Category Archives: The Americas

Telica – One of Nicaragua’s Most Active Volcanoes

A few weeks ago I traveled to Nicaragua to combine some tourism with a Habitat for Humanity volunteer build.  I’ve been working on a few stories from that trip when suddenly today my inbox was bursting with “breaking news” – the Telica Volcano has erupted!  Wow, really?  I was just there – right on the edge – 2 weeks ago….  Here’s what it was like before the latest eruption. 🙂

Telica is located near León and is a pretty accessible volcano for hikers.  It’s “only” 1061 meters high and if you make the rocky trek, you are rewarded with upfront views of the magnificent 700m wide double crater.  Even though it was not the most physically demanding hike, it truly has some of the most incredible views I’ve seen in a while!  Perhaps my favorite day in Nicaragua.

Getting to Telica is possible on your own, but for $35USD it’s pretty easy to let someone else worry about the rough road and take you right to the base of the volcano.  Is that lazy?  I think it’s smart. 🙂

We went on a sunset tour with Julio Tours and couldn’t have been happier.  When we arrived, just 2 other small groups were at the base and we quickly set off to get a bit of a head start.  Here’s the view as you get ready for the climb (it doesn’t look like much…):

DSC_0014On the way up, there are some views of the valley but nothing that I would describe as spectacular.  Plus, we were mostly looking at our feet to make sure we had secure footing.  And keeping our mouths closed to avoid getting big gulp-fulls of the sulfurous air!

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But OHHHHHHHH when you get near the top!

IMG_9754Now that’s what I call awesome.

DSC_0037You can get right up to the edge of the crater  and check out what’s going on 120m below – no railings, no safety waivers…

DSC_0042 DSC_0045IMG_9745Who could resist taking some selfies here?! 🙂

DSC_0036 (1)We hung out up top for maybe 10-15 minutes but the sulfur was pretty strong so we headed down around the back of the crater to catch some views of the entire range before the sunset.

IMG_9762We stopped for a break…luckily a local entrepreneur schlepped up the volcano (in flip flops, of course) with a cooler of soda and beer to complement the salty snacks we had in our packs.  When it was time for the sunset, it was quick but  beautiful:

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And then….darkness fell fast.  We trekked back up through the sulfur clouds to catch a quick peek at the magma (see it there, those little dots? 🙂 ):

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And then we hiked down…in the dark…  Bring a headlamp or hire a guide that provides flashlights, you’ll need them.  You can also camp below the rim if that’s your thing.  But whatever you do, just go.  You don’t want to miss this!

 

Bienvenido a Casa!

What a whirlwind!  It’s been two weeks already since I returned from a fabulous volunteer trip with Habitat for Humanity‘s Global Village program in Nicaragua.  In the course of just 5 days, 14 volunteers joined together to build a home for Gloria and Freddie – and had a little fun along the way. 🙂

After meeting in Managua, we traveled about 1.5 hours southwest of the capital to the municipality of San Rafael del Sur, where we would spend the next week working on our project.  After settling in at a fabulous hotel on the Pacific coast, we geared up for our first day of work.

Upon arrival, we met our the homeowner Gloria and had a chance to learn more about her current living conditions.  She is currently unable to work due to a medical condition and her husband, Freddie, works as a night security guard at the chicken processing plant for a national fast food chain.  Their daughter lives with them in the community of San Ceyatano but was visiting her grandmother during the week we were working.

Their current home consists of a small metal shack.  Within one room (separated by curtains), all three family members sleep, eat and relax.  The roof has many leaks and the walls are not secure.

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As we started out, there were all of the usual Habitat tasks…

Moving blocks:

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Sifting sand and moving rock:

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Mixing mortar and concrete (again and again and again):

10 11Cutting and tying rebar to reinforce the house:

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Pouring the foundation:

14And laying block after block after block:

1516We were constantly running out of water so it was delivery after delivery to unload:

17And don’t forget about the preparation of the floor…

18But despite all of the hard work, there was always time to jump rope or color with the kids:

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To take lots and lots of photos or to find a quiet moment:

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Or to mess around in the wheelbarrow (I’m coming for YOU! 🙂

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How does all of this come together to build a house?  Check out my lo-tech timelapse for a condensed view of our five days of hard work. 🙂

At the end of the week, the most important goal was met:  a new  home for Gloria, Freddie and their daughter.  The doors, windows and roof would be installed by the masons within a few days of our departure and the family should move in within 3 weeks!  We had a ceremony to bless the house:

26Then Gloria cut the ribbon!

