Epilogue – Notes From Your Leaders

Nicaragua/Canada – Two Countries One World


Dear Gang, Amigos/Amigas

I suspect that if someone from Nicaragua came to Canada, they would be left with a sense of amazement, for their world and ours  are different in so many ways.   In going to Nicaragua,  I was overwhelmed by the extremes and contrasts that I saw everywhere.  Pick any topic: politics, transportation, distribution of wealth, public vs private space etc.  Everything is written in extremes and contrasts and I personally  need to understand this better.

Likewise, I am left with a lasting impression of contrasts about TCOW.  The most striking contrast is that of what I see as changes and growth in all of us who made this trip.   Think of where we were in this venture at the point of inquiry and where we are now,  as we return from the contrast of Barrio Grenada y  Anexo, to  our lives here in S. Ontario.

We each have had our individual journey and mine as a leader and participant has left a fresh imprint on my inner being.  There is wisdom to be gained from the journey, not the least of which is that patience is a virtue and that the element of time is needed to find a workable and comfortable path of change.  The people we met will continue to gain strength, to grow in their communities and change  as they continue their journey, as we will in ours.

It is important to understand that we took this journey to learn, understand and to offer ourselves as helping hands.  We believe we have accomplished this.  So too in leadership roles, we learn, understand and offer ourselves as helping hands for the strength and growth of TCOW and to find the balance  that fosters change as you grow as individuals.

It is my hope that each one on this trip finds a new place in their heart and soul  to let these seeds of leadership develop and produce some of the wisdom that will guide you through your lives.

Thank you for this journey.  Gracias



To All Of You:

We have travelled together, laughed together, cried together and grown together. We have lived as a family, relying on each other through good and bad. We have all shared an experience, and although reacting to it differently we will always have that bond. The next few days, weeks, months, and years, will bring many challenges, happy moments as well as sad. I would like you all to know that you have each other and you will always have me. You all showed me so much love this trip and that will never be forgotten. We have a bond that no time, or distance can break and I hope that whenever you need a friend, a helping hand, or someone to share your joys with, you will not hesitate to contact me! I love you all more than words can say and I hope you will carry that love through your life!



At our reunion a week ago today, we struggled with the way ou TCOW trip will have lasting effects on our lives and future decisions.  In the midst of this discussion, Daniel Saunders read a quotation to us from the Danish, Christian philospoher, Søren Kiekegaard.  if I remember it correctly it was saying that any work you do in this life in the service of God will not be lost.

Immediately I thought of the concept of the “Kingdom of God” that Jesus preached so much about.  Remember the words of the popular United Church hymn, “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God”? 

Jesus was referring to God’s realm and our citizenship in it.  It is a realm beyond the plane of this world, but also in it.  It is a reality to which we belong here, but only in part.  Jesus said you must have the trust and wonder of a little child in order to enter into the Kingdom (Mark 10:15).  He also said that the Kingdom is within you (Luke 17:21)

It is my observation that there were many times the “Kingdom of God” broke through to us on this trip .. in moments when the contrasts of culture and the pain of a political history and poverty became real; .. in the exuberant and playful acceptance of the children of Los Quinchos, of Barrio Grenada and Citilapa; .. in the care and affection of our host families; .. in the appreciative partnership of fellow Nicaraguan workers at the service projects; .. in the singing voice of the principle at Los Quinchos, in the sung prayer of Dalena, in the sound of the mariachis breaking through to crowd to honour our farewell; .. in the loud group singing on the bus and the quieter, honest moments of sharing during group time in the evening; .. in the bestowing of bandanas and key chains and clay hands that celebrated our contributions; .. in the tears of our favorite big, bus bouncer; .. in the faithful shepherding and friendship of our Compañeros staff;  in the wisdom you each expressed at key moments; .. and in the compassion you showed each other at times of illness or need.  Indeed, each of you had your eyes cleared long enough to have glimpsed the presence of God’s Kingdom in others and in yourselves.

Reflecting on the history of ‘kingdoms’ and their association with authority, hierarchies of power and inevitable wars, some people of faith have chosen to drop the ‘g’ in ‘kingdom’ and refer instead to God’s “Kindom”.  Surely each of us experienced the truth of a “kindom” that made Nicaraguan neighbours into true brothers and sisters of faith.

I guess what is most important for me at this juncture, is to name each of you as a full citizen of this Kin(g)dom right here and right now .. and for each of you to claim this citizenship for yourselves.  To be a citizen of God’s realm is not an easy life, because the vision that inspires our work is greater than the world can sustain.  But our work for the Kin(g)dom will never be lost, and neither shall we be lost.

