Monday, February 15, 2016



In May of 2015, I went on a service trip to Granada, Nicaragua with the College of Allied Health Sciences at the University of Cincinnati. At the time, I just finished my 2nd year as a Doctor of Physical Therapy student. This trip was the first time that PT students were on this trip. There was one other student who had just graduated the day before we left on the trip. We had a faculty member with us and we were piloting this trip to see if there was a need for us in the future.


I have been to multiple countries on various study abroad and service trips, and just like any other, this was one of a kind. Initially this was a trip for social workers and ended up having PT , health science , communication science disorders and nutrition students all on the same trip. Most days we were all separated with various duties assigned from Viva Nicaragua. It was nice when we were able to debrief and see the work completed by other disciplines and the impact made on both ends. A couple days we got to see each other interact and how many different health care students and professions interact.


From a PT perspective, I was really shocked with the amount of education their therapists received. They received 6 years of education compared to our 7 years. I was expecting them to have 2 years of education for their degree as I had previously experienced in Mexico. We went to Corazon Contentos one day and they were very knowledgeable. We weren't sure what to expect since we were piloting this trip. Although we weren't able to help much with that facility from a PT perspective, we were able to see patients in La Solidaridad and other neighboring communities. Many patients we saw had chronic conditions and they were not able receive as much therapy to maximize their function. We went to many homes and were able to educate patients and their families about things to work on. With short trips, we can't work with them as long as we normally do, so there was a lot education done with treatments that they can do. The good thing is that we document and send them what we have for following PT students that follow after us that volunteer with Viva Nicaragua. I wish I could stay there for a longer period of time to fully benefit these patients.


Viva Nicaragua is a great organization that was very accommodating and helpful with so many students. It is a lot of work to have so many people stay in a short period of time which makes everything fast paced. I loved working with them and being in Granada in general. The workers and volunteers are very kind hearted and welcomed us with open arms even though we were only there a week. I still keep in touch with some of the people that I worked with down there. I would love to come back in the future to expand the program with Physical Therapy.


The thing with these service trips, many people thank us at the end for what we contributed for the time we were there. The thing is we are there a week, and sure we help, but I in reality we get more out of it in the end. It is an eye opening experience to experience their culture, live in their town, eat their food, walk their streets, see how they live, and see what we take for granted in every day life. I definitely grew as a person and will always have a big piece of my heart down in Granada and with Viva Nicaragua. I hope Viva Nicaragua keeps doing what they do, improving and expanding to give many people the same opportunities as I was fortunate to have.

Monday, January 25, 2016



            Viva Nicaragua was my first exposure to international travel. In March 2015, I took my first step outside of US boarders where my heart was quickly captured. All my life I wanted to see the world but the opportunities never arose due to prior commitments. But once I took the leap of faith, I knew there was no turning back. My routine life quickly took a 360-degree turn to what seem to be a beautiful movie. I began living the life I always imaged. Everyday quickly became a new adventure, whether it was work or play, I tired to make each day great. I loved working with children, families and in the clinics. Stepping out of my comfort zone taught me so much about the culture and much more about myself. When the 11 days in Nicaragua ended, I knew was the beginning to a next chapter of my life and that I would be back!

            After being back in the United States for just a few days, I begin planning on how I could go back to Nicaragua. I decided that spending an extended amount time to develop relationships, settle on a career path and engage in a different culture was what I needed to do. I quickly began saving to make a trip back. Of course that came with sacrifice of a new dress or a night out but I knew the trip would have a greater impact on my future. I was accepted into the program to complete a public health internship for the fall. When September rolled around, I packed up my suitcase, grabbed my passport, not knowing that this adventure would completely change my life.  

                When I stepped off the plane in Nicaragua, a calm came over me and I knew this was the place I was meant to be. Yes, there were struggles from time to time but I loved the rollercoaster. I began my trip by working in a clinic just outside of Granada. I was able to experience a new side of the medical field. I was able to find an area of education what I knew I loved and needed to share my understanding with others. I began to look at policies and laws within the country to understand how we can discuss these polices with the youth of Nicaragua to begin to shape the future of the country. We began then to work to with youth to explain the laws in latten terms and found that some children’s lives are more troubled than expected. I finished my internship by creating a yoga workout for the children to compete in their homes or at school when times get hard.  Self-care became the focus for education. Saying goodbye wasn’t as hard knowing that I would be back! Nicaragua just won’t let me leave.

