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Volunteer project in Nicaragua changes lives and helps the environment

In the summer of 2017, Holly Freuchen, embarked on an adventure that would impact not just her life, but a whole community’s. In March she boarded a plane to Nicaragua, where she would be living for three months, volunteering with the charity Raleigh International. She was supported in her volunteer work by a £300 Individual Grant for Volunteering by the Jack Petchey Foundation.

Holly, along with the team of other volunteers, worked to implement improved sanitation technologies, including ecological toilets, compost latrines and ‘grey water’ filters to support 14 families. The ecological toilets and latrines replaced the traditional ones which contaminated the environment. The water filters will save water by disinfecting and ‘cleaning’ grey water so it can be re-used to water plants or wash clothes and dishes. The group also raised awareness about preventing the spread of infectious diseases and hand washing techniques, which improved the community’s knowledge of good health and hygiene practice.

Holly’s team also designed and delivered two awareness raising presentations about littering, one for school aged children and one for young people. These demonstrated why litter is damaging and what can be done to alleviate the issue within the community. The talks also promoted interest for a litter-picking action day in which the whole community came together to pick litter. About 80 people attended the action day and a whole truck of litter was collected by the end of the day.

On top of this, the team also built four rubbish bins out of recycled materials to help prevent littering, constructed six tippy taps (hand washing device) to encourage hand-washing and planted a tree nursery of 1000 trees which helps to protect the water source and prevent soil erosion.

Holly believes that thanks to the project, the community have gained a sense of empowerment and motivation, especially the young people and women, which will mean they can work together to make a positive change for their community. The knowledge and changes in behavior can be passed on to other community members and the next generation, improving health and hygiene habits in the long term. All of the projects that Holy executed are permanent and maintained by the community, meaning that the positive impact created will be sustainable.

Looking back on her time in Nicaragua, Holly said “My experience taught me about myself, my specific long term goals and about global issues. Weekly active global citizenship sessions sparked my interest in a wide range of global matters, including ethical consumerism, the impact of plastic on the environment and gender issues. By volunteering I learnt what sustainable development actually is. It is a slow process involving not just the building of infrastructure but community education, awareness raising and long term behaviour changes.” 


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