This past week Katie, Marie, and I spent with a delegation from Gettysburg! They just left this morning and we had a great time! During the week we visited the beach and rode around a mangrove forest in a boat. We saw hundreds of crabs and had to duck under mangrove branches all the time! We spent time at Taller Xutialt and the group visited Katie and I in Monte Horet, where we’ve been making solar ovens. We celebrated Julie Ramseys birthday on Wednesday, with several songs and a big piece of cake! The week was a lot of fun, pictures to come!! Hope everyone made it safely home!
Katie and I recently finished building ten solar ovens in a community outside of Leon called Monte Horet. It was a very different experience than the first solar ovens workshop and the women there definitely learned a lot. The women receieving the solar ovens were a great group and very eager to learn and eventually be able to teach others. There were several issues between the different women but when they came each morning to build the ovens they worked well together. The ovens will be very useful to this community because the poverty here is much more than in Leon and other parts of Nicaragua. The people are living in houses made out of cardboard and plastic (not very useful to keep out rain) and they are cooking with wood burning stoves. The ovens will help them reduce the amount of wood they are burning and reduce the amount of smoke that it filling their houses every day.
My family in Leon is great and we’ve been having a great time. My host sister had a baby at the beginning of June so that’s brought a lot more excitement and a little stress to the family. A week after he was born, he had to go to the hospital for several nights because he was having trouble breathing. He got better quickly and everyone was very happy to have him back home!
Overall, this summer has gone by way to fast! I can’t believe we’re leaving in three weeks!! It feels like we just got here! This weekend Marie, Katie, and I are planning to hike Volcan Maderas, an active volcano on Isla de Ometepe. We can’t wait!
Hope everyone is having fun in Uganda and Gettysburg!!

This week was our first week of summer camp at El Centro, ie, the first week when the kids have actually been there! Everything has gone really well so far. Our day is divided up into several chunks, including ice-breakers/opening activities, snack, reading groups, specials (which are various activities like crafts and writing workshop that the kids rotate through each week), and activity time at the end of the day. My favorite part of the day is reading groups, because during this time I get to work with Genesis and Allyson, two of our students who are still in the beginning stages of learning English. Genesis moved here about a year ago from the Dominican Republic and has had a hard time picking up English, because she started learning at a later age than most of the other students. Allyson just moved to the US from Puerto Rico a few weeks ago and doesn’t know any English aside from basic numbers and colors. I love working with these girls and helping them understand what’s going on around them when everything is being spoken in English. I’ve gotten especially attached to Allyson, who tends to cling to me when we divide into specials groups because the other children in her group all prefer to speak in English, which leaves her confused a lot of the time.

My favorite thing about El Centro is the opportunity we give these kids to regain a lot of childhood experiences they miss out on at home. A lot of the kids face very adult responsibilities, like caring for younger siblings and translating for their parents (most of whom do not speak English). At El Centro, we briefly take away so many of those worries. We can communicate with their parents without having to put them in the middle. We let them be kids instead of caretakers. It’s so much fun to watch them have fun, to see them relax and play and be children instead of trying to be adults at such an early age. Although I have only known most these children for about three days, I already love them more than I ever thought possible. I just want to take them home with me and take care of them, give them stability and security. I’m so happy we have the opportunity to do this for them a few hours every day.

When I’m not at camp, I spend a lot of time working on what I’ve decided will be my main side project this summer: forming a women’s group for the mothers at El Centro. These women work long hours in poor conditions and rarely get a chance to relax and have fun. So, once a week, we’ll have a women’s night for them at El Centro with free childcare and dinner. I’ve been spending a lot of time advertising this group and making phone calls to the mothers to invite them to join—a real test of my Spanish skills! Although this was intimidating at first, calling gets easier every time and I’m so excited to have the opportunity to practice.

I have never loved any job as much as I love working at El Centro, and I can honestly say that this has been the best summer of my life so far. I love every moment I spend with the kids, and I can only hope that they feel the same way and that they gain something valuable from this summer!

–Rachel Rutter

Everything is going pretty smoothly here in León, Nicaragua. Today marks exactly a month since Amanda, Katie, and I arrived in Nicaragua, which is actually pretty hard to believe. Sometimes, it feels like we’ve only been here for only a week or two, and sometimes, it feels like we’ve been here for quite a while. I guess it’s all part of the living abroad experience.

