When Pierce College student Chris Sanders received the call that he had been selected to participate in the college’s first-ever service trip to Nicaragua, he could hardly believe it. The 23-year-old business management major is in his first year of college, and recently left the military after serving for three years. “I felt like something was missing after I left the military,” Sanders said. “When I learned about the opportunity to go on a service trip to Nicaragua, it felt like something I just had to do.”
Sanders, along with nine other Pierce College students and three employees, spent nine days serving the people in the small rural community of coffee farmers in Santa Julia. Each day, the group would make the long journey down dirt roads to reach their destination, where they planted 3,500 coffee plants that provide the main source of income for most of the families.
Pierce College teamed up with an organization called Panorama Service Expeditions, which allows colleges to participate in a number of existing service projects throughout Nicaragua.
As the second-poorest country in the Americas, students knew they had their work cut out for them in Nicaragua. Each day, they hiked for 45 minutes just to reach their destination, where they worked alongside members of the community to help re-establish an efficient coffee farm. The plantation has suffered from recent droughts, and the primary goal was to help improve the overall coffee production system.
“One of the most amazing parts of the trip was realizing that in spite of everything, [the people of Santa Julia] were happy and content with the few possessions they had,” Sanders said. “I felt like this trip was not just for me. It was my goal to come back and spread the knowledge that we gained from the experience.”
The trip was organized through the new Pierce College Raiders Serve Alternative Break program. Students applied to the program, and were selected after a thorough interview process. Each student paid approximately $450 to cover the trip’s expenses.
“We really wanted to introduce Pierce College students to what it means to perform international service work,” said Community Engagement Coordinator Becky Anderson. “The people in Santa Julia saw those coffee plants as hope for a better future, and our students were able to be a part of that.”
Stay tuned for more opportunities to participate in service trips in the future. For more information about service learning at Pierce College, please visit www.pierce.ctc.edu/dist/supportservices/servicelearning/about.
Story reprinted, with permission, from Pierce News website.