Sunday, August 17, 2014

Wrapping it up for Mekaila

Hey everyone! Mekaila is writing to you for the last time this year.

My time here in Nicaragua and as an intern has come to a close. It is difficult to leave when I feel like I have just arrived. Well I would like to share with you all how this past week went in Casa VISEDAL and then give a short recap and reflection of my time here.

Casa VISEDAL is always a great place to come and each day is a different experience with different scholars! This week it was somewhat slow and we had fewer kids come than last week. We had a talk with the moms and the kids and hopefully they will get used to this new schedule. It can be difficult sometimes to get used to something at first. Just give the kids a little time and they will not forget and will get used to it. We are excited every time the scholars come and enjoy every minute with them.
Sonia and her son
This week we had a great deal of of scholars learning english with the Rosetta Stone program on the computers. We had a lot of scholars learning how to use computers for the first time as well as scholars doing homework on the computers. There was a lot of learning that happened this week! It was so great and the kids would light when they were able to use the computers as well as getting an 82% on one of the sections of Rosetta Stone. It is so great how VISEDAL encourages these young people to use their minds. Education is a great tool and VISEDAL stands behind it.
Génesis Elizabeth learning english and how to use a computer

Isaac and Josué enjoying VISEDAL computers
This week was also enjoyable as we had scholars who wanted to come every day! Belén, Jostyn, and Génesis Elizabeth came three days this week just because they wanted to hang out with us as well as learn english. It is so great to see that some of the scholars truly enjoy spending time with us interns but also with VISEDAL staff. We also had Génesis Valesca who came every day this week, because she missed Jessie! 
Génesis Valesca and her mom enjoying Casa VISEDAL
Also this week, Brad, Jessie, and I had been given the task to create short videos for the VISEDAL virtual 5K on October 4th to raise money for our scholars. It is going to be an awesome event and you register online and will receive a shirt and some other things after you register. Then on October 4th, wherever you are from China to Maryland or Australia to California, you decide what you want to do. You can run a 5K, read 5 chapters of a book, bake 5 cupcakes, etc. You take a photo of yourself doing whatever activity you want and post it on social media with the #visedal5K. You will be able to see what everyone else is doing too! It is also a great way to spread the word about VISEDAL as well as raise money for our kids. It is so exciting! You can register right now! 

Anyways, the videos! We had been asked to make 3 but this week we focused on one and then Jessie and Brad would take care of the other two after I left. It was a lot of fun filming the 15 second video! We got all of the staff here in Nicaragua involved and it looks great! Keep a look out this tuesday on social media and check out our video and register! 
Just a little preview of what you might see in the video
On Friday we had another "Girl Talk" session. This session is a part of my intern project. Last week we discussed topics such as drugs, sex, self esteem, and making good decisions. It was a good session and I was very transparent and open with the girls which in turn they were open with me. This week we went over the questions that I had given them last week and discussed the importance of goal setting and using their talents, interests, and dreams to accomplish their goals in life. We also discussed love and what God's love is for every one of us. It was a great session and we were all open and discussed each question in detail. It was so exciting that I discovered what some of the scholars want to do with their education. For instance, Belén wants to become a doctor and Joseling wants to become a reporter! These girls are incredible and I pray that they continue to dream big and know that they can achieve it. We had some laughs and some serious moments as well. I feel so blessed and honored to have been a part of this amazing experience here with these girls!
"Girl Talk" Session
After the session, Rocío and the girls all shared kind words with me since it was my last day with them. It was definitely very emotional. Belén when sharing with me how much they will miss me began to cry which made me cry too. It was difficult to say goodbye but that wasn't a 'goodbye' just a 'see you later'. The girl's words were so sweet and touching, I will forever cherish in my heart everything that was said and everything I have experienced here with these amazing scholars. 
Our "Girl Talk" group
Now to quickly recap and reflect on my internship. First of all I would like to explain my intern project a little more in detail. My intern project, thanks to the help of a volunteer Yvy, was about giving the older girls ages 12 and up the encouragement they needed to accomplish their goals as well as helping them understand the importance of making good decisions in their lives. I gave each girl a journal to keep for whatever they wanted it for, but wanted them to also write in it like a diary. I also expressed the importance of not bottling up your feelings, dreams, and goals, but rather sharing them, whether it be on paper or with a friend. Then each friday we had a "Girl Talk" session to show them that they aren't alone in how they feel about certain things in life and also to help give direction. I let the girls know that I would be there for them and that I feel and think like they do. Encouragement, love, and instruction is what I wanted to give these girls. If the girls learned nothing else, I pray that they learned how much I care about and love them, as well as God's love for them. 

