UniversitÁrea Protegida

A day in the life of a UÁPito

Earth Island News

Residents of Leon, Nicaragua may awaken to the ringing bells of one of the city’s numerous cathedrals, the echoing voices of women selling tortillas street-side, or the rush-hour rustling of the 150,000 residents of this industrial and commercial center. These days, however, Leon natives Alvaro Rios and Yari Palacios are more likely to wake up to the pastoral sounds of crowing roosters and barking dogs.

photo of a classroom where 3 uniformed children stand near a blackboard while a young man looks on smilingOlin Cohan photoUÁP social work student Alvaro Rios during
an envionmental education class in the community of Santo Tomás

The fourth-year social work students from UNAN Leon, UniversitÁrea Protegida’s partner university, are living in the small fishing village of Padre Ramos in northwest Nicaragua to practice what they learned in the classroom. Last fall, Rios and Palacios applied to the UÁP program, and they completed training in March. UÁP has funded and trained more than 30 Nicaraguan university students conducting social and ecological research in rural areas throughout the country, and facilitates relationships with community leaders, youth groups, and local schools.

Here is an average day for Rios and Palacios:

5:00 a.m.: After a simple breakfast of rice, beans, and tortillas, they haul water from the well and take showers from a bucket.

6:00 a.m.: They take a bus to the community of Santo Tomás, about 45 minutes away.

7:00 a.m.: They give a 30-minute environmental education charla (lesson) to children at a one-building school house. This week’s charla theme is garbage management. Afterwards the class goes outside to pick up garbage and sort it: organic and non-organic. Rios and Palacios help the students make posters out of recycled materials to spread the message about keeping the community clean.

8:30 a.m.: They are on a bus back to Padre Ramos.

10:00-11:30 a.m.: Eddy Maradiaga, local youth group leader, comes to La Tortuga Boluda, the rancho where Rios and Palacios live, to discuss the day’s youth-group activities. Rios and Palacios show Maradiaga their plan for the next charla, about self-confidence and leadership. They also discuss the sustainable fishing workshops they will present to local fishermen within the next few months. Maradiaga, who comes from a family of fishermen, talks about the need to organize the community and restructure the local leadership to get more people involved in community initiatives. Rios and Palacios take notes that they will use during their meeting with their advising professor, who is due to visit in the upcoming week.

1:00 p.m.: After lunch, youth-group members start to trickle in. The group is scheduled to meet at two o’clock, but many show up early to play soccer and to draw.

3:30-5:30 p.m.: After the lesson, the youth group disperses. Some return home, but a handful stay to work on the final touches for the youth cooperative bakery. Palacios helps build shelves in the bodega, while Rios and Maradiaga help group members develop an accounting notebook. The group is baking and selling bread daily to pay for their studies and sustain their environmental activities.

7:00 p.m.: Rios and Palacios cook dinner on their gas stove. The electricity has been out for three days, so by candlelight they review their day’s activities and share ideas. Later, they devise the following day’s work plan. The mosquitoes are ferocious, but they take those in stride too. They are becoming accustomed to life in the campo. Their lives have changed in the last month. They see their country in a different light, and they are prouder than ever to be Nicaragüenses.

Take Action: UÁP director Olin Cohan and student coordinator Ofelia Arteaga will be in California in May and June to speak about the Nicaraguan social/environmental movement. Visit www.eii.org/uap, e-mail uap@earthisland.org or write to UÁP, c/o Earth Island Institute for more info.

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