by Allison Shomaker

My week working with Outreach360 in Jinotega, Nicaragua was one of the best. We flew into the capital, Managua, and took a two hour long bus ride through the mountains to Jinotega. The NGO we were working with was amazing. Outreach360 had everything planned perfectly. We spent the first day adjusting and then we jumped straight into teaching. Our group worked with around 48 children in the Learning Center. We did review of basic vocabulary and taught some new grammar lessons. During recess, we sang songs and played games in the walled-in back yard. For four days, we worked with the children and learned about the program.

Outreach360’s eventual goal is for the children we teach to one day come back from university to start teaching English immersion in Jinotega. One day, their program will eventually be self-sustaining. Volunteers do not come into Jinotega sporadically, teaching random lessons here and there. Outreach360 has a year-long facility that employees teachers during the school year. Volunteers are much appreciated and much needed, but the children continue to learn without them. Each volunteer group that comes in teaches a new section of the learning material all laid out and organized through teacher handbooks. The children successfully learn English, because the lessons are always changing and challenging them to work harder.

This past summer, I was lucky enough to study abroad in Europe. Although the experience was a phenomenal learning experience, I did not come home feeling like I had changed anything. After my week in Jinotega, I felt different. I have been on service trips before, but none like this. When I returned home, I realized how much the children we had worked with had altered my view on the world and on education. Without William & Mary’s financial aid, I would not have been able to go on this trip. I am so blessed to have been able to travel to Jinotega and work with the people I did. I will never forget the experience and in the future, I plan to use what I learned on this Branch Out service trip to work with underprivileged youth in the Williamsburg area.