Nicaraguan Service Trip: A Life-Changer for Students


Madison Polack, Staff Writer, Advanced Journalism

Over the summer, many students embarked on NDA’s first international trip to Granada, Nicaragua.

Nick Robinson, Kristen Burkel, Andrea Ball, Mike DeLeers, Chris Fineout, Kim Lambee, Matthew Kini, Sam Warpinski, Max Polack, Lauren Welker, and myself all went on the trip.

The students were accompanied by Mr. Daniel Kriegl, NDA’s campus minister, Mr. Tim Polack and Mrs. Collette LaRue.

International Samaritan was the program that led our trip. Tania Solorzano, our trip coordinator, led our group throughout the week in just about everything. She was at our side when we needed help with language or even when we had a simple question about the Nicaraguan culture.


Everything was planned out beautifully, and it could not have gone more smoothly. Also, our fun drivers Carlos and Marlo played a major role in transporting us where we needed to go.

The trip started on July 10th and came to an end on July 17th. On the first day, we visited a garbage dump. At the garbage dump, many women were working to provide for their families. Our group was in shock and awe seeing this sight. Also, we went to the market to see what we could purchase with 600 cordobas, the equivalent of 20 American dollars. Then, we delivered what we bought to some families.

Over the course of the week our group did a variety of different service activities. In addition, we had many chances to connect with the community. One thing that we did was visit a boys’ orphanage. Some of the boys living there had anger issues or had a bad life at home.

At the home, the boys would also have study time with teachers. When we visited, we got to play soccer and frisbee with them. Also, one day, we were able to bring the boys some soccer balls and basketballs that we bought from the market for them to keep and play with.


It was a blast getting to meet these boys and create relationships with them. Many of us were even able to have small conversations in Spanish with them.

Lauren Welker said, “I will always have the voice of the little boy named Jefferson (from the home) in the back of my head asking me each day when I will be back.”

I almost got tears in my eyes when this little boy asked us this on the last day because the truth is we could not answer him. We do not know if we’ll ever be back there. In all honesty, we probably will not go back there and see him again. However, we all hope that our time there, although it was short, impacted their lives in some small way. We know this little boy and the people we met made a large impact on us.

In addition, we had the opportunity to visit many families and their houses. We got the chance to see a house, similar to the one we built all week, completed. It was very exciting to see the gratitude on the family’s faces and how proud they were of their new house. At that house, one of the girls gave us each a friendship bracelet that I will keep for the rest of my life. I thought it was one of the sweetest gestures, and I could not help but have a huge smile on my face.


Also, we did some construction work over the course of the week. Ultimately, it takes five different high schools to build one house. Our school was the third to be working on the home. We were helping build a home for a mother of three boys named Justa Maria. Her kids’names were Jorge, Ronaldo and Freddy. We did various things including painting metal support beams green, reshaping rebar into triangles/squares, wiring rebar, mixing cement, digging dirt, and laying/carrying heavy stones. The family helped us along the way as well as a construction crew that we grew close to over the week. We had the opportunity to play and bond with the family throughout the whole week.

Also, we got to bring Justa Maria and her family out for a nice dinner. This was the first time they had ever been out to a public restaurant. It was hilarious when Freddie, the youngest boy, received his order of a hamburger bigger than the size of his head. We all laughed about it and saw the excitement on his face.  Our last day was spent doing tourist things including visiting a beautiful lagoon and the market.

I speak for all of us when I say it was a life-changing experience.

Kristen Burkel, who graduated in May, said, “It has taught me that faith in the Lord and optimism may not give you everything you want, but you will find true happiness no matter the situation.”

“Everyone says ‘home is where the heart is,’ and I know that after the trip a little bit of my heart is in that home,” said Andrea Ball, who also graduated last year.

Junior Max Polack said, “All of these bonds have changed who I will and have become and for that I am forever grateful.”

I hope the relationships that we all made will last a lifetime and that we take all the lessons we learned and carry them out in our own lives. Service opportunities are all around us. It is up to us to make a difference in someone’s life. This trip truly taught me that. I will forever remember the kind and genuine people that I got to know and my time spent in Nicaragua.