                After going home to a cold, rainy holiday with my family and friends, I was more than excited to come back to Nicaragua for a third time. This time is different because I took a leap of faith all by myself. I am still growing and learning about the culture, myself and the language of Spanish. I have found what I love doing in my life and as of this week, what I want to do with the rest of my life. My journey here is nowhere close to being complete here or around the world. I encourage you to skip the new purse and purchase a plane ticket.  Viva Nicaragua has changed my life and a hope it can change your life as well!  And trust me,  “Its better to see something once than hear about it a thousand times.”

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

An Emphasis on Education

Viva Nicaragua! strives to improve the overall socio-economic conditions of all Nicaraguans through programs that emphasize education.  We work with institutions and communities to provide educational opportunities that create citizens that are pro-active in their heath, human rights, families, and society in general.  Education is the key to development and social justice - and all of our programs - whether in health, social work, children and youth, or gender development - place an emphasis upon education.

Join us in our education and development efforts.  The following is just a sample of the programs we offer:

Public health - Work in a clinic or community alongside healthcare professionals to bring patients information about important health topics including sanitation, diabetes, reproductive health, pre-natal care, and other important health topics.  Help educate people and support their efforts to become pre-active in their health and the health of their families and communities.  Gain experience and contribute to public health efforts.

Social Work-Work alongside high risk youth, women's groups, people suffering from substance abuse, or organizations that work to prevent family violence to form support, education, and advocacy groups.  Help our efforts and the work of community groups and social organizations to reduce social problems that limit people's human rights and the overall socio-economic development of the country.

Scholarship and formal education/vocational training - Part of your placement fees go to support our scholarships for elementary, high-school, and university students.  We work with these youth to provide them the educational support they need to finish their studies including tutoring, a library, a computer lab, and other vocational training.  Completing formal education opens up economic opportunities to help reduce the cycle of poverty and contribute to justice, development, and respect for human rights.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Intern Testimony

From arrival to departure (about 5 weeks), I can honestly say I had a life changing experience with Viva Nicaragua.  Living with Nubia and her family was great - her cooking was somewhat tailored to what I preferred and she was very conscious of feeding me correctly when I got sick.  Speaking of getting sick - I couldn't have asked for more help: was driven to a private practice, all my supplies were picked up for me, dropped back off at home, and Nubia was very caring as I slowly got better.   
The travel to and from work wasn't the easiest, but I think that was the most authentic part of everything - riding the bus everyday with the locals. 
Spanish classes were great with Rafa and I enjoyed meeting a couple of his students who were working on their English.  He really helped me get through some of the work I was doing - although a lot of the info was confusing with the technical terminology.  He took me to a couple of baseball games and that is an experience I'll never forget.
Granada is a great little city/big town? and I had such a good time.  I traveled almost every weekend, but the couple of weekends I stayed around I loved wandering around the city.  There isn't a ton of stuff to do, but just enough where you can have fun and the area is not flooded with tourists and I sort of expected.  Just enough expats where you can get some American-style food if need be although.
Carrie was great and she definitely pushed me to learn Spanish and to branch out - handle things on my own.  Perfect combination of guidance (when necessary) and freedom to really do everything on my own and learn from it.
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Thursday, October 3, 2013

Gap Year Students

Gap Years are an incredible way to gain experience after high school, prepare yourself to be on your own, and to what you want to study.  Every year we host dozens of Gap Year students - who stay anywhere from a semester to a year.

Currently, we have two Gap Year students, Xena and Richard.  Xena has studied theater since she was six and is teaching these skills to children in two kid's clubs and one public school.  Richard, with his heart in math and programming, is following his other interest - the environment and conservation and is working in a wildlife rehabilitation center in the National Zoo.  Both are doing incredible jobs and learning a lot!

In addition, when not busy at work, they are studying Spanish and participating in lectures, recreational and cultural activities.  It has been an incredible semester so far and we are looking forward to learning about and exploring more of this incredible country!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Art Therapy

Art therapy students from Notre Dame del Demur worked with children, high risk adolescents, women, and elderly on art projects that allowed them to be creative and express their inner feelings, feers, doubts, and gain strength and power.  A wonderful project!