agriculture.
"León is a brave community," Minto said. She visited the Central American republic a second time last November to observe the presidential elections. "I ran into Jimmy Carter," she enthused, noting that the former President brought a delegation from the Carter Center to monitor the fourth democratic election in the country. Carter's presence was to help support fair elections, Minto noted.
Bucklin has also traveled twice to Nicaragua, but this trip will be her first working holiday. She stayed with a friend of the family, went sightseeing and visited markets. "I really like the painted houses and flowers everywhere," she said.
Von Hohenleiten has "no idea" what they will be asked to do in León, but anticipates a positive experience. "I look forward to learning about the cultural differences and seeing a third world country," he said. Lambert agreed, adding that he hoped to learn more Spanish on the trip.
When asked if they had any fears or concerns about the trip to one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere, they answered with a resounding, "no." Perhaps their biggest worries were getting the proper medical shots and raising the needed funds for the expedition, they thought.
To offer support or to learn more about the upcoming delegation to León this summer, send inquiries by e-mail to jamestownteens@ yahoo.com. For more information about the New Haven/ León Sister City Project, visit online at www. newhavenleon.org.