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Elyse Dion `13

Name: Elyse Dion
Year: Senior
Hometown: Hampton, NH
Studying: Communication Sciences and Disorders, minoring in Deaf Studies and Special Education

While many of us were soaking up the sun at the beach this summer, this week’s campus celebrity, Elyse Dion, was on a service trip in Nicaragua helping women and children, which changed her perspective on the way we live in the United States.

How did you get involved in COMM 525 Service Learning in Nicaragua?

I always wanted to go abroad but with my major and two minors it would be nearly impossible to complete everything on time and go away for an entire semester. I researched possible summer programs and stumbled upon a class at UNH called COMM 525 Service Learning in Nicaragua, it is a class offered both semesters. The class is four credits and prepares you for the trip to Nicaragua; you learn about Nicaraguan culture and history, practice Spanish and Nicaraguan Sign Language. The class also educates you on the living conditions you’ll be living in. Most houses have dirt floors and no running water.

What does the program entail?

COMM 525 is taught by Pamela Broido. The class works with an organization called Compas de Nicaragua. All students from any majors are welcome on the trip. Spanish and sign language are helpful but not required. While on the trip we worked on a coffee farm, planted many types of trees, climbed a volcano, ziplined, spent a day in the Morales School for the Deaf and Blind, took a Nicaraguan Sign Language lesson from teenagers at ANSNIC, and spent a day shadowing a women.

What is Compas De Nicaragua?
Compas de Nicaragua is a non profit organization dedicated to promoting cultural exchange and improving lives through service trips and sustainable community development work in urban and rural Nicaragua. Compas works with two other organizations: Women in Action (a group of 40 women who are organizing health and education projects) and Brothers and Sisters in Reconciliation (which provides increased income to small farmers, reduce deforestation, protect habitats, and reduce the effects of global warming.)

Do you intend to continue this into your profession in the future?
After graduation, I hope to return to Nicaragua to teach English to the children and women. I fell in love with the people and culture; I want to go back and help make a difference in their lives.

What was the best part of the trip?
I enjoyed working with the Women in Action best. Most of these women are single moms of more than three children. They want to better the lives of their families. The women were enthusiastic about learning English because they know it opens the door for many job opportunities. They live in a level of poverty I have never witnessed, yet are the happiest and grateful women I have ever encountered.

What was your least favorite part of the trip?
My least favorite part of the trip was having a cockroach fly in my face right before bed. Who knew cockroaches fly?!!

Why did you become involved?
I became involved because I wanted to travel. I never imagined the trip would change my entire outlook on life. It’s hard to complain about wanting an iPad when I’ve seen entire families living in one room shacks.

Does this trip sound like something you’d be interested in?
If you’d like to learn more about Compas de Nicaragua they will be at UNH Monday September 17, at 7pm in Murkland to do a presentation on sustainable living and organic farming.

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