Livingston resident and Marist College student Amanda Cardona recently travelled to Granada, Nicaragua as a chosen member of . The group’s goal is “to provide opportunities for girls to play soccer, meet and interact with peers, and enjoy the benefits associated with team sports.” According to Amanda, it was an “eye-opening experience.”
She stayed with two sisters, their families, and the sisters’ grandmother in a house that had three bedrooms for nine people. “It’s nothing like here. When it rained, the rain would come through the metal roof,” she said.
To shower, the family members fill up a bucket of water and pour it over themselves, however, “it’s so hot and humid that once you were done with your ‘shower,’ you’d just start sweating all over again.”
Having a fan, which was a luxury, did not guarantee being cool because the electricity worked sporadically. “What you learned from the beginning is that a lot of things are out of your control and you have to just go with it,” Amanda said. “For me to let go and just accept their way of life was really good.”
She spent her days in Granada getting to know the local girls in the program. After starting the day with a breakfast of rice and beans or bread and bananas, the SWB group visited the girls’ school (boys go to a separate facility). “The girls would have so much fun when the guys weren’t around. One day, there was a guy hanging around the soccer goalpost. The girls were so intimidated. He gave me some trouble when I asked him to leave.”
In addition to playing soccer, the SWB members conducted relay races and hung out with the girls. “We showed them we could just have fun. The girls spent hours trying to talk to us, even though there was a language barrier. They had so much patience with us. They were so nice and affectionate.”
Amanda spoke of the attitude of the local adults. “Most were so respectful. We’d walk to the office in the morning and back at night and you’d have people cheering. They knew what we were there doing there and since the program has been there a few years, they appreciated what we were doing.” Some of the men, however, were not so nice, whistling and behaving “really rude and disrespectful. They definitely thought they were better than us.”
Overall, Amanda feels extremely fortunate to have been chosen for Soccer Without Borders. “I was given the opportunity to re-evaluate what I have and see how lucky I am,” she said. She also spoke of how the local girls were touched by the visitors coming to see them.
She would, ultimately, like to return to see the progress the country, and the girls, are making. And she definitely recommends the program to others. “I think any international volunteer work is awesome. You see a completely different world.
It’s important for people to go outside the norm," she said. One SWB member explained how at home, she spends $4 on a Starbucks Chai tea. “In Nicaragua, the average worker makes $2 per day. It really opens your eyes.”