Our latest volunteer interview!

English lesson: Describing gross-flavored jelly beans
Name: Sierra Houck
Nationality: USA
Age: 19

How did you find out about La Esperanza? 
I found out about La Esperanza by researching volunteer programs in Latin America. I wanted to work in schools, and had a particular interest in Nicaragua, so this program was perfect and had great reviews.

How long are you staying here? 
At least 3 months
What is your current volunteer role with La Esperanza?  I am working with fifth graders in summer school, teaching English, Spanish, math, art, and sports.
What has been your best experience working as a volunteer at La Esperanza so far?
It’s hard to choose just one experience. The general feeling that every day I am getting to know the students better and seeing how genuinely grateful and excited they are to be at school is the most rewarding part. If I had to choose one experience to represent this it would be the day before our Christmas celebration. We had been practicing Jingle Bells in English the past two weeks to perform during the celebration. Although they struggled with it (in retrospect we picked a really difficult song), they never really got frustrated or gave up. The day before the celebration, we were all a little weary because the song seemed to have a long way to go. But as soon as we started practicing and we told them “muy fuerte!” they started singing as loud as they could and started running in a circle around the classroom, all with smiles on their faces. They forgot about any “tough guy act” or shyness, and they didn't care that the song wasn't perfect: they sang at the top of their lungs, making it clear how happy and excited they were to be able to celebrate Christmas in the school the next day.

What has been your worst experience working as a volunteer at La Esperanza so far?
For our Christmas celebration, all of the kids received a meal of rice, bread, and chicken. One of my students (who also had a black eye that day) pretended that she was not hungry and wouldn’t eat her food. “No tengo hambre” she repeated over and over, even as I watched her stare longingly at the other students scraping their bowls clean. Instead of enjoying the celebration with all the other students, she covered her bowl with a napkin and presumably brought it home to her parents. As a volunteer it is important to remember that a program like La Esperanza cannot solve all of the problems here, but it can provide opportunities for kids to be kids and to have a safe space. In this case, a meal is not going to solve long-term problems of hunger and malnutrition, but it is an opportunity for the kids to celebrate the holidays as kids and to leave all of their worries behind for a bit. So it was particularly hard to see that in this case, for this one student, even this was not fulfilled, and we couldn’t do anything about it.

What do you like most about Nicaragua?
I love how friendly and relaxed Nicaraguans are! It’s always fun to start a conversation with whomever happens to be sitting next to you on a chicken bus. I also love that you can get pretty much any food wrapped in a banana leaf, sometimes making the food a bit of a surprise.  

What do you like less about Nicaragua? 
The education system in Nicaragua is very dysfunctional. I know there is no easy solution, but it is easy to lose heart knowing the enormous scale of all of the interconnected problems and seeing the inefficiency of the school systems every day.


  1. Very thoughtful. Can you get ice cream in a banana leaf?


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