In 2014, nineteen year old Tara O’Reilly spent several months in Las Manos, Nicaragua, on the National Citizen Service programme with development charity Progressio.
Tara, from Westminster, lived with a host family and worked alongside local volunteers as well as those from overseas.
The main focuses of the project were promoting local artisans, constructing a playground at a local school and building 24 Eco-stoves in the community. The volunteer group she was a part of also taught English to young children, and educated them on issues such as health and the environment.
Tara spent her mornings building the eco-stoves which took nearly 3 weeks. Before they began the work, the group conducted a survey to find out which families would benefit most, as they had a limit of 24 stoves. The Eco Stoves project helped the community economically as well as improving their health.
The rest of the time was spent painting a mural at the playground and holding community events, including teaching English through games and activities.
‘It was so rewarding, to see the kids in the street and for them to say “Hello Tara, How are you?” – It’s something I will never forget! The reception that we had from the community was absolutely amazing – it was so positive, and they were clearly so grateful for our presence and work there.’
As well as developing her project management and communication skills, Tara also returned with a good grasp of Spanish and an appreciation for life in the developing world.
‘I think the biggest difference can’t be seen in terms of the tangible things like the playground and stoves, but more in the spirit of the people of the community. Many of the host families told us they were inspired to continue to better their community and that to us meant our project was a success.’
Tara also revealed how the experience has had a significant bearing on her future.
‘Nicaragua reiterated to me why I want to study Economics at university, I was undecided before but now I am absolutely certain – I want to have a better understanding of how communities like Las Manos can develop further in the future.’
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