It has been such an amazing journey these 5 weeks that I have been here! This most certainly won't be the last time I am here that's for sure! Once you come you can't just come once! It has been a wonderful learning experience for me and I treasure every day that I had here. The VISEDAL staff is incredible and the kids are terrific! I am so blessed and honored to have served as an intern here in Nicaragua and worked with this staff and group of kids!

Thank you all so much for reading and I encourage you all to come and see for yourself! These kids are great and the experiences will last a lifetime!

Goodbye, for now!
-Mekaila :)

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Good Times at Casa Visedal!

Hi! Jessie here!

the Casa Visedal banner

This past week was long awaited-we were all so ready to open Casa Visedal and be able to hang out with the scholars every day! Saturday was a great day! We had all the scholars and their families over to Casa Visedal for a party to commemorate the opening of our new space. I was particularly excited for this party because we executed part of my intern project: we had each of the scholars trace their hand on poster board, decorate it, and write their name. This banner now hangs in Casa Visedal! The scholars had a great time decorating the banner and were especially enthused upon the discovery that we had glitter glue. More than one of the scholars left (happily) covered in glitter.

the scholars hard at work decorating the banner

Now for a little more info on what we’re doing at Casa Visedal. Each weekday, about 6-8 scholars come and talk with our staff psychologist, as well as hang out with us, learn English with our rosetta stone software, and for the younger scholars, run around a little and have fun with our craft supplies. This past week has been awesome because we get to see so many of our scholars each day. I’ve had a great time crafting with our younger scholars. Upon arriving, they pounce on the array of coloring books, construction paper, scissors, and glitter glue. We’ve spent a fair share of time peacefully coloring and crafting-though that’s not always the case! Plenty of running, tickling, and ring-around-the-rosy ensues as well!

A lot of the older scholars have been working on learning English at the casa. It’s been so cool to hear them speaking English and watch their progress. With a couple more weeks, I’m sure many of them will be quite proficient! Kevin Antonio in particular has made some impressive progress in English already. He spent several hours on rosetta stone on his first day at the casa. By the time he left, he was saying full sentences in English. It’s been so cool to hear the scholars speaking English and watch their progress.

Isaac Israel focused on learning English

On Friday, we had another session with the older girls. On the first day of our volunteer trip, we had a session to talk about self-esteem, setting goals, and the benefits of keeping a journal. Today’s session was a continuation of that and Mekaila’s intern project. We discussed drugs and their consequences, self-esteem, and again reinforced the idea that keeping a journal is really beneficial to one’s emotional health. Mekaila also handed out questions for the girls to journal about that we will discuss in next week’s session. These questions include ones such as: what are your educational goals? What does love mean to you? Next week, we will discuss the girls’ ideas about these and other questions related to setting and achieving goals.

Our session with Belen, Aura, and Winny

Stay tuned for more updates on all the good times at Casa Visedal!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

What it's like to work with the scholars in Nicaragua!

Hey everyone! It's Mekaila!

I am so excited to update all of you on the activities that have been going on since we have been here in Nicaragua. It is so exciting and very enjoyable to serve as an intern for VISEDAL! Not only is the staff incredible and the organization amazing but the scholars are such great kids and so much fun to be around and work with! A lot has happened in these past two weeks, so I am going to try to give a brief overview of what us interns have been up to!

Our work began on July 20th where we went to support three of our scholars who were being baptized! José, Miguel Ángel, and Joseling were baptized at a beach in Granada. It was so incredible to see them and how excited they were. They were also able to share why they were wanting to be baptized and they talked about being a new creature in God and how all the bad things in their life will be gone, because they will be cleansed by God. It was really special for them and I couldn't be happier for them! There was a huge celebration after with a piñata, plenty of soccer on the beach, catching little frogs, a great deal of food, etc.