The good thing about my project, which is teaching piano, music theory, and English, to ten students, is that I get to design everything- the lessons, the curriculum, and even the schedule. However, my experience with teaching, both one-on-one and in a classroom setting, is fairly limited, so this is just as much of a learning experience for me as it is for my students. I’ve been really impressed with the level of commitment and energy that I’ve seen from students, all of whom don’t even own a keyboard, which has definitely presented itself as an obstacle along the way. Almost every student shows up on time with questions and is willing to learn, which is certainly more than I did when I began to study piano. In fact, these students even come to the school to practice when the rooms are empty, which is something I definitely wouldn’t have done. I often didn’t practice with a piano sitting right in my living room. I’ve also grown to appreciate my own piano teacher more, who patiently sat through countless lessons that I came unprepared to. I also can’t believe I thought I could get away with not practicing, thinking that she wouldn’t notice, because there is a clear difference between the students who put in the time to practice, and those who don’t, which often times, are people who work or are in school and simply can’t come when the rooms are empty.

Living in Nicaragua means adjusting to the heat, which I didn’t expect to be quite so… intense. Along with making friends with my sweat, I’ve started to get up super-early (around 5 a.m.) to run, because that is essentially the only time of day where the sun isn’t beating directly down and it’s not 90 degrees or more. Aside from getting used to living without air-conditioning, I’ve had a really great experience so far, and my host family is awesome. I’d upload pictures, but I didn’t bring my computer, since I figured it would be better just to leave it at home for now. I hope everything’s going well with everyone else!

Marie Dripchak
Nicaragua Heston Intern

Uganda is a wonderful place with beautiful people, even as the excitement and magic of the first weeks begins to wear off, i continue to find new things and meet individuals that have already had an impact on my life. At my work, Renewed efforts to alleviate poverty, our main focus right now is rainwater harvesting in underground tanks and we have hit the ground running. As of tuesday we have completed two tanks and will start our third of five tomorrow morning. This project is interesting to learn about and I will write more later as I learn more. I didn’t realize when I set out how long 2+ months could seem in a new world but I am enjoying (almost) every minute of it. My favorite experience and what coincidentally brings me the most frustration is meeting people with an education who can reflect on why their world is the way it is. That being said they dont curse their situation. It’s a beautiful country that can capture my gaze day or night. 360 degrees of green landscape and 360 degrees of stars. Im already gaining weight from the matooke that they nearly challenge us to eat and I walk most of it off in the heat on my 35-45 minute walk to work. I’m definitely rambling but my thoughts just get so scrambled when i try to pinpoint what I like most about Uganda. I cant upload pictures for the time being but I will as soon as Im able. It may still be too early to give a clear picture of this country and I may not be able to for years after I return. all I can do right now is embrace it and enjoy.My computer is about to die so I’ll end my thoughts here.

Tulabagone (see you later)
Jake Patton

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My first week working at rural school, Kitenga Primary (picture above), a government school that primary teaches orphans (most who have lost family to HIV/AIDS) has been a rollercoaster of stress and reward. I teach 7th grade Social Studies (picture of me above) and 5th grade English, and although it is sometimes difficult for my students to understand me, we’ve been having a lot of fun. After 7th grade, most students I am teaching will not continue onto high school because the government only guarantees a free primary education. Because of child labor laws, most of my students will remain unemployed and hang around the house, making them more likely to become involved in drugs, prostitution, and contract HIV. I have had many students beg me to pay their school fees, but I sadly must explain that I’m just a student and can’t afford to pay for all of them. However, the kids are starting to warm-up to me and we often play soccer and netball during free time. They are soccer pros and as the World Cup is beginning this weekend, I think they will be very excited to talk all about the different African teams involved.

In addition to working at the school, I am working with KIDEF, a poverty foundation and the staff are the most wonderful people I’ve ever met (Margaret, is the administrator for Kitenga Primary, and Clare is a teacher there as well). Every day I work with Ivan, the representative for KIDEF that I partner with to implement a sustainable project. I have met dozens of people old, young, middle-aged in the Kitenga area are hungry, suffering from the worst kind of health conditions and struggle to maintain jobs. One story that comes across my mind is a 74 year old woman names Federice whose house is crumbling, and will collapse on her at any minute. Federice (pictured with her house) has not seen a doctor is 10 years, suffers from terrible arthritis, which has paralyzed the left side of her body, and is blind in her left eye. She is starving and thirsty (the only water she gets is delivered to her by neighbors from the swamp at the bottom of the Kitenga Mountain and she lives about 2km to the top).  Although this is extremely depressing, she remains optimistic about the help we could possibly provide her.

