Mitzvah Corps Nicaragua 

Choose to experience Nicaragua through the lens of youth empowerment, or sustainable rural development. Running at two separate times, both offer participants an authentic opportunity to immerse themselves into the native culture, work alongside local peers, and build long lasting relationships, all while having a positive social impact, and experiencing the magic of this incredible nation. Each track offers a distinct social justice focus, and both include experiencing a range of Nicaraguan culture and adventure, including hiking, the chance to practice your Spanish language skills, exploring volcanos, experiencing Shabbat in a unique setting, and playing soccer with the local youth!

Both of the Mitzvah Corps Nicaragua programs involve intensive, physical service work in the rainy summer months, so be prepared to get down and dirty! Conditions on the trip are simple, and match the local style of life.

 

Spend time in the beautiful colonial city of Granada, one of Nicaragua's oldest and most vibrant cities on the shores of Lake Nicaragua, rich with culture, and the historic center of political and economic development. The group will work on a project to provide housing for low income families in the city, and visit with political leaders to learn about the challenges associated with economic development in the country.

Community Service Opportunities

The specifics of the service projects vary each year, as we work with our primary local partner organization to identify and engage in initiatives that communities prioritize each summer. Typical projects include:

  • Forming adobe bricks to build a shelter for women and youth
  • Leading after school programs for low income children
  • Repairing playgrounds and sporting facilities


Living Life in Nicaragua

Like much of Central and South America, Nicaragua is known for its laid back, authentic lifestyle. The city of Granada is a vibrant urban center, rich with cultural, history, and community. Mitzvah Corps participants take advantage of this incredible dynamic, and enjoy:

  • Daily strolls through the city markets
  • Hiking and exploring active volcanoes on the outskirts of Granada
  • Relaxing on hammocks at sunset
  • Unplugging from technology and social media
  • Spending time enjoying each other's company


Becoming Part of the Community

We have longstanding relationships in the community, and as part of that legacy, Mitzvah Corps participants are welcomed each summer with open arms. Truly being immersed in the culture, teens have the chance to:

  • Practice their Spanish
  • Play soccer with local kids
  • Eat home cooked meals
  • Build relationships with their Nicaraguan peers


Partnership With CASE

Central American Service Expeditions (CASE) is our program partner for this expedition. The CASE team has long experience promoting sustainable development and environmental conservation in Costa Rica, and they have applied that experience to their expeditions. Their expeditions are designed to accomplish two main goals. First, they strive to ensure that participants are immersed in Costa Rican culture and work side by side with people from local communities. Second, CASE provides direct financial support to rural Costa Rican community based organizations.

CASE supports rural development projects both by leading our groups to areas which are off the beaten path and through direct financial support of locally executed conservation and development projects. CASE explicitly supports rural community tourism to promote sustainable rural economic development and environmental conservation. Further, CASE donates 10% of the total cost of their expeditions to organizations based in the communities where we will be working.

 

Day 1 - Group Orientation in Miami
The program will commence in Miami. Everyone will spend a night at a hotel near the Miami International Airport, where they'll begin building their community by getting to know one another, and framing the experience they're about to have. Introductory programs will include providing relevant background information about Nicaragua, setting expectations for what daily life will look like during the trip, and giving participants the opportunity to ask questions. They'll get to sleep early and head to the airport together the next morning!

Day 2 - Travel to Nicaragua
Welcome to Nicaragua! After arriving into the Managua International Airport, you'll take a 40 minute ride to your hotel in the center of Granada. Get settled in and then we'll have an introductory meeting about Nicaragua, and what to expect during the service expedition. Tonight, we'll celebrate Shabbat with the local Jewish community.

Day 3 - Shabbat and Exploration of Granada
Today we'll take some time to rest after a day of travel, and spend a relaxing Shabbat exploring the beautiful colonial city.

Day 4 - Begin Service Project
This morning we begin our service work in the city of Granada. We will be working with Asociacion de Mujeres Nicaraguenses Luisa Amanda Espinoza (AMNLAE) to help provide housing for low income families in the community.

Day 5 - Service Project and Mombacho Volcano
Today we continue or service work in Granada and this afternoon we will hike in the rainforest on the crater of the Mombacho Volcano, just west of Granada. A gigantic eruption of this colossus many thousands of years ago lead to the creation of over 300 isleta islands in the lake around Granada.

Day 6 - Service Project and Masaya Volcano
Today we continue our service work in Granada and this afternoon we will visit the massive crater of the Masaya Volcano to the north of Granada.

