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CCE group travels to Nicaragua

October 31, 2012

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September 7-16, 2012, Nancy Schaff (4-H State STEM Program Specialist) traveled to Nicaragua with eight Cooperative Extension colleagues for a cross-cultural exchange experience and fact-finding trip. Eight of the group were Cornell Cooperative Extension professionals (CCE Director, Distance Learning Coordinator, three 4-H Youth Development professionals, and two representing community development interests) and were joined by a community development colleague from Montana Extension. The trip kicked off with a bang by an earthquake and major volcanic eruption just before they arrived, and exceeded expectations in contacts gained and experiences. They visited Managua, Matagalpa, San Ramon, Leon, Nagarote, Masaya, and Granada. Nicaragua is a stunningly beautiful country – cameras were clicking continuously as they attempted to capture the mountains, volcanoes, people, countryside, and cities. Every day was filled with a feast of sights and experiences.

Two young men who work for Planting Hope in their NYS 4-H t-shirts

One of Schaff's goals for the trip to Nicaragua was exploring opportunities for New York 4-H’ers to connect with Nicaraguan youth – electronically and hopefully some day through exchange trips. On their first morning in Managua they were joined for breakfast by Kevin Marinacci, President of the Fabretto Children’s Foundation, and two Extension professionals from the University of Wisconsin. Fabretto has some funding from the U.S. Foreign Ag Service to start up 4-S Clubs (the equivalent to 4-H Clubs in Latin America – ‘saber’, ‘sentimientos’, ‘servicio’, ‘salud’). 4-S was operating in Nicaragua at some point in the past, but has been dormant for some time.

Other youth development contacts made included CECESMA and Planting Hope (NGOs in San Ramon) and a Peace Corps volunteer in Nagarote. At a meeting with CECESMA, similarities between their work with youth and 4-H's youth programs were strongly apparent. They have an impressive youth leadership program and are doing great work with youth conducting participatory action research. Their focus is on eliminating violence and supporting children’s rights. Planting Hope runs a library we visited outside of Matagalpa that serves as a community center. Schaff distributed Cornell Garden-Based Learning project materials in Spanish, as well as a new Lab of Ornithology curriculum for Latin America. There are plans to try to get Collegiate 4-H members involved, possibily through traveling to Nicaragua, serving as ‘virtual’ mentors for start-up 4-S clubs in Nicaragua, or helping to facilitate connections between 4-H members in New York and youth in Nicaragua.

Coffee Finca plantation

The group had an amazing time visiting farms, villages, cooperatives, and NGOs. Highlights included a three-day homestay in San Ramon; coffee farm; women’s weaving, jewelry, and papermaking cooperatives; a model small farm being piloted by a university professor; banana plantation; university botanical gardens; and much more.

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