Blessings as you move out in so many wonderful, new directions.  Elizabeth

Day 11

We’re coming Home!

We have arrived on Canadian soil safe and sound, all together and all with luggage! Everyone was so happy to be home and excited to get through customs and see families and friends waiting on the other side.

The day started with our final breakfast and goodbyes with our host families. For myself, it was so hard as Dona Angelica became my momma for the week and Cora a sister! We met at Casa Blanca for our farewell to Compenaros. We sang them “Let us Build a House” (More Voices #1) including 3 duets for the middle verses. It was powerful, the emotion in the room. We then passed around a bowl with the names of the staff inside. Each TCOW member would pull a name and state how that person had blessed them in the past 10 days. They would then place the blessings we had written to them in a new bowl we had got them. (And just as the first few tried to fly out of the bowl a lime fell from the tree so we used it as our paper weight … very Nicaraguan!) All 23 of us repeated this and there were some tears involved (mostly from me I admit!). After this Gonzalo came around and spoke about us all individually and the gifts we all possessed. Mayte then brought out Compenaros t-shirt for us all to symbolize how we had all become a family. We then said our goodbyes to Dalayna and Marta with big hugs, good wishes, and promises of our return and loaded on the bus. We rode to the airport and did our best soundoff (in Spanish) to date. We said our thanks to the bus driver and Gunther (or body guard) with words, hugs, tears and maple syrup. We loaded up and all got checked in. We headed to immigration and said our goodbyes to Gonzalo and Mayte with more hugs, strengthening and encouraging words and hopes for the future. After customs and security we gathered at our gate and within 10 minutes boarded the plane.
The ride to El Salvador was short, bumpy and hot. We found it funny how that flight offered us pillows and blankets and yet the next flight did not. When arriving in El Salvador we again went to our gate and those of us without seat numbers so seats assigned. We had 45min to get some food before boarding once again and taking off. We were much more spread out this time so visits between seats were a regular and wonderful occurrence. As the plane cooled we slowly and reluctantly changed into warmer clothing. Many of us refused to take off our sandals though and so far … I still have not! When arriving in Toronto customs was empty and all the bags arrived. This was such a pleasant surprise! We took a moment to exchange goodbye hugs before running to parents. It was not to tearful as we now we will see each other on Saturday and into the future with the promise of more Salsa Dancing and Saturday nights together! We all made it through final custom check without getting searched except for Santi. As we walked through his father asked if we had left him behind. On our way out I got lots for hugs and thank yous with were taken to heart and very much appreciated! As far as I have been told all made it home safely from the airport and are back to their lives of school and friends and temptation.

-Blogged by Sarah-

Day 10

OMG I saw monkeys!!!
-Joke Blog by Steven-

We woke up to a traditional Nicaraguan breakfast which was potatoes, rice, and Beef all cooked in plantain leafs. We then took the bus up to the Mombacho Zipline. There were 10 ziplines and we could go up side down or superman! We then drove into Grenada for some pizza and some shopping in the town square. Next was the Colonial Grenada Islands Boat Tour. This was possibly the highlight of my trip because I got to see monkeys (No Big Deal!) After dinner we had our farewell party with all of our host families. At the party Happy Birthday was sung to me in 5 different versions. We salsa danced the rest of the night and Saskia and I destroyed Santi and Julia S in a Salsa Battle. I was a great last day and an awesome birthday.
-Actual Blog by Steven-

Today was our last day in Nicaragua. Lots of mixed feelings about going home tomorrow; to Canada … where there is bound to be some sort of precipitation, snow or rain (slate?) 🙁 Hahaha anyways …

Happy 18th Birthday and feliz Cumpleanos to Steven! It was a well celebrated birthday.

First off we headed to Mombacha Volcano to go ziplining; woooo! So much fun and such a cool experience. We ziplines through the trees on about 10 different ziplines. Some fast, some slow. You could even do it superman style or upside-down! After, we headed to TelePizza for some lunch. Obviously we had pizza … mmmm it was very tasty. Vege pizza, Hawaiian pizza, Pepperoni pizza, Deluxe pizza, we ordered eight. Lunch was followed by walking around the plaza in Grenada to buy some more souvenirs; get a refreshment, whatever. The buildings in Grenada were painted every colour of the rainbow. Each building was painted a different colour; it was lovely, and such a pleasant site. Our last excursion was a boat tour of the Grenada islands. Plenty of cool wildlife, amazing houses, getaways for the rich people, and trees, what a site. The weather was so nice as well. Right now we are getting ready to go to our farewell fiesta with our host families, and then tomorrow we say our final goodbyes and fly off to Canada! I hope that everybody has a good welcome home. See you next Saturday ;(