José, Joseling, and Miguel Ángel after their baptism
We also have been able to celebrate a good amount of birthdays that were either missed while Brad was gone or that will be in the near future. It is so exciting to take these scholars out and treat them and celebrate with them. Let's see, so far we have celebrated the birthdays of Isaac, Josué, Sonia, Ninoska, Belén, Jostyn, and Génesis Valesca! It is truly special to be here with them for their birthdays but also giving each of them a spot light of attention on this one day is great. Whether it was to the movies, to lunch, or to the market to buy clothes, each scholar is celebrated!

We went to the movies to watch "How to Train Your Dragon 2" with Josué and Isaac. After the movie we got them both ice cream and told them happy birthday. They had such a fun time and loved the movie and of course they loved all the hot dogs, soda, popcorn, and ice-cream they got too!
Celebrating Josué and Issac's birthday at the movies
We took Sonia and Ninoska out to the market to allow them to go shopping for their birthday. They both had fun and were able to pick out a pair of pants and shirt that they really liked. They enjoyed showing Jessie and myself the non-touristy market for the first time as well as picking out clothes.
Sonia and Nino waiting with us for the bus to the market
We took Belén and Jostyn out to lunch at Tip Top, which is a chicken place, for lunch. They had fun spending time with us and Belén especially enjoyed teaching me some new phrases in spanish as well as laughing at how I pronounced some words. We were also able to bring them shopping where Belén got a pair of pants and Jostyn got a pair of shorts and a shirt.
Celebrating Belén and Jostyn's birthday at Tip Top
We took Génesis Valesca to get lunch at pizza hut in metrocentro. She was also able to get a dessert from pizza hut to celebrate her birthday. We then took her out to the market because she wanted to buy a very pretty dress. We were able to get her a pretty pink dress that will make her feel like a princess and that she will want to wear all of the time.
Génesis Valesca in her pretty pink princess dress she got for her birthday
VISEDAL not only works with the scholars but there is a lot of work that goes behind the scenes to operate a NGO. It was really neat for Jessie and I to experience the work of a NGO. These past two weeks VISEDAL has been doing a lot with being recognized by Nicaragua and providing the kids with a central place to come. We are so excited to have been given the approval by the Nicaraguan government and VISEDAL is now official in Nicaragua!
Jessie and Brad in front of the government building after being approved
We were also able to get an office space! We are renting a space in Managua where the kids can come to have their sessions with Rocío, their psychologist, learn english, work on homework for school, hangout, and work with Jessie and myself! It is really great to have an office space to work out of and we will have an open house party saturday with a piñata, games, and food! All of the scholars and their families were invited to celebrate this exciting step forward. A great deal of the work that we have been up to this week has been planning the schedule for Rocío, Jessie, and myself. We will be working Monday through Friday with the kids from 8am to 5pm. Rocío will have sessions with each kid once a week Monday through Thursday, and we will be having group sessions on Friday. Brad will take the older boys ages 12 and up, Jessie will have all of the younger kids, and I will have the older girls ages 12 and up. These sessions as well as the random times throughout the week will allow Jessie and myself to implement our intern projects with the kids. 

During a few days this week we had gone to the market with Rocío to pick up desks and chairs and other items needed to make the office an actual office and give the kids a place to work etc. Jessie and I also went to this bookstore where we were able to purchase items that we needed for our intern projects. These purchases have made us so much more excited to get all of this started. Later this week we went to the market with Joseling to purchase items for the open house party. We also went to each neighborhood to tell the families about the office and it was great to see the excitement on their faces about it all. We are so happy to provide our scholars with now a more constant line of support!

Saturday August 2nd was the big day! We had our open house party for Casa VISEDAL, which is the name we picked out with the kids. We were pleased to have nearly 50 people in attendance! It was our 31 scholars and their families! We had a lot of fun and it was exciting to see the scholars coming together.
Brad, Jessie, and myself pre-fiesta excitement selfie!

We had an array of events, pizza first, then decorating a mural with hand prints, then the piñatas, then giving the older girls their journals(this is a part of my intern project), and throughout the whole time Brad made the schedule with the kids of when they could meet with Rocío. We had ordered a lot of pizza, we also bought multiple poster boards to create a mural that said "Casa VISEDAL 2014" and had all of the kids' handprints on it, and lastly we had two piñatas, one for the boys and one for the girls. It was a lot of fun! The kids had a great time decorating the mural.