As for a project that could benefit the entire community, we are hoping to start a small computer program at Kitenga Primary. We are hoping to run seminars and classes for the students and the community, so in the future, they are computer literate and can research how to undertake projects on their own, without relying on help from NGOs. In addition, the students will all have free use of the computers, but the community members will pay 100 shillings, about five cents, USD, because we will need to have money to maintain the program. Although ambitious, I think this program would be pivotal in improving the community and 100% sustainable. Hope everything is going well with everyone else!!

Laura Block
Uganda Heston Intern

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After three weeks of relaxation and anticipation, the Gettysburg Heston group returned to campus and began orientation on Monday morning. It was great seeing everyone again, exploring our new living space, and talking about our expectations for the weeks ahead of us.

On Monday morning, the group met at the CPS office and focused our discussion on Globalization and Migration. Not only were we able to look deeper into migration issues around the world, we also had the opportunity to share our own family stories about how we arrived in America and why. It was a nice way to learn more about my housemates, but more importantly I think we all recognized the similarities and trends that arise out of centuries of migration.

In the afternoon, we had the chance to meet with several experts in the Gettysburg area pertaining to the fields and populations we will be working in and with. We began our talks with Betsey Wargo, the Community Nutritionist and Diabetes Educator at Wellspan Adams Health Center. As the summer intern with the Food Policy Council and Campus Kitchen, I had the opportunity to meet with Betsey Wargo weeks prior about her work with food demonstrations at the Gettysburg Farmer’s Market. She’s very passionate about her work and extremely welcoming to Gettysburg College students. Our question and answer session with Betsey focused on rising diabetes rates, nutritional benefits of fresh foods, educating children on healthy cooking and eating habits, as well as portion sizes and consumer power.
We then moved on to Emily Rice-Townsend, the Circles Initiative Coordinator. The Circles Initiative is an absolutely amazing program supported by the South Central Community Action Program (SCCAP) that engages the community in a fight to end poverty. Circle Leaders, who consist of low income participants, go through a curriculum called Getting Ahead in a Just Getting By World and are matched up with three or more allies, supporters from the community. Emily spoke to us about the major challenges people in poverty face including the $15,000 wage gap between the point at which people lose their benefits ($30,000) and the point at which they are self-sufficient ($45,000). She compared trying to get out of poverty to walking off a cliff. For those who attempt it, things get much worse before they get better. She also focused on the need to make poverty a community problem rather than an individual problem. I think speaking with Emily opened many eyes and brought our group closer together in a common struggle that we are now so vividly aware of as active parts of the community. Though I am lucky enough to cook for Circles every week through Campus Kitchen and then attend the meetings, I think many of the other Heston interns will attend as well just for the positive experience and community bonding.

Our next stop was at the Adams County Office for the Aging (ACOFA) to meet with Linda Thompson. We learned about the many programs offered to people sixty years and older in the community, as well as the positives and negatives of the incoming Boomers generation. While the number of aging community members will increase the involvement at ACOFA, much of it will be focused on civic engagement activities. As many people retire and move to Pennsylvania from the DC metropolitan area, Linda expects a rise in elderly that want to help others rather than those who need assistance. Gia Galatro is this summer’s Heston intern with ACOFA. I look forward to learning more about her experiences this summer and further understanding the role of ACOFA in our community.

Finally, we met with Jim Remcheck, the Educator for Ag Economic Development at the Adams County Extension Office. We learned about farming advancements, the Young Grower’s Association, and the growing local foods movement. Meeting with Jim increased our understand of how sustainability in the social, economic, and environmental areas of life drive our work this summer and permeate through the philosophy of CPS.

Discussing sustainable communities and setting expectations for ourselves was the focus of Tuesday, our second day of orientation. While we began the day by working at Campus Kitchen and delivering meals to the always friendly group at the Senior Center, we later engaged in conversation and debriefing of all we learned the day before. It is clear that many of us have opposing views on some issues, but the respect we hold for each other creates a great atmosphere for honestly. I foresee many late night conversations surrounding the complex problems we are all facing this summer – be it food justice, migrant education, or life-skills.

I dare say no amount of orientation could completely prepare us for our first days tomorrow and coming weeks at our agencies, but I think that will be the fun part. We all set expectations for ourselves. Mine were to gain confidence in handling unexpected “bumps in the road” and, more importantly, to use this summer as a chance to live outside of myself – to really focus on those around me rather than my own small world. This is just the beginning of what we will gain from our Heston summer. From Gettysburg to Nicaragua to Uganda…we will no doubt receive more than we give.

Devan Grote
Gettysburg Heston Intern for the Campus Kitchen and the Food Policy Council