Nicaragua trip to focus on bringing clean water to El Limonal village


Volcanic island of Ometepe

The Clean Water Solutions trip to Nicaragua, organized by the JSC chapter of Break Away Alternative Spring Breaks, takes place Feb. 17- 25. The 12 participants, including two trip leaders, Vice President of the JSC chapter Samantha Flint and Jon Willson, and one supervisor, Director of Student Activities & Community Service Krista Swahn, plan to connect families living on the volcanic island of Ometepe to clean water.

Approximately 50 percent of the small community, El Limonal, has access to running water. The group will be digging trenches, connecting filter systems and laying water pipes. “We are going to be burying larger piping that comes down from the spring high on the [Maderas] volcano down to the village,” said Willson. “We will be connecting about 50 families to the water source.”

Over the summer, each JSC Break Away leader, the supervisor and the vice president of the program were given the opportunity to travel to Break Away’s Alternative Break Citizenship Schools (ABCS). “Four of us traveled to the ABCS in Managua, Nicaragua, to help with the literacy crusade,” said Flint. “While there, our chapter of Break Away formed a Nicaragua compact with four other colleges. This compact will ensure continued and sustainable visits to Nicaraguan areas in need for the next five years.”

According to group member Colleen Twomey, Nicaragua is the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, second only after Haiti. “Our work is really important there,” she said. “We will keep going back and working on various projects.”

The projects will be based on each community’s needs. “Community is really valued in Nicaragua and the great thing about this trip is that we will be working alongside community members,” Twomey said, “so we will be seeing the direct impact of our work immediately. We will be working with home owners and people who really need the help. We will be able to see the effect that we are having on their lives. That is really exciting.”

The group that originally hosted the ABCS, Panorama Service Expeditions, a community service organization, is taking care of all the travel needs, transportation, hotels and meals. “They set up what project we are going to do, and they have had all the communications with the community,” said Willson. “They have been wonderful and taken a lot of the stress out of our international trip.”

Each Break Away trip focuses heavily on education and reflection. This allows for participants to form a connection with many social issues that they often have never experienced. “Not only does the service we will be providing in Nicaragua benefit the locals there,” said Flint, “but it also benefits each participant and all of the people we can educate on our experience once we return.” The participants continue to educate others by doing presentations and post-service work, which continues to help keep the experience fresh in each mind. “The connections they form motivate them to continue to be active citizens after their time with Break Away has ended,” she said.

The budget for the trip is $17,000 and the group works together to raise the total cost so no one has to pay out of pocket or individually. “We never want cost to be a reason for people to be unable to participate in Break Away,” said Flint. “The bulk of our fundraised money comes from our annual letter-writing campaign. We also worked at the Stowe Foliage Festival, held a zumbathon, sold chocolate bars and held a band benefit at Moogs in Morrisville.”

Donations are still welcome and are being accepted until they reach their goal.

The members meet once a week as groups to discuss fundraising, and to go over education materials and trip logistics. “This is a year-long commitment and is much more than a week-long trip to an international location,” Flint said.