Carissa Wagner, Online and Social Media Manager
Pierce College student Tevan Curtis had his perspective flipped upside down after embarking on a weeklong service trip to Nicaragua during his summer break.
On June 19, nine students and two staff members from Pierce headed to Managua, Nicaragua, to serve the community of Santa Julia. There they would work hours of strenuous tasks, including planting coffee bean plants. This trip was not for the faint of heart, but after Curtis heard about the trip, he couldn’t get it off his mind.
“It seemed like a really good opportunity, and it was something new I had never experienced before,” Curtis said. “(It was) something really alien to me.”
This summer was the second time Pierce has held a service trip overseas. They partnered with Panorama Service Expeditions, a nonprofit organization based in Sweetwater, Fla., that sends teams from multiple colleges to specifically serve Nicaragua.
Before the trip, Curtis, along with 17 other prospective students, were required to participate in a two-day interview process at Pierce College Fort Steilacoom. This included private interviews, and team survival games and activities. Curtis was required to explain how he would respond to being faced with extreme poverty and how he would overcome unfortunate situations.
“We were given a scenario where the plane would crash in the jungle, and we could only pick limited supplies of those available,” Curtis said. “We had to make decisions as a group and had to explain why we chose the items.”
Shortly after Curtis and eight other students were selected and trained, they were bombarded with a dose of culture shock as they entered the streets of Nicaragua.
“It was ground shaking,” Curtis said. “It captured my attention very well. What I was seeing there was very different from anything I’ve ever seen here.”
Curtis began to feel fortunate for his life at that moment. Seeing vendors and families in the filthy roads opened Curtis’ eyes to the true financial state of the country. Within minutes of being immersed in the culture, Curtis concluded that even his short week of serving would make an impact.
“I was only one member of a large group; one part of a larger effort,” Curtis said. “But I think I did make an impact on them (Nicaraguans) and their lives, no matter how small.”
Curtis’ daily routine was a busy one. The service team began each day at the crack of dawn to head to the community to get to work. Curtis said the work was somewhat strenuous at times because the dirt holes for planting weren’t always prepared. The coffee planting consisted of compacting the pre packaged plant, tearing off the package and then planting the coffee plant in the ground.
When the team wasn’t spending their time serving, they were listening to testimonials from the Santa Julia community members to receive insight on their lives as locals. At the end of each day assisting the people of Nicaragua, they would return to their hotel to debrief a daily topic to help gain perspective.
“We all discussed as a group what we noticed about that day,” Curtis said. “We had different themes each day like privilege and how we viewed it differently after our experiences.”
Curtis’ favorite part of the experience was the people of Nicaragua. He treasured the moments when he truly got to know them. The way they lived and their outlook on life affected him greatly.
“They left an impression on me that I am going to keep forever,” Curtis said. “They live rougher lives than we, but I think they have a better attitude than I often have.”
As each day passed, Curtis continually gained more perspective about the world. He now sees the world through a different lense.
“I’ve experienced their life for only a week, but I took away that they live like that every day,” Curtis said. “You come away realizing how fortunate you are.”
Pierce officials currently intend to continue the service trip to Nicaragua every summer. As students are taken out of their American lives, they will experience something they never thought they would and gain what seems to be more than a week’s worth of knowledge, wisdom and insight.
“This is a great opportunity, and everyone should take a look at it,” Curtis said.
The Puyallup Post is the award-winning news media of Pierce College Puyallup in Puyallup, Washington. Copyright The Puyallup Post 2018. Find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube @thepuyalluppost
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