Junior to Lead International Service Trip to Nicaragua

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In continuation of her project started last semester while completing a three-month internship abroad, junior Cristy Tono will be leading nine other students on a service trip this May to Nicaragua.

In the fall Tono’s aim, in her internship through the Foundation for Sustainable Development, was to bring more environmental awareness to the community of Limon 2 within Tola, Nicaragua. Tono was placed in that community, where she did research in the local library “Puertas del Saber,” (Doors to Knowledge).

Tono helped establish the community’s first recycling center, which would allow for trash to be picked up instead of being burned, releasing harmful chemicals into the air.

Also while abroad, Tono worked with an organization called Knit for Nature, which made various crafts out of recycled trash like plastic bags.

The students participating in the trip, which goes from May 13-25, will be going back to the same community in which Tono was first placed.

“I am trying build awareness of what trash is and what can be done with trash,” said Tono. “This [trip] is a continuation of that. We are remodeling the playground in the community behind the library using the recycled trash.”

The trip is being sponsored by Raices Hispanas, who will help raise money through such events as piñata making. Though Tono mentioned that all the money each participant will pay will go towards funding the community project, the fundraising will go toward reimbursing the students.

Funds paid upfront by participants will help pay for the outside organization “Sonati,” which is a non-profit that provides free environmental education for communities within Nicaragua, to come to the community.

Tono noted that currently, a group of foreigners who own property nearby the Nicaraguan community called Friends of the Library fund different projects in Limon 2. “A big problem with that though, is that [Friends of the Library] have a lot of say as to how the projects are done because they pay for them, but they don’t always have the community’s best interest in mind. It creates some conflict.”

According to Tono, the community’s goal is to become self-sufficient and not relying on outside fund sources so much. With the group of St. Mary’s students coming down and simply spending time as well as providing some funds, it will get them on their own feet more quickly.

Tono also mentioned that she’s excited for St. Mary’s students to join her in her project for their own experience. “It’s going to help the community greatly because they get to have the relationship with the group of students, and the group is getting an authentic experience within Nicaragua,” she said.

Of the 23 applicants for the trip, nine are going to be selected to join Tono in continuing her mission in May.

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