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Honors Students Lend a Hand in Nicaragua

June 27, 2012

From Peggy Walsh, professor of sociology and director of KSC's Horors Program:

Thirteen Keene State College Global Engagement honors students recently returned from two weeks in Nicaragua, the culmination of a spring course that focused on the social, economic, and political dimensions of this Central American country. The students had studied the early and recent history for a semester and were well prepared to participate in different aspects of the culture, converse with journalists, observe classrooms, and see first-hand the unanticipated consequences of the revolution that began in 1979 and ended just before many of them were born in 1990.

We worked with children on art projects at La Chureca, a municipal dump in the city of Managua where many families make a living, and learned about the environmental and health programs that are attempting to improve opportunities for children through education and housing. Farmers told us about their coffee growing practices in Matagalpa, and we stayed for four days with host families to work on a dairy farm in Rio Blanco where students practiced their Spanish, milked cows, made tortillas, and participated in daily life. In Grenada, we were treated to a mime and comedy performance at a "house made of bottles" - an educational and environmental project that provides skills to street kids. Finally, we saw some new community-based microfinance programs that provide loans for sustainable development.

Although the rainy season began in early May, we enjoyed a slow boat ride around lake islands, identified numerous birds and flowers, hiked to a gorgeous waterfall, saw and heard the howling monkeys and sloths in the northern mountains, and caught waves in the Pacific Ocean.

Now that they are back home, students are finishing up research projects to be presented at the National Collegiate Honors Council Conference in November and during next year's Academic Excellence Conference.