Students commit to helping the village of Santa Julia

Two groups from MMC traveled to the rural community of Santa Julia in Nicaragua this past March as part of alternative Breaks. One group of students sought to make an impact in the lives of the community’s children, while students from the International Business Honor Society (IBHS) worked to help Santa Julia’s farmers be more profitable with their coffee business.

Located half an hour outside of Managua, Santa Julia is only accessible by long and dusty road. Residents have to walk two-and-a-half-miles to get clean water. Yet despite these unimaginable hardships – and within a male dominated culture, the women of the village created a co-op.

Dolores Esquivel-Gonzalez, the co-op’s leader, looks after the needs of the 65  families that call Santa Julia home and considers the creation of a school her greatest accomplishment. Esquivel and her all-woman leadership team work together not only to promote education among the children and adults, but also to increase their income through the farming of crops. They also lobby the local government for funding.

Teaching while learning

Danelle Molina, Alexandra Dupont, Desmond McGill, Eymi Castillo, Brandon Wylie, Rafael Lacson, Jessica Romero, Kenya Adeola, Alex McCoy, Jennifer Maceiras, and Justin Lopez worked alongside the village’s volunteer teacher, Valentín Blas Guevara, to create bilingual lessons and exercises using arts and crafts. Simultaneously, the FIU students were also learning life lessons from the Santa Julia children.

“They are always happy,” said McGill about the children. “They don’t realize how less fortunate they are. They stay strong. They are willing to learn, and they don’t have a care in the world.”

Similarly, the members of IBHS – Ana Peralta, Miki Asano, Bibi Moghani, Rosie Rosas, Maria Aguirre, Tatiana Medina, Deborah Rivera, and Luis Terron – researched economic data about coffee growing and visited two successful coffee businesses to help the women improve their coffee business. Their assessments were constantly in flux with the unforeseen challenges faced by the community.

“We had to completely rethink our presentation based on what we found in Santa Julia,” said Peralta.

On the last day, the students compiled their findings into a two-and-a-half-hour presentation they shared with the cooperative’s leadership. Among the items presented were a list of national and international non-profit organizations that could offer help; the presentation of a logo and packaging options for their coffee; and a much needed coffee depulper brought by the students from the Unites States. The students pledged to continue working with the women of Santa Julia on this initiative over the course of five years.

“We made a difference. We made a beginning,” said Constance Bates, business professor and advisor to the IBHS who traveled with the group.

The next episode

The MMC students were among five groups that traveled to Nicaragua during the spring session of alternative Breaks. The collective group represented the largest contingency sent to a single country in the organization’s 17-year history. Below is the third video in a series chronicling the journey of these students.

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