Day 7 - Service Project and Kayaking
This morning we continue our work on the project in the community and this afternoon we will relax and kayak among the isleta islands of Lago de Nicaruaga.

Day 8 - Service Project and Tio Antonio
Today we continue our service work in Granada and this afternoon we will visit Tío Antonio’s hammock making shop. You may get to try your hand at making a hammock!

Day 9 - Last Day in Granada and Masaya Market
Today we continue our service work in Granada and this afternoon we will visit the large handicrafts market in the town of Masaya. Tonight we meet with representatives of AMNLAE to deliver our donation in support of their efforts to help the women and families of Granada.

Day 10 - Beach Day in San Juan del Sur
This morning we rise early and travel to the beautiful town of San Juan del Sur. We will spend the day on the beach relaxing after all our hard work this week! Happy 4thof July and enjoy a leisurely Shabbat on the beach!

Day 11 - Back Home
After an early breakfast, we'll head to the airport together. Nesiya tova, safe travels!

 

Youth Empowerment

The city of Granada is rich with history of both its native communities, and the Spanish colonization of the mid 1500s. Over the centuries, the seemingly contradictory narratives have given way to a complex dynamic, with stark contrasts between the descendants of wealthy colonials and the increasingly impoverished indigenous populations. The latter face discrimination and a lack of resources to address housing, nutrition, healthcare, and education. Organizations working to rectify this imbalance have focused on the future: empowering the youth of Nicaragua.

Mitzvah Corps Nicaragua participants will work alongside community members to build facilities for these much-needed social services for youth, supporting the local economy by using native resources. By exploring the history of the nation, the way these lingering challenges come to light in the modern city of Granada, and immersing themselves in the culture and lifestyle of their Nicaraguan peers, the participants are able to fully appreciate the resilience and innovation of these powerful individuals.

What are the housing accommodations like in Nicaragua?
Participants will be living an authentic Nicaraguan lifestyle, and housed in simple, yet safe and clean, accommodations. 

Will participants receive documentation of community service?
Yes! Upon completion of the program, participants will receive formal documentation for 80 hours of community service.

What kinds of clothing and other items will participants bring to Nicaragua?
Summers in Central America are hot, humid, and rainy. Participants should only bring clothing that can get dirty, and ideally made of fabrics that are quick-drying; we suggest loose, long pants and sleeves in order to prevent bug bites and protect against heavy brush. Each teen should bring waterproof boots, comfortable for walking through mud, as well as flip flops or water sandals. Linens, towels, and pillows will be provided, but participants should pack their own toiletries, bug spray, sunscreen, and personal items. All items should be packed in a large backpack, which should be lined with plastic trash bags to keep contents dry. A detailed packing list will be sent prior to the program.

Will the group have a chance to exchange money?
Yes. While tuition covers all necessary expenses, some participants may choose to bring extra money for souvenirs or snacks. Many local vendors accept American dollars, but there will be an opportunity to either exchange cash, or use an ATM machine to withdraw the local currency.

How does the group get to and from Nicaragua?
All teens will arrange their own transportation to Miami International Airport. After an overnight orientation in Miami, the group will fly together to Managua. International flight arrangements are organized by Mitzvah Corps, and the cost is included in the program tuition.

Are there any additional vaccinations or antimalarials required for travel to Nicaragua?
Mitzvah Corps does not require anything beyond routine vaccinations. Any families considering additional vaccinations or antimalarials should consult the CDC website and/or their personal physician. 

Do participants need a special visa, or traveler's insurance, for travel to Nicaragua?
There are no visas required for participants traveling with an American or Canadian passport. Mitzvah Corps provides standard traveler's medical insurance, which is included in the program tuition. Please feel free to contact our office for more information.

Mitzvah Corps programs are designed to be mixed and matched, giving you the opportunity to connect two or more experiences to design your ideal social justice summer.

Nicaragua Session I connects well with the Pacific Northwest, New Orleans, or Costa Rica!

Be captivated by the beautiful historic village of El Castillo, situated alongside the San Juan River. There are no motor vehicles in the community, and the group will work with local grassroots organizations to build concrete walkways over the mud so that people can complete their necessary travel in and out of town. During their time in El Castillo, participants will learn about the conservation efforts of the largest environmental non-governmental organization in the region, and visit with local political leaders to learn about the challenges associated with economic development.