-Blogged by Mariah <3 –

Day 9

This morning we started the day as usual. We got to the Barrio and worked till 10 finishing to weeks projects. We then held inaugurations for the houses and welcomed the families into their new homes. It felt awesome to see are projects through and have them finished! When that was done, we went to the Community house for a birthday/farewell party, (its Steven and Jane’s birthday tomorrow!). We had lunch, music, dancing, and piñata and a mariachi band! Eventually we had to say our goodbyes to all of the friends we’ve made throughout the week. It was so hard to say goodbyes to all of the friends we’ve made throughout the week. It was so sad thinking that after spending so much time with this community, we might not see them again. When our goodbyes were done, we headed off to Huembes market for some shopping. The market was really cool, there were so many things to see and buy! We only had a little over and hour, so it was a bit like speed shopping! Afterwards we went back to our host families, changed into our fancy outfits and met back at Casa Blanca. We had some group time. We talked about what to expect when we got home, and Gonzalo had some advice. We then were on our way to dinner, which was great, although the service at the restaurant was less then stellar. People were upset about it as we made our way to the next location for Salsa Dancing!!! There was a live band and the dancing cheered everyone up! It was so much fun! Then at the stroke of midnight, we sang a very loud Happy Birthday to Steven and Jane. It was an awesome day!
-Blogged by Samantha-

The Final day of project work started with a tortia and guya pinto breakfast, (as tasty as usual!). We then rushed off to Casa Blanca in order to catch the party bus. That morning we finished the 4 houses and inaugurated them all at exactly 11 am. We then visited the local school we were painting to see the amount of progress that took place. Then the celebration started! There was national anthem singing, a mariachi band, piñata and cake. Thanking us for our work and in celebration of Jane and Steven’s Birthdays. Lunch was a Nicaraguan version of spaghetti with pieces of ham (or it might have been bacon) with short but skinny noodles. It was AMAZIIIINNNGGG!!! Lunch was followed by an hour of fast paced, shopping, bartering and getting hustled by vendors if you were not on the ball (Ian;) The market mainly had touristy items but if you were able to not get lost, you could find some nock-offs and other less souvernee items. After picking up our souvenirs we had a session to help us to prepare for when we arrive back at home, and how to respond to questions. By the time we were done we were all starving. But sadly the restaurant we went too lacked (timely) service and we did not leave before 10. We then Party bused over to a second restaurant because the first one blew. We salsaed up the night, and sang Steven Happy Birthday when the clock struck midnight. We then of course, danced our way off the party bus as were dropped off at our Host Family’s.
-Blogged by Daniel W-
p.s. The tree threw purple

Day 8

In the morning as usual, everyone had breakfast with their host families.  After that we congregated at Casa Blanca to head to the work sites.  At the site most of the houses were starting to take shape and the progress seemed really good.  After another amazing meal at the Barrio Grenada community house, we headed off to do our rural visit.  After a long bus ride on a bumpy road we got the village of Citilapa and were shown the after school help centre, the church and the village water pumps.  Playing with the kids at the village was the most fun we had all day.

-Blogged by Ian-


Today was our second last day in Barrio Grenada.  It was today that the houses were being finished up and the last of the streets began to be dug.  At the houses, the roof was beginning to be built.  To nail on the roof we got to climb the house.  We sat up top and hammered in the nails to hold up the beams.  It was awesome to see all the houses and we could see workers on other roof tops.

After we had lunch at Casa Communal, we hopped on the bus and travelled for about an hour to a rural village called Citilapa.  There we learned about their school program.  The kids have school in the morning and then in the afternoon they can come back to get help with their school work.

We went to the church and learned about how a church from Barrie had come down and built it.  Our schedule changed when school let out.  All the kids rushed to join us.  We ended up playing the Spanish version of duck, duck, goose and we called it cat, cat, dog.

We played for many rounds and then we headed to see the water system with the kids following behind us.  The walk was very tricky.  Not only because we were walking down a very steep hill but also, many of us had children on our arms.  When we reached the bottom, some of us went with the kids and crossed the river by leaping from rock to rock.  We then gathered at the water system.  It was explained that the system provides water for the village for 2 hours every 48 hours.

From Citilapa, we headed home to have dinner with our host families.  We met back at Casa Blanca for group time.  We did an activity called stoplight.  We each were given three sticky notes, each representing on colour on a stoplight.  On the green one we wrote what we were loving about the trip.  On the yellow one we wrote a difficult question that we have been thinking about.  On the red one we wrote what we found difficult to understand.  We then got up one at a time and presented each piece of paper, telling the group what it said.  After group time we all headed home and said Buenas Noches.

