In one week, Kelsey Curlett helped construct a building in Nicaragua that nearly doubled the city of Managua’s school enrollment.
The June trip was part of the Alternative Breaks Citizen School hosted by Break Away, the national Alternative Breaks organization. While Curlett, executive vice president of Alternative Breaks at Grand Valley, said helping the city’s school system was an incredible experience, she said meeting the residents and understanding how she was helping them was even more special.
“I have always loved Alternative Breaks, but this volunteer experience was extremely special and rewarding,” she said. “Nicaragua is the second poorest country in Central America, but you wouldn’t know it just by talking to community members.”
Along with helping construct a secondary school and a kitchen at Managua’s primary school, Curlett attended leadership workshops to learn techniques such as how to pick volunteer sites and raise funds for projects. Each day was split between building the school and attending workshops.
Curlett most enjoyed working alongside children. She said they didn’t speak English but the language barrier did not matter. “They were always laughing and smiling, following us wherever we went,” she said.
While Curlett was the only representative from Grand Valley, she said became close with people from Wisconsin and California. “We’re still in contact and use each other as resources, to bounce ideas of each other and ask questions,” she said.
At the end of the week, the students at the schools organized a graduation ceremony where they danced, sang and read poetry. Curlett was given a graduation certificate from Instituto Diocesano Monte Tabor and El Centro Escolar Elim, the schools she helped build.
Curlett said the people and Break Away’s staff made the experience incredibly gratifying. “The whole experience was really out of this world,” she said. “The people of Nicaragua were so happy we were there to help that they wanted to give us anything they could in return. The people there don’t have much, but material things don’t matter to them. It’s all about family, love and community.”