INSIDE BINGHAMTON UNIVERSITY
Students to help Nicaragua’s needy
By : Eric Coker
A group of University students will spend the spring recess on a humanitarian and academic mission in Nicaragua.
Nelson Lopez, associate director of Latin American and Caribbean Area Studies
(LACAS), will lead the 14 students in Nicaragua from April 4-12. The group, which includes students with various majors, will visit the city of León and two outlying communities, Chacraseca and Nuevo Amanecer.
“León is a historic city,” Lopez said, “but the (outside) communities are in semi-rural areas. The people there are in need.”
The students will help build a medical clinic in Nuevo Amanecer, which is 90 minutes outside León, and visit schools and families in Chacraseca (15 minutes from León).
The trip was promoted by Tim Rugile, a junior who had been to Nicaragua twice while at Northport High School (Long Island) as part of a group called Students for 60,000. Rugile and other Northport graduates now at Binghamton decided there was more work to be done.
Rugile, who minors in LACAS, met with Lopez and told him about the group’s work in Nicaragua. A general interest meeting last semester drew 60-70 people, Lopez said. Fourteen were chosen for the trip.
“I was surprised to see that many people interested in something that wasn’t the typical Miami vacation,” said Lopez, who is from El Salvador. “They want to go to Nicaragua not for fun, but to work. It was a nice feeling.”
Lopez spent two days in January visiting the areas in Nicaragua. He drove there from El Salvador, where he was visiting family.
“I wanted to get a feel for what León was like,” he said. “I’m not going to bring 14 students and not know what the situation is like.”
Lopez also met with the dean of humanities at the Universidad de León, where they discussed pairing Binghamton and León students in the same fields and having them exchange ideas and learning styles.
Lopez aims to mix the humanitarian efforts with research work. For example, a nursing major on the trip could examine how various diseases are treated in Nicaragua and report back to Lopez with that research for credit.
“It’s an experiment to see if people can combine community service with academic learning,” he said.
Rugile said he is looking forward to returning to Nuevo Amanecer, as Students for 60,000 has helped build houses and schools in the small town.
“The last times I went there were 2005 and 2006,” he said. “It was basically a desert. The second year, there started to be some shrubs. And now that they have a running well, I expect there could be a little more of a thriving community.”
The challenge for the next month is fundraising, Rugile and Lopez said. Each student needs to raise $300 and the group is considering various options. Lopez also will be providing Spanish lessons and an orientation about Nicaragua for those unfamiliar with the country.
“There are some people who haven’t been outside the U.S.,” he said. “We want to avoid a cultural shock. We want to explain how things work in Nicaragua and what to expect there.”
Rugile said the students’ desire to reach out to Nicaraguans in need is commendable.
“It shows we are a global university and we do have international awareness here,” he said.