-Blogged by Olivia-

Day 7

Today we were at Barrio Grenada for most of the day.  During the cool hours of the morning form 9am-12pm we worked on our multiple service projects.  For the people building the houses we finally finished the foundation and put the floor on top.  It was very rewarding to finally have it start looking somewhat like a house.  We are also getting to know the Nicarguans better.  As we work many kids play around you, they are very friendly and welcoming.  We stopped for lunch at about 12:30pm and sang our grace again with everybody.  We are all learning it more and we are starting to sound good.  Afterwards we had games at the Barrio.  We had a basketball game, soccer (futball) and Ultimate frisbee game.  We really made friends with our Nicaraguan team mates and took lots of pictures together afterwards.  The feild in the Barrio was all soil (tierra) and we worked on our dirt tans as we played in the dust.  Sarah had brought a bag of lollypops and the kids on the sidelines were handing them out.  To finish our day we stopped for icecream on the way home to buy some for our host families. We took showers and went to Casa Blanca for a reflection group time.

-Blogged by Saskia-

We started off the day in Barrio Granada, doing the service project. We spent the whole morning working hard on digging trenches, building houses and painting the library blue. I built a house that day with Sarah, Daniel W, Santi and Julie D, it was very exciting to see the walls of the house go up. Silly me I forgot sun screen and by the end of the day I was the colour of the Canadian flag. Then we ate a spectacular lunch. After lunch we stayed in the Barrio and played all sorts of games with the leaders and staff of the Barrio, such as Basketball, Soccer and Ultimate Frisbee, it was so much fun!!!! But we got creamed in every sport we played. After we went to a store called Pops and bought ice cream to take home and share with our host families after dinner. I personally enjoyed the Brownie flavour, but Santi wasn’t a big fan. Later that day we went to Casa Blanca for group time, it was a time for people to open up and show their emotions. Well this was everything that happened on day 7.
-Blogged by Tim-


Day 6

Today was another good day for working in Barrio Grenada.  There were plenty of clouds, so the sun was not to intense.  I helped with building the house on street four, with Olivia and John.  By lunch time we had 8 holes dug and 3 posts put into the ground.  Putting the posts in took the longest amount of time because they needed to be perfectly level and in line with each other, and there are fifteen posts in total.  After another delicious and filling lunch we all boarded the bus to go see the dump.  We only got a glimpse of it from the bus because it is no longer safe to go inside, although people still live and work there.  We got to visit Micalana´s house in the community outside the dump.  She lived in the dump for the first year of her life so she does not remember it, but still told us about the dump and what she is doing now.  One thing she is working on is a fair trade shop.  So we went there to buy a few things.  After dinner with our hosts families, we went out to a restaurant-cafe and split three delicious cakes between the group.  Then we party-bussed it all the way home.
-Blogged by Julia D-

My morning was uneventful, except for some of my housemates waking me up an hour early due to not having adjusted their alarm to the proper time zone. Regardless, we eventually made over to Casablanca and prepared to go to the Barrio. Today, I was working to build a home on street 6. The house in question was being built for one Catalina Mara, her husband and her young son and daughter. Me and a member of the Kampville group worked on that site with Nicaraguan university students around my own age from the Latin American charity “A Roof for My Country”. When I say ‘worked with’, it was more like being directed by them. The reason was that today were putting in a foundation which consisted of a series of wooden poles, and it was essential for the rest of the week’s work that it be done properly. Thus, we did a lot of standing around while precise calculations were being done. However that did give us an opportunity to strike a bit of a conversation (Thankfully, a couple of them knew English so I did not have to rely completely on the poco espanol that I had). The most amusing part was the discussion of the various accents possessed by Canada (I apologize to any newfie who may be reading this blog). It turns that the Nicaraguan accent is known in Latin America as sounding like the speaker is singing. I also found out a bit more about the organization that they were working for called “A Roof for my Country”. It is a Latin American NGO consisting of students working to alleviate poverty situations in their countries. Their methodology consists of a three step plan: The first step is to provide temporary housing to particular members of a community in desperate situations. The second step consists of social work in the community to address the development of poverty. The final step is to provide permanent housing to the community members in need. So far, Barrio Grenada is only in the 1st step of trying to create temporary housing. Being an academic youth myself, I felt a certain kinship with the students that we were working with. What made it really meaningful was that these students represented the privileged of their own society, and they choose to take a significant commitment of their time to actually helping others within their own country. This is the model of homegrown development work that will provide a lasting solution to social issues within the poorer regions of the world.