Community Service Opportunities

The specifics of the service projects vary each year, as we work with our primary local partner organization to identify and engage in initiatives that communities prioritize each summer. Typical projects include:

  • Paving roads and sidewalks
  • Building the foundation for health clinics
  • Repairing local schools


Living Life in Nicaragua

Like much of Central and South America, Nicaragua is known for its laid back, authentic lifestyle, embodying a focus on relationships rather than material belongings, and prioritizing things that bring you joy. To live this concept, Mitzvah Corps participants enjoy:

  • Daily hikes to local waterfalls and rivers
  • Exploring active volcanoes
  • Relaxing on hammocks at sunset
  • Unplugging from technology and social media
  • Spending time enjoying each other's company


Becoming Part of the Community

We have longstanding relationships in the community, and as part of that legacy, Mitzvah Corps participants are welcomed each summer with open arms. Truly being immersed in the culture, teens have the chance to:

  • Practice their Spanish
  • Play soccer with local kids
  • Eat home cooked meals
  • Build relationships with their Nicaraguan peers


Partnership With CASE

Central American Service Expeditions (CASE) is our program partner for this expedition. The CASE team has long experience promoting sustainable development and environmental conservation in Costa Rica, and they have applied that experience to their expeditions. Their expeditions are designed to accomplish two main goals. First, they strive to ensure that participants are immersed in Costa Rican culture and work side by side with people from local communities. Second, CASE provides direct financial support to rural Costa Rican community based organizations.

CASE supports rural development projects both by leading our groups to areas which are off the beaten path and through direct financial support of locally executed conservation and development projects. CASE explicitly supports rural community tourism to promote sustainable rural economic development and environmental conservation. Further, CASE donates 10% of the total cost of their expeditions to organizations based in the communities where we will be working.

Day 1 - Group Orientation in Miami
The group will arrive in Miami on Thursday. Everyone will spend Thursday night at a hotel near the Miami International Airport, where they'll begin building their community by getting to know one another, and framing the experience they're about to have. Introductory programs will include providing relevant background information about Nicaragua, setting expectations for what daily life will look like during the trip, and giving participants the opportunity to ask questions. They'll get to sleep early and head to the airport together on Friday morning!

Day 2 - Travel to Nicaragua
You arrive at the Managua International Airport and after a 30 minute ride you arrive at your hotel in the center of Managua. Welcome to Nicaragua! Get settled in and, depending on the time of arrival, we’ll have lunch and we may take a walk to explore the city. Tonight we have our introductory meeting about Nicaragua and what to expect during your Service Expedition!

Day 3 - Travel to El Castillo
Today we will rise early to take the bus to the port town of San Carlos on Lake Nicaragua at the mouth of the San Juan River. In San Carlos we will board the boats for our three hour trip down the San Juan to the small village of El Castillo. The town is accessible only by boat and there are no cars here! El Castillo (The Castle) is named after a fortress built in 1675 to defend the Spanish colonies from English pirates. Upon arrival to El Castillo we will get settled in and meet with our hosts from the Asociación de Jovenes Ara Ambiguus. AJAA is a group of young people from El Castillo who have organized to promote the participation of the youth in environmental conservation and sustainable development in the region. Ara Ambiguus is the scientific name for the endangered green macaw which lives in the forests around El Castillo.

Day 4 - Begin Our Service Project
This morning we begin our service work in El Castillo. We will be working with our partners in AJAA to expand cement walkways called “andanes” over the muddy terrain near the center of town. This afternoon we will meet with the leaders of AJAA to learn about why they formed their organization, what they hope to achieve, and what are the main challenges to the economic development of the village.

Day 5 - Continue Service Project
Today we continue our service work in El Castillo and this afternoon we will visit the ancient fortress that rises high above the village. This fortress was built to stop the advance of now famous English pirates and explorers like Francis Drake and Henry Morgan.

Day 6 - Continue Service Project and visit the Castle
Today we continue our service work in El Castillo and this afternoon we will meet with local leaders of the Sandinista Front, the left wing political party that recently won the elections for mayor and municipal council. Among the topics we will discuss are the challenges to the economic development of the region, the role played by international NGOs, relations with other countries (US, China, and Venezuela), and relations with other political parties in Nicaragua.

Day 7 - Continue Service Project
Today we continue our service work in El Castillo and this afternoon we will meet with local leaders of the opposition Liberal party, the more right wing political party that recently lost the elections for mayor and municipal council. Among the topics we will discuss are the challenges to the economic development of the region, the role played by international NGOs, relations with other countries (US, China, and Venezuela), and relations with other political parties in Nicaragua.

