Student interns partner with NGOs in Nicaragua
Published: Tuesday, September 24, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, September 24, 2013 00:09
Building Understanding Through International Learning and Development (BUILD): Nicaragua successfully completed its first abroad internship program this past summer after a yearlong transition from the previous BUILD: Guatemala structure.
The two-month, student-run program sent five students — seniors Tom Chalmers, Mark Nichols and Elayne Stecher, junior Rebecca Frank and sophomore Jordan Klein — to work with local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Matagalpa and Jinotega, cities located in the northern region of Nicaragua.
“Through BUILD, all of us were set up with different organizations,” Stecher, who is also the executive Op-Ed editor for the Daily, said. “Our goal was to establish a long-term relationship with organizations that other BUILD members could take part in over the years.”
The BUILD program, run through the Institute for Global Leadership (IGL), is designed to educate students about sustainable development through partnerships with rural communities in developing countries. Students research and fulfill sustainable initiatives for social and economic development.
“[The goal] is to have a system set up to make the relationship as mutually beneficial as possible to make sure that the student has something to offer the organization and is simultaneously learning a lot,” Chalmers said.
BUILD: Nicaragua this summer partnered with two local Spanish-speaking NGOs: Asociacion de Voluntarios para el Desarrollo Economico Comunitario (AVODEC) and Asociacion para el Desarrollo Integral Comunitario (ADIC), located in Matagalpa and Jinotega, respectively.
“These are regions that have suffered a lot from conflicts,” Klein said. “You see a lot of resilience in the strong NGO culture in the cities.”
Student intern responsibilities included providing design, monitoring and evaluating techniques, as well as applying knowledge from Tufts courses to help implement various nutrition and water projects, according to Klein.
Klein emphasized the collaboration that went on between students and locals.
“We didn’t go in there as experts in our field,” he said. “We just have a basic experience that gave us a context for understanding of how development works. It wasn’t, ‘We know how to do development better than you.’”
Nichols highlighted the importance of respecting Nicaraguan traditions and culture while abroad.
“We recognize that as people from the United States going to a developing country, you have to respect their way of doing things and the knowledge that they have,” Nichols said. “We go primarily to learn.”
In preparation for interning abroad, all BUILD: Nicaragua students took a spring Experimental College course titled “Design, Monitoring and Evaluation in Development,” according to the IGL website.
According to junior Ben Berman, the director of BUILD: Nicaragua, the course is the fundamental academic component of the program and one of the changes that accompanied the program’s transition from BUILD: Guatemala to BUILD: Nicaragua.
“Ben and I worked very carefully on this,” IGL Director Sherman Teichman said. “I feel that it is an extraordinary extension of the vision. We’re doing this because we’re building partnerships in sustainability.”
The IGL sponsors BUILD as part of the institute’s mission to develop global citizens who are able to address issues across cultures, Teichman said.
“I like people with dirty hands ... who engage in the real world,” he said. “[BUILD] is one of the most coherent [organizations] in its concept, its credibility.”
BUILD: Nicaragua held its first general interest meeting two weeks ago and plans to continue the trip next summer, Chalmers said. He expects the program’s NGO network to expand in the future.
“Our NGOs are definitely more receptive to having Tufts students go down,” Klein said.
Nichols said that participating in the program has influenced his personal ambitions.
“It was my first time in Latin America,” he said. “It is definitely a region of the world I want to continue to explore. And it definitely has impacted where I am visualizing myself.”