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BWAP 2024: Nicaraguan Pride ~ Sophie Elsdon

Sophie is a high school junior in the STEM Academy at Madison College.

Stepping out of the airport, I was welcomed to Nicaragua with a sweltering heat and dozens of mosquitoes. Throughout the following week, I would be constantly itchy and damp with sweat, but even that could not undermine the beauty of this trip. Although I could not speak Spanish well, I learned more in one week about Nicaragua than I had in my entire schooling. My learning was not just limited to microfinance, I was opened to politics, culture, and Nicaraguan identity.

Being the daughter of Mark Elsdon and accompanying him previously on a trip to Guatemala to learn about microfinance from WCCN there, I had a fair amount of previous knowledge on the subject. I  was aware of the benefits the end borrowers in Central America were receiving from this organization, and how microfinance provides them with an opportunity to get into the banking and investment systems while helping them become more financially stable. However, what I found most important from these learning trips was realizing how much microfinance empowers people. It is not charity to them; it is a mutually beneficial system for the microfinance investors and those taking out loans. This is important to note because it gives the recipients of the loans dignity and disrupts the “white savior” mentality, which can be very damaging.

Aside from learning about finances, I realized just how privileged I am to be living in America.  Here in the US, many progressive-thinking people talk about getting rid of capitalism, but I came to realize that the people of Nicaragua do not have this same ideal, instead, they are fighting to get into the capitalist system to keep up with the larger, more developed countries. It puts things in perspective to think about how something more privileged Americans might think is beneficial financial progression for the poor, may not be what people in need actually need or want.

The most uplifting thing I learned on this BWAP trip was how the people of Nicaragua think, act, and value their lives, country, and culture. It is no secret how the United States has been meddling in  Nicaraguan politics for decades and plundering the country downwards, and yet, here we arrive, this large group of somewhat ignorant Americans, each with more privilege than most Nicaraguans could imagine, and we are greeted with nothing but kindness. Throughout the whole week, I experienced welcome and hospitality from every person we crossed paths with.  They invited us into their homes, fed us, guided us, and proudly shared their country with us. We were shown stunning cities, mountains, churches, and landmarks. We were stuffed full of new amazing foods every morning, day, and night. I had friendly conversations in broken Spanish with an older woman, a young toddler, and many people in between. The Nicaraguans were not embarrassed by their country, instead, they showed us how much they loved it and why. No question asked was left unanswered. It was uplifting to see these people’s pride, optimism, and kindness to each other, us, and themselves, something that can be hard to find in America at times.

Lastly, while this story was not so uplifting, I think it was one of the most meaningful experiences for a lot of our group. One Nicaraguan risked getting in a lot of trouble to share personal experiences of the violence from the government, the history of Nicaraguan politics, and his and others’ current opinions on the dictatorship. I learned more than I ever have in a high school history class. His stories were like nothing I could have ever imagined and brought what seemed like TV show material to real life in my mind. His bravery and ability to share the truth with us foreigners was truly moving.

I wish everyone would be able to go on this trip or one like it, because not only was it beautiful and fun, but it was so eye-opening and put my life in a new perspective.

Read the rest of the BWAP Nicaragua 2024 reflections:

Rev. Mark Elsdon ~ Why Nicaragua?
Jack Wilharm ~ The Power of Microfinancing
Mei Hippe ~ Perfect Solutions?
Nathan Tan ~ Politics and Faith
Aurora Kuelbs ~ Opportunity
Allyson Mills ~ Grace and Power Under Dictatorship
Kyle Digman ~ Murals in Nicaragua
Will Clancy ~ Politics of Faith


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