Day 8 - Kayak to the Indio Maíz Reserve!
Today we spend the day kayaking to one of the largest national parks in Nicaragua: the Indio Maíz Reserve.

Day 9 - Last Day in El Castillo
Today we continue our service work in El Castillo and this afternoon we will travel by boat to the town of Sábalos to meet with the mayor. There we will participate in a round table discussion with members of the municipal council about the role students in the US can play in supporting the economic development of communities like El Castillo and Sábalos. Tonight we have a goodbye party with our new friends from AJAA.

Day 10 - Travel Back to Managua
This morning we rise early and travel back up the river to San Carlos and then on to Managua.

Day 11 - Back home!
We have a hearty breakfast and we head off to the airport to catch your flight to return to the US. Have a great trip home!

Sustainable Development

Rural, indigenous tribes that reside deep in the Nicaraguan rainforest are faced with high levels of torrential rainfall, making it challenging to build long-lasting infrastructure such as roads, buildings, and sidewalks. The resulting conditions are often too muddy and unstable to provide reliable access to schools, jobs, and healthcare facilities, and these communities are often cut off from those necessary resources, and unable to pursue education, careers, and medical attention when needed. However, they’re working hard to come up with innovative solutions, using local materials in new and creative ways to build sustainable roads and community services.

Mitzvah Corps Nicaragua participants will spend their time immersed in these communities, experiencing firsthand the challenges they face, and working alongside the individuals and organizations as they work tireless to build necessary roads, sidewalks, and buildings for schools, shelters, and clinics. Teens will understand the root causes of these challenges, interact with and hear the stories of these resilient tribal members, and support their efforts to lay stronger foundations for future generations.

What are the housing accommodations like in Nicaragua?
Participants will be living an authentic Nicaraguan lifestyle, and housed in simple, yet safe and clean, accommodations. 

Will participants receive documentation of community service?
Yes! Upon completion of the program, participants will receive formal documentation for 80 hours of community service.

What kinds of clothing and other items will participants bring to Nicaragua?
Summers in Central America are hot, humid, and rainy. Participants should only bring clothing that can get dirty, and ideally made of fabrics that are quick-drying; we suggest loose, long pants and sleeves in order to prevent bug bites and protect against heavy brush. Each teen should bring waterproof boots, comfortable for walking through mud, as well as flip flops or water sandals. Linens, towels, and pillows will be provided, but participants should pack their own toiletries, bug spray, sunscreen, and personal items. All items should be packed in a large backpack, which should be lined with plastic trash bags to keep contents dry. A detailed packing list will be sent prior to the program.

Will the group have a chance to exchange money?
Yes. While tuition covers all necessary expenses, some participants may choose to bring extra money for souvenirs or snacks. Many local vendors accept American dollars, but there will be an opportunity to either exchange cash, or use an ATM machine to withdraw the local currency.

How does the group get to and from Nicaragua?
All teens will arrange their own transportation to Miami International Airport. After an overnight orientation in Miami, the group will fly together to Managua. International flight arrangements are organized by Mitzvah Corps, and the cost is included in the program tuition.

Are there any additional vaccinations or antimalarials required for travel to Nicaragua?
Mitzvah Corps does not require anything beyond routine vaccinations. Any families considering additional vaccinations or antimalarials should consult the CDC website and/or their personal physician. 

Do participants need a special visa, or traveler's insurance, for travel to Nicaragua?
There are no visas required for participants traveling with an American or Canadian passport. Mitzvah Corps provides standard traveler's medical insurance, which is included in the program tuition. Please feel free to contact our office for more information.

Mitzvah Corps programs are designed to be mixed and matched, giving you the opportunity to connect two or more experiences to design your ideal social justice summer.

Nicaragua Session II connects well with Washington, DC or New Jersey!

At A Glance

Session I - Youth Empowerment
Dates:
June 26 - July 6, 2016
Length: 11 days
Issue Focus: Political Advocacy
Community Service Hours: 80
Cost: $3,475 
Session II - Sustainable Development
Dates; July 24 - August 3, 2016
Length: 11 days
Community Service Hours: 80
Cost: $3,475
Mitzvah Corps Nicaragua tuition includes international airfare from Miami to Nicaragua. The cost of domestic travel to Miami is not included.
Register for multiple programs to receive a $200 discount per additional program.
Mitzvah Corps is open to all rising 10th - graduating 12th graders.