McNicholas students head to Nicaragua on 4th immersion trip

For the 4th consecutive year, McNicholas students will travel with faculty members and members of Immaculate Heart of Mary parish for an immersion trip to Nicaragua, the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.

Before boarding the plane in June, the group of students experience the two day Journey to Justice Retreat through the Immaculate Heart of Mary parish. This begins the immersion into Nicaraguan culture that is vital to the experience’s entirety, along with establishing the sense of community valued so greatly on the trip.

“An important part of the process leading up to the trip is understanding the culture of the people of Nicaragua as much as possible before being fully immersed in June,” Director of Campus Ministry and trip participant Mr. Jeff Hutchinson-Smyth said.

The biggest part of this retreat takes place on the first day and is the trip made to the Su Casa Hispanic Center located in Cincinnati just 20 minutes from McNick. The center is a program of Catholic Charities of Southwestern Ohio and serves the Hispanic/Latino immigrants who are seeking a better life for themselves and their families. While at the center, the group listens to different success stories of several different families of the organization.

“Hearing the stories of the families at Su Casa is a part of the immersion that is valuable to all participants,” Hutchinson-Smyth said.

Prior to Su Casa, the group will listen to a speaker who will talk about her own experiences in a third world country, to give the group insight on what to expect June.

In addition to attending Su Casa, the next day the participants attend mass at Immaculate Heart of Mary as a group and enjoy lunch at LaRosa’s, as tradition calls.

On the immersion trip, the group spends four days in the country’s capital of Managua where their time is spent primarily at The Cultural Center of Batahola Norte, co-founded by Sister Margie Navarrao- a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph, the Sisters who first began McNicholas. The center is a cultural oasis in Managua that offers music and art classes to children, scholarships to the college bound, practical skills training for under and unemployed adults, and a community library.  The group devotes their time at the center reading books, making arts and crafts, and playing games and sports with the children. The second half of the trip is spent with Fabretto, an organization striving to better the education in Nicaragua in the small town of Cusmapa. It is here that the trip becomes more service oriented as they volunteer in an urban-rural school, painting the building, and working in the garden on the most recent trip.

“Each trip is generally the same. If there are any changes, they are small,” said Theology teacher John Norman, who has been on the trip each year offered, and will again return in 2015 with the group of 14 McNicholas students.

The trip’s itinerary may stay the same, but each experience- group and individual- differs from the last. The journey is crafted so that each student experiences solidarity, partnership, and accompaniment with the people of Nicaragua, as well as embracing their own spot in the global community and as children of God’s one human family.

“The thought of making an impact on someone at the center or even someone who is traveling along with me is what I look forward to most. I really want to get a new perspective on things and hopefully come back a little more grateful for the little things in life,” junior Haleigh Haugh said.

McNicholas’ student participants include Max Bartel, Hannah Brune, Sally Daoud, Maddie Fehn, Alex Gerome, Haleigh Haugh, Michelle Hollenkamp, Caroline Jorden, Brynna Maxey, Sierra Meyer, Emma Smith, Michaela Shepard, Sarah Standiford, and Jake Vaughn, with faculty members John Norman, Jeff Hutchinson-Smyth, and Lauren Wulker.

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