¡Somos BuildOn! ¡Somos BuildOn! ¡¡Somos BuildOnnnnnn!! The simple yet unifying phrase we would energetically shout every morning before starting on the worksite—translating to “We are BuildOn.” Not they are, or you are, or I am… We are, all together, collectively, as one team.
After that refrain, the workday would commence. Each day was a tad different; however, there was always one common theme: hard work. From the BuildOn staff to the community of la Linda Vista to the sorority women from NC State Panhellenic, I have never experienced a more dedicated and thorough group of people. Daily tasks included tying rebar, mixing cement, sifting sand, digging trenches in the foundation, and digging holes for the foundation columns and the latrine. We had a great rotation system, so everybody got to assist in each department! Building this school aimed to bring well-rounded education closer to the children of Linda Vista (they have to travel approximately 2 hours every day to get to school). So, everyone involved was extremely happy to help accomplish this! Community members went straight to work when we did, working diligently with a pickax in flip-flops and never once complaining. Morale on the site was always high and everybody wanted to lend a helping hand in any way that they could. Despite the language barrier, we worked side by side, often only communicating with hand gestures, small Spanish phrases, and smiles. Although there were not a lot of verbal conversations, our communal work ethic and unity displayed on the work site truly formed a connection between us all.
This trek also allowed for bonds to be made within the Fraternity and Sorority Life community at NC State. Going into this, I only knew one person and she is a member of my sorority, as was true for many
other people on this trip. We really began to get to know each other in the Miami airport while en route to Nicaragua. I think it is safe to say that we were all very pleasantly surprised with our phenomenal group dynamic, as well as our ability to encourage each other and persevere on the work site. The bond of sisterhood (Panhellenic and within your own chapter) truly is genuine. You really can’t comprehend the true meaning of sisterhood until it is 2 am… And you really, REALLY have to pee… But, you are too afraid to forage through the dark and scary night to venture to la latrina… You are just pacing back and forth by your sleeping bag with your headlamp on when your sweet sister Maddi rolls over and says to you, “Yo, dude, are you okay?” And, when you confess your fears to her, she sits up and simply replies, “You could’ve just waken me up, of course I’ll go out there with you!” Theta love at its finest, right there.
During our time spent in Nicaragua, we were fortunate enough to learn a lot about the people and culture of la Linda Vista. In the afternoons, we participated in cultural workshops, including hiking to a coffee farm to aid a local farmer, making a cake with our hands, and having a discussion solely with the women of the village. These wonderful people graciously let us stay in their homes and become a part of their families. Evenings spent with our host families after a hard day’s work were always enjoyable and something to look forward to! One night, the cousin of my host mother, Miguel, pulled out his solar powered electric keyboard after learning that I had played the piano for my entire childhood. Everyone gathered in one room and danced along while the two of us took turns playing songs and different chord riffs! Another night, Maddi and I taught Miguel how to play popular American card games, such as ‘Go Fish’ and ‘War,’ solely by giving visual demonstrations of the game itself. My host mother even taught me how to make corn tortillas! (She then lovingly laughed at me when I attempted to flip it in the pan and it folded into itself… But, she applauded my effort nonetheless!)
I am so fortunate to have been a part of such a phenomenal journey and will forever be thankful for the way this trip integrated so many people and organizations. We cannot wait to see the finished school!! It was quite difficult for us to leave, knowing that there is more to accomplish. However, we left with a sense of inspiration and hope, ready to share our experiences back home to our families, friends, chapters, and school!