I had the privilege of joining the Wake Forest delegation to Managua Nicaragua February 23-26, 2011 to dedicate Casa Dingledine in the program known as Nicaragua Nexus. This facility is different than Wake Forest’s other international houses in that it is not residential (yet) and is intended for short stays of 1-3 weeks, rather than an entire semester. So far, undergraduate, graduate, and professional school students from Business, Law, and Divinity have all gone on trips to help the people of Nicaragua.
This short trip was eye-opening to me in many ways. Nicaragua is the second poorest country in the western hemisphere – next to Haiti. A land of great natural beauty, it has been despoiled by human intervention and political unrest. Our excellent guide told us that many foreigners come in on short, one-shot mission trips and visits, but Wake Forest has earned the respect of the locals through its sustained efforts and now permanent presence. The Business School has led efforts to train local entrepreneurs in good business practices. At the dedication on Friday night, half of the crowd consisted of local educators, business people, and others touched by Wake Forest’s initiatives.
One of the most poignant segments of the trip was the visit to NicaHope. This is an effort to provide children an alternative to sorting trash from the municipal garbage dump as a way of earning a living. Over 200 families live in the La Chureca dump. NicaHope volunteers train the children in jewelry-making and computer skills so that they can help their families while staying in school. Our group enthusiastically bought jewelry as a way of supporting the children. While touring their site I asked if they had any books and was told no, they had none, but could certainly use some! I’d like to think of a way to select and ship them some books.
My “business purpose” for the trip was to assess what kinds of books should be placed in the small library of Casa Dingledine. I will want to talk to a small group of those concerned from ZSR to decide on what is most appropriate. Because students and faculty from all across the campus are likely to use the Nicaragua Nexus, the materials will need to be well-chosen.
I was honored to be included in the group and commend the vision and generosity of Tom and Karyn Dingledine to make it a reality.