Some of the scholars decorating part of the mural
After the murals were finished, it was time for the main event! The piñatas! Here in Nicaragua a piñata is at almost every celebration. We were able to stuff them with plenty of candy and also a lot of 1 cordoba coins. The kids had such a great time with the piñatas. It was a pretty crazy event though! When the candy fell and especially the coins, they all jumped into a pile and were jumping on top of each other and the kids came out with cuts and scrapes from trying to get candy and coins. Even the parents went crazy jumping onto the pile and even pulling their kids out so they could get the candy and money. It was very funny and if you would like to see a video and even more pictures of this crazy but fun event check out VISEDAL's Facebook page; and instagram;
The female piñata
It has been an amazing two weeks here so far working with the kids and families! A great deal of the events that happened in the past two weeks led up to opening up Casa VISEDAL on saturday and as well as keeping it open for the kids from now on. We are so excited to start our work hours on Monday! For myself, I will have two weeks working with the kids in Casa, for Jessie it will be three weeks, but for VISEDAL the work doesn't stop! It is so great to be a part of a new step like this for VISEDAL! Can't wait to get started and keep a look out at the end of this week for an update from Jessie about how our first week of work hours in Casa with the kids went!

Thanks for reading! Until next time!


Saturday, July 19, 2014

Introducing Jessie, Our 2014 Summer Intern

Hi, there!
My name is Jessie and I’m one of the new interns with Visedal this summer! I just graduated from the College of William and Mary, continuing the tradition of Tribe Pride in Visedal. I majored in international relations. I first found out about Visedal when Ben Boone visited one of my classes this spring and talked all about the organization and the great work it does. He mentioned summer internships with Visedal and I talked to him after class, so excited about Visedal and the opportunity to intern. I only had one problem: I don’t speak Spanish! No problem, Ben told me. So here I am! Picking up as much Spanish as I can and hopefully taking classes soon.

The first week here has been a whirlwind, but already I am so grateful to have this opportunity. Our first three days here, as part of the volunteer trip, were indescribably amazing. The scholars are so welcoming and loving. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten so many hugs before in my life! My favorite part of the volunteer trip was just talking with the scholars. With the little Spanish I know, the little bit of English they know, and lots of gestures, we had lots of great conversations. At the end of the volunteer trip, everyone was saying goodbye. When the scholars came up to me to say goodbye, I told them I would be here another month. Their faces lit up when they heard this. I couldn’t believe that after we’d known each other only three days, they were so happy to hear that I was staying a while.

 Jessie and Genecis

Jessie, Mekaila, and Ana

I can’t wait to really dive in and get started on my intern project. I have always been a creative person and I love anything and everything artistic. So, my project is going to be arts and crafts with the scholars! I already have some ideas for activities: a mural, tie-dye, beading and friendship bracelets, dream catchers, and many more. I hope to organize activities to appeal to all the scholars, no matter their age. I have always found that having a creative outlet can be a great way to express myself, not to mention just plain fun! I hope to help the scholars find these joys in our activities. Keep an eye on Visedal social media for updates on my project and the scholars’ creations!

Introducing Mekaila, 2014 Summer Intern

Hello everyone,

My name is Mekaila Murray. I am serving as one of VISEDAL's summer interns for 2014! It is such a pleasure to be an intern here in Nicaragua. Before I begin my internship and let you all know what I am doing here, I wanted to introduce myself and share a little bit about who I am and what I am doing here.

On the bus with Ana heading to the Laguna

I am a rising Sophomore at Texas Christian University studying International Politics with a double minor in Spanish and Asian Studies. On my campus I am very involved where I play Ultimate Frisbee, am a part of the Chancellor's Leadership Committee, work with Habitat for Humanity, and have served on a panel for the Intercultural Students. My focus in school all deals with the international aspect of conflict resolution and non-profits. I have been on multiple trips to study other countries cultures and for missions trips. For example, I have been to Mexico, Jamaica, The Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and now Nicaragua. I plan to study abroad my junior year and absolutely love traveling and love to learn. I believe that is one of the many things that attracts me to VISEDAL, is their love for the Nicaraguan people and their love for education amongst young people. I am also interested in VISEDAL for the reason that I want to see how an NGO is run and what it entails. I also have worked with kids for a majority of my life. I have served as a children's leader at my church and then a youth leader most recently. I love working with young people and serving them and supporting them in any way possible. 