25Such smiles, that’s the best part about the whole week. 🙂
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Good job team!

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Guarambare, Paraguay (November 2014)

What better time to give back than on Thanksgiving?  I spent Thanksgiving 2014 in Paraguay volunteering with Habitat for Humanity‘s Global Village Program, the second time I chose to volunteer internationally on this important American Holiday.

We had a wonderful time.  We build for the family of Victor and Edith and their three children.  It was a short stay, but we got so much accomplished.  It was HOT and despite the fact that one day was completely rained out, we made good progress.  The farewell ceremony was as touching as ever, with the family making impassioned speeches while tears streamed down everyones faces.

Perhaps the most unexpected moments of the trip came on Thanksgiving itself, when the family, neighbors and Habitat for Humanity staff prepared a fantastic lunch, complete with hand-turkey and pilgrim decorations for our team.

It was an experience I won’t soon forget and look forward to sharing more stores with you!

Tijuana, Mexico (December 2015)

In December 2015, I worked with One Small House and a team of amazing volunteers in Tijuana helping three families into new homes they desperately needed. Below, you’ll meet the families we were able to help.

Meet The Families

The first family we built for is the Guzman family. At the time of the trip, this family comprised Jose Antionio Juarez Guzman, who is 79 years old, his 89 year old wife, Maria Treinidad Medina and their son Jose Manuel Valezuela Medina, who is 53 years old. The wife and son in this family are completely blind, and the father has extremely poor vision (blind in one eye and hardly sees out of the other). As a result, the family is unable to work and survives off of the kindness of neighbors. Sadly, they had been living in a decrepit home that hardly protected them from the weather. Our goal was to provide them with a safe, warm home this winter.

Guzman_FamilyIn addition, we were also building a home for one of their neighbors, who help the Guzman family – in fact two families who are currently living under the same “roof.” Although it is their home, their current house is in terrible condition. Living here are Alejandro Feliciano Diaz (39 years old), his wife, Yolando Guzman (40 years old), their son, Jesus Alejandro (2 years old), along with Benjamin Leyva Romero (27 years old), his wife Griselda Maldonado (26 years old) and their two children, Jesus Maria Leyva (4 years old) and Cristopher Nicolas Leyva (3 years old). Benjamin and Alejandro are cousins and this large family will benefit greatly from your support his December.

San Rafael del Sur, Nicaragua (January 2016)

Thanks to everyone who  joined this build!  We had a very successful trip and nearly completed a house for Gloria and Freddie in just 5 days of work.  They should move in within two weeks (once the roof, doors and windows are installed and the floor has had time to cure).  Their excitement was obvious and their smiles wonderful!  Here’s a collection of photos from this trip.

You can also check out more detailed stories of this build in the following blog posts:

Bienvenido a Casa! and Update: Gloria’s Family is Home!

For more information about Habitat for Humanity’s work in Nicaragua through the Global Village program, please visit the Habitat for Humanity Nicaragua homepage.  Additional information about the housing need in Nicaragua is also included below.  Thanks in advance for your support!

Housing need in Nicaragua

Eighty percent of the Nicaraguan population subsists on less than US$2 per day, and 43 percent on less than US$1 a day. In a country of more than five million habitants, there are many situations that affect the housing situation. Inadequate housing (both qualitative and quantitative), insufficient public investment in the housing sector, natural disasters, social and economic instability, migration from rural to urban areas and the formation of new nuclear families are all factors that take a toll on the availability of adequate housing in Nicaragua. It is estimated that each year the housing deficit in the country rises by some 30,000 homes.

Due to the low priority of housing on both political and non-profit agendas, investment in the housing sector has not been sufficient to tackle the problem.

Habitat for Humanity in Nicaragua

Habitat for Humanity began working in Nicaragua in 1984. Habitat for Humanity Nicaragua supports the social production of habitat in such a way that strengthens community leadership and resources, and supports families in achieving solutions to their housing needs. The organization works through four main initiatives to serve low-income families, with special emphasis given to women-headed households, families with three or more dependents, families with members who have special needs and families with a monthly income of less than US$350.