             After a hearty meal of chicken, rice, beans, vegetables and plantain in the community hall, we departed for the Managuan municipal garbage dump of La Chureca. If there was anyplace in this world that could truly be called a hell, then that was it. We did not actually go within the dump itself due to the safety concerns of Companeros, but we did drive by the neighboring streets. There was garbage haphazardly strewn throughout the street, and there were many smoldering fires that nobody bothered with. Starved dogs with missing patches of skin foraged amongst what was there, but it was the inhabitants themselves that made the scene most disturbing. One of the things that we had learned as a group was that all Nicaraguans greatly value personal hygiene, and even in the dusty and poor community of the Anexo people took the time to make themselves clean. However, that standard seemed to be discarded in La Chureca. The most disturbing thing of all was the atmosphere. Despite the poverty of the Anexo, there was an optimistic undercurrent which energized the people there and created an awe-inspiring sense of community. However, that hope was missing here.

            A few blocks away from the dump we were taken to the home of a young woman called Michaela. Michaela’s mother had moved into the dump in order to provide for her children. Her family succeeded in moving out of the dump and into a proper home nearby. The house itself would not be much larger then one floor of my own home, and yet the family of her mother, her four sisters, three girls and one of the sister’s husbands lived within that home. Michaela herself is a true superwomen if there ever was one. Despite being only twenty-two, she studied, volunteered, worked, and looked after her three year old daughter. Her family does amazing work within the community. They are using their home as a make-shift clinic, so that people in need can come and receive some basic treatment and medication. They have also welcomed a young girl into their home when her mother thought that she could not provide her daughter with what she needed. I asked them what had kept them going, and she said that “Jesus Christ had came to serve us, so why should we not serve others?”. That fits in to the theme of servanthood which has appeared in many different places, and it is one I hope that we can thoroughly understand and apply to our own lives.

 -Daniel Saunders-

A Mid-Week Note from Gonzalo

Dear friends and family of the TCOW group in Nicaragua,

 Just a quick note to let you know, from an organizers point of view, all is going well. Each morning progress is being made on the installation of a potable water system for 850 residents of Barrio Grenada y Anexo here in Managua, the assembly of 4 houses with families, the construction and painting of a new school library nearing completion, and the painting of one very detailed mural.

 Lots of fun excursions and learning visits, welcoming host families, and group activities fill in the afternoons and evenings. Temperatures 30-35 C. during the day, 25-30 C. at night. Delicious food and tropical fruit being enjoyed. Some predictable and manageable intestinal issues affected about 4-5 people, but everyone’s bouncing back.

 Many thanks to you and other supporters for making this service learning experience a reality – not only for the Canadian participants, but for the hundreds of local Nicaraguan residents working and benefiting with them.  Attached photo was taken yesterday at lunch – enjoy!

 Thanks, Gonzalo

Day 5

The first thing we did today was g to LosQuinchos, which is a school for children who work on the streets.  We got to talk with one of the teachers there and ask him questions about the school.  He talked about the history of the school and what it means to the children who go there.  He was really passionate about his work and about the kids at the school.  He sang us a song that the school had been practicing for their 30th anniversary.  It was in Spanish so we couldn´t understand the words, but he sang it with so much emotion and pride that we almost didn´t need to know what it meant to understand the feeling behind it.  After he talked to us the bell rang for the kids to have a break, so he said we could go out and play with them.  It was so much fun being outside and playing games with them.  They were so happy all the time and they wanted to talk to us.  As we were waiting for the bus to leave, we took a few pictures, and every time we would start to take one with a couple kids, they would all swarm and try to get in the picture.  Being at the school was an amazing experience.
We then made our way to Barrio Grenada to start work in the Annexo.  We were working on multiple projects today, taking apart houses, painting murals, working at the library and digging trenches.  I started working on taking apart a house, but we quickly finished that, so I went to dig some trenches.  We had pick axes and shovels, someone would jump in the trench and break up the ground with the pick axe, and the other person would shovel out the loose dirt.  Digging was moving more quickly than I thought it would.  There were many people from the Barrio helping, which made the job even quicker.  We took a break for lunch and went back to the community house.  After we ate lunch, people brought out their instruments and we sang song for a while.  After lunch we went back and worked on the projects for a bit longer.  We took a watermelon break and then we left.  We got on the bus filthy.  Digging trenched pretty much covers you in dirt from head to toe.  We went to a pool to g swimming, it was a nice way to end the day, cooling off an d just having some fun, before we went back to our host families.
-Blogged by Jamie-

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