I first heard about VISEDAL at 'The Festival of The Trees' in Maryland, where Gary and Marianne Waugh were selling peppermint bark. I absolutely love peppermint bark but when they began to share with me what the proceeds were for I became extremely interested. I am here because I have a heart and passion for young people around the world. I believe in the power of education and the power of love for people but especially in the lives of young people. I wanted to become involved with VISEDAL because they are unlike any other organization. They focus on forming relationships with the 31 kids in their program rather than a one time visit to different places in Nicaragua. These kids are so incredible and so easy to love and when they see you come back that love is always there and is intensified the more and more they see you. I had the pleasure of coming on the Summer trip this year before I started my internship and was able to meet the kids and am so excited to work with them for a month! I am also already looking forward to coming back next summer as a volunteer to see them again! I am here for a month to continue to forge relationship with the kids. I look forward to the upcoming days and being able to be a part of their lives, love them, help them with english, encourage them about self esteem and self worth, and so much more. 

I am so grateful and humbled to be given this incredible opportunity to work with such amazing kids and an amazing staff and organization. Until next time, Have a blessed day!

Mekaila Murray

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Recap and Reflection

10 July 2013


I am now officially one week from the conclusion of my stay here in Managua, which I can earnestly say I am not looking forward to. The past two weeks have been full of more than a fair share of successes, challenges, decisions and learning experiences, which I hope to briefly recap and reflect upon. 

Last week, close to 75 percent of the scholars were able to complete the videos they are making for their sponsors. I spent three days with the scholars from Camilo Ortega and Demitrov, and traveled with Jass up to Tipitapa one day to work with the scholars who live there. The remaining few scholars will complete their videos this week. The scholars were thoughtful, sincere, and genuinely excited to share messages with their “Godparents” in the United States, and I look forward to publishing them and being able to share them with you in the coming weeks. Belen, Aura, Kevin and Manuel expressed interest in learning more English, and together we were able to work through flash cards and other phonetic exercises that were graciously donated by individuals at my church back home. The kids loved the activity, and showed great commitment and focus.

Unfortunately, Nicaragua has won the war on scheduling, and I have not been able to spend nearly as much time with the scholars as I would have hoped. Many of the scholars have busy schedules that do not allow them the time to commit to more than a half hour at any given point, which has been quite frustrating. Despite the frustrations, I find it to be a large testament to the relationship Visedal has facilitated between sponsors and scholars that the kids always found a way to make a video amongst their many other activities.

This weekend, I traveled through Leon and spent some time on a tranquil island on the pacific coast. The island has one hostel, thirty residents, no roads, and is only accessible by boating across the bay. For much of my stay I was the only American at the hostel of 20 guests, but was able to meet new friends from Canada, Austria, Brazil, Denmark, England, Bolivia, Australia, Nicaragua, Israel, Germany, Switzerland, Ireland, New Zealand, and at least a few more locales I am certainly forgetting. It was incredible having the opportunity to talk to individuals who come from all corners of the globe, with many languages, customs, histories and perspectives; yet, who all remarkably share the singular goal of finding happiness. Whether discussing what we were currently reading, the paths through life we seem to be on, and what we hoped to accomplish in the future, I can honestly say it was a truly life-changing experience. Sitting around a fire on a beach in Nicaragua, staring up at a sky so bright and clear you could see the Milky Way, and listening to a guy from an urban hub in Brazil lead songs with a girl from a small farm in Austria on their guitars, you realize that there is much more to life than the priorities we place on our lives at home.

The realization of this goal, finding happiness, is not uniform. A few examples I can think of; however, include a 27-year old man from Baltimore who essentially works two jobs to ensure 23 kids are no longer on the streets in Managua, Nicaragua; families and individuals across the United States who not only help provide tuition, clothing and meals, but also develop loving and supportive relationships with children they have never, and may never, meet; a great student at Bard college who traveled several hours by air to ensure a new friend would be able to live in a foreign city; dozens of members of a church who sacrificed a little of what they had for others; and so many more that are too numerous for a blog entry that is already entirely too long.

