My name is Sean and I joined ICS and Raleigh in Nicaragua to try something new, to get out in to the world, and to bring myself back down to reality. Born and raised in Glasgow, Scotland, I have never had to worry about the basic life essentials, always had food on my plate and a roof over my head, a working toilet and a safe water supply to drink from whenever I wanted. However, that’s not all I had, I was privileged because I had electricity, new clothes when I wanted them, a tv, a mobile phone, the internet and anything else that I asked for.
Before joining ICS I was a roofer working Monday to Friday, getting on it Monday to Sunday. Stuck in a cycle of getting paid and going out to spend it all on nights out and having nothing to show for it. I dropped out of college earlier in the year because I was lazy and didn’t want to give up my free time to study. Coming out to Nicaragua was a chance for me to stop living in the clouds and to get my priorities in order.
The project I was involved in is called YES (Youth, Entrepreneurs and Sanitation) of this project my team concentrated on the WASH programme (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene). Together with our host partner Agua Para la Vida our main objectives were hygiene and sanitation, and empowering youth and women in the community organisation. I went in with hope and a drive to do good but at the beginning work was slow in the community because we were non bi-lingual youths with no previous experience in volunteering or sanitation. It felt as though we had been flung in at the deep end, trying to figure out what was the best next move to make. But over time we began to ease in to our surroundings, take grasp of our objectives at hand and learn about the things we had no knowledge of before. These topics were challenging daily but were by far not my biggest challenge.
My biggest challenge on ICS happened 4 weeks in, I became ill on a Friday morning and by Friday night I was on my way to the local clinic with my roommate James and my team leader Mirna. I held a fever of 39 degrees plus and had a bad case of diarrhoea. I had to spend 2 nights in the clinic, constantly under observation, it was thought to be dengue fever but later tests revealed it was a urine infection and parasites. The doctors in the hospital were lovely and my team mates were exceptional in dealing with such an incident with little to no experience. After I was discharged from the hospital I was allowed to head back to community but under orders to rest and take medication. This was the most challenging part as I was not allowed to fill my responsibilities as a volunteer on the project. I spent 2 weeks house bound as the infection would not leave and a further 2 weeks performing only half my duties as the infection stayed with me for 4 weeks.
Once able bodied and fit again I jumped straight back in to the project, we managed to get 8 people signed up to new compost latrines which are healthier and safer for the environment. We’ve empowered youths in the community particularly our 2 community volunteers Yelsin and Hector, who are not only volunteers but FECSA promoters. FECSA is about promoting hygiene and sanitation in the community, home and school. Their job is to go around to people’s houses and educate them on everyday things they can do to keep their community and homes hygienic and to stop spreading diseases. Towards the end of the project they will graduate their FECSA course along with 2 other community members and be acknowledged by the Ministry of Health in Nicaragua.
Being in Nicaragua with ICS has definitely changed me for the better. I don’t take things for granted anymore, such things as a bottle of juice from the shop are a luxury only bought once or twice a week. Watching how much water I use for a shower or to clean clothes is a priority, the world around us is changing and not for the better, the community in which I was placed is suffering badly from climate change and a severe lack of water over the dry season.
ICS has made me want to become more of an active global citizen and to go do the things I want to instead of just talking about doing them. It’s helped me recognise who I am and where I want to be in life. It has opened my eyes to the world.