Eleven Hamilton student volunteers and Assistant Professor of Government Heather Sullivan are spending this week of spring break in San Ramon, Nicaragua, where they’re working on an organic coffee farm.

Lindsay Pattison ’16 and Bryan Ferguson ’17 are leading the group through Global Volunteers, a Hamilton student organization.  Chartered in the fall, the organization is devoted to providing assistance to the international community while expanding students' knowledge of social issues outside of the U.S.  The other students on the trip are William (Liam) McAuliff ’17, Aida Shadrav ’17, Olivia Box ’17, Anna Do ’18,Annel Monsalvo  ’17, Elizabeth (Liz) Lvov ’17, Kaia Miller ’18, Mayeline Fernandez ’16 and Sarah Gamblin ’17.

The students are returning to Finca Esperanza Verde, an organic coffee farm and nature preserve in San Ramon, Nicaragua which they first visited last year.  According to Ferguson, “We selected a great group of students who are all interested in this work for quite unique reasons. Some are interested in the agricultural perspective, others the cultural facet,” he explained, “ but everyone we accepted is devoted to the service component, which is and will continue to be the heart of this trip.”

Ferguson called the 2014 pilot year a learning experience.  “As you would expect, any international service trip is not just a service experience; it is inherently a cultural experience as well,” he remarked. “So we've worked hard to further develop the cultural component of the trip this year that will hopefully allow the team of volunteers to connect better to the local community.”  Ferguson said that Professor Sullivan’s  expertise in Latin American politics has enabled the group to work the cultural and political component into meetings both before and during the trip.

After their arrival on March 14, the group  will stay on the farm for a week, helping with daily tasks and spending the evening with the farm workers and other travelers. The work will include planting trees used to shade coffee plants, trail maintenance, helping in the gardens, and possibly digging water pipes that will be used to irrigate a new cow barn and pasture. They’ll also spend two days working at a local primary school. The first day will serve to "break the ice" with the students by playing games and sports with them. The following day, they’ll work alongside the children to complete  a mural on a wall of the school that was started this past January by another group of volunteers.

Ferguson concluded, “We’re hoping that the cultural discussions we’ve had before and during the trip, along with the service experience, will give the student volunteers every possible opportunity to connect deeply to Nicaraguan culture and society during our stay at Finca Esperanza Verde.”

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