My personal journey has been complicated, and has involved many missteps and learning experiences. Regardless, at the end of the day, I can write without regret for my time in Nicaragua, my time with Visedal, and my time with all the strangers from each and every corner of the world who are now friends has forever changed my way of thinking for the better. I thank each of you for the overwhelming support, encouragement and love. While I am dreading leaving the country I am currently in, I am blessed to know there are so many of you waiting to welcome me back home.

Until next time,


Monday, July 1, 2013

Orientation & Settling In


Between my orientation period led by Daniel Schutrum-Boward and the bi-annual Visedal trip, it has been a whirlwind week here in Managua. I am finally settled into my new home, the Backpacker’s Inn, and have decided to post a short update and some reflections for all those back home before starting my work with the scholars tomorrow afternoon.

My father, Matt, and I arrived in Managua late last Monday after battling storms and delays all down the east coast. On Tuesday, we set out so I could acquaint myself with the Huembes market (which included placing a food order for the food distribution activity to come later), saw some sights of political and cultural significance, and visited the Tipitapa crew (Everth, Belen, Aura and Silvia). While we were in Tipitapa, we were treated to a ride on Everth’s latest business venture, a bicycle-cart that he rents after school/studying to transport people to and from the market. It was great to see the pride he has in being able to earn money while providing a useful service to his neighbors (and of course keeping up with his grades). Towards the end the day, we had coffee with Jass Selva, a student in her last year at UNAN College in Managua. She is an incredible individual, and will be a great resource during the lessons the next two weeks with the scholars and as a mentor for the Visedal girls well beyond my brief stay.

Esmir, Justin, Daniel and Taylor (front) with Everth (back) and his newest business venture.
Wednesday included stops at the Backpacker’s Inn, Viva Spanish School (where I will be taking classes the next two weeks) and Tiscapa, which we had a great deal of fun zip lining down. Around noon we, including Jass, met a handful of the older scholars for lunch at McDonald’s to discuss goals, plans for after high school, and some of the steps that must be taken in order to pursue higher education. Following lunch, we all traveled up to UNAN, where Jass provided us a tour and answered the scholars' questions. It was an enlightening experience that highlighted the progress, and room for improvement on our end, in working with the scholars to isolate and work towards achieving goals.

Taylor, Esmir and Matt at the Masaya Volcano on Thursday.
Daniel did a great job during my orientation period, and by the time the trip members arrived Thursday night I felt completely prepared for my weeks here. I am very grateful for Daniel, not only for his help and guidance throughout the preparation process, but for the relationships he has developed with the scholars and all the work he does for Visedal.

The formal Visedal trip was another great experience, not only being able to resume friendships made with scholars in December, but also to gain insight from the perspectives and observations of all participants both new to international service and Visedal veterans. A few highlights from the trip worth mentioning include the goal-setting activity and food-distribution activity. The scholars took the goal setting activity very seriously, and it was inspiring to see how many of them not only had goals, but knew the steps they need to take to achieve them. I am excited that Visedal has decided to place an emphasis on goals, and cannot wait to see all that the scholars will accomplish in the coming years.

For the food distribution activity in Vera Cruz, Dylan, Daniel and I decided to give four of the older members, Winny, Aura, Jonathan and Carlos, sovereignty in determining how the project should be carried out. The leadership, poise, and maturity this group exemplified was phenomenal. They ensured each scholar had the opportunity to distribute food, and handled themselves well when we ran out of food. In one particular example that amazed me, Winny spotted an elderly woman and her granddaughter slowly moving toward our location, obviously well beyond the crowd and unlikely to receive food before it ran out. She gave a bag of food to Everth, who ran down to meet the woman and ensure she received a bag… it was awesome. I am hoping to meet with the scholars and Esmir on Friday to discuss what they thought were the strengths and weaknesses of our activity, the role of leadership in community service projects, and some of their goals or ideas moving forward. I hope to keep you posted as the scholars explore the role of service in their own lives and develop their interests in the topic.

So much for attempting to keep this short.

Until next time,