Welcome to CCA’s international development blog page … the sights and sounds, the people and places as experienced by credit union and co-operative volunteers on the frontline of development.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Nicaragua Study Mission - Day 9

Packed suitcases stand by our hotel room doors, filled with souvenirs to take home to loved ones in Canada. We head home tomorrow after nearly two weeks in Nicaragua carrying heavier luggage than we arrived, but more significantly, with fuller hearts and richer minds.

Our experiences have made us keenly aware of how fortunate we are as Canadians to live in a land of plenty and opportunity.

We return “rejuvenated” from having seen first-hand the positive difference co-ops are making in the lives of Nicaraguans.

We leave inspired by the people of this country for their resilience, their passion for life and their determination to pull themselves out of poverty.

We will fondly remember their ever-present smiles, the pride they took in the properties and the way they treated all children as if they were their own.

These are not my words but those of my teammates who shared their thoughts following a final dinner in Managua. Together, we took this eye-opening journey through the second poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere and came away feeling hopeful about Nicaragua’s future.

“I made the erroneous assumption that with extreme poverty there would be extreme sadness,” Nicole Woelke said. “Instead I saw such warmth. They (Nicaraguans) did not have a lot of physical things around them, but that did not matter.”

One of Vera Goussaert’s personal goals for the mission was to reconnect with the roots of the co-operative movement in narrowing the gap between those that have and those who have not. “We lose sight of the impacts co-ops have on our communities.”

Vera and the other team members plan to apply the lessons they learned on this mission to help others both abroad and in Canada. “What works here certainly can work at home (to address poverty).”

Both Nicole and Myra Kormann hope to take the children on similar missions when they get older and everyone is eager to tell their stories when they get back to time. The team is also keen to get more involved in supporting the international development efforts of the Canadian Cooperative Association.

“There is hope and co-ops will work in Nicaragua,” Betty Willemsen said, expressing a widely held sentiment among the group.

“I found Nicaragua to be a very poor country but yet optimistic,” Bill Freeman agreed. “This trip reaffirmed by belief in co-ops and grassroots organizations.”

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