from the department of communication, harding university

Students 'build bridges' to Nicaraguan culture during spring break
Written by Kylie R Akins   
Tuesday, 23 March 2010 12:23

Two young men press their shoulders together, straining their eyes in the sun to see the screens of their cell phones. Suddenly a familiar song plays from one of the phones and both men are smiling broadly as they recognize the song.


The language barrier keeps them from speaking in sentences, but a friendship is forming despite their communication difficulties. They laugh in the heat of the middle of the day and forget the horrible smell that surrounds them.


Listening to Bon Jovi and Guns N’ Roses, they don’t see the burning trash heaped by their feet anymore. Without a translator, the men exchanged several songs through a few words and body language alone.

The bridge from the Nicaraguan culture to American culture suddenly became visible through a shared love of music in the middle of Jinotega’s city dump between a man who sifted through trash for a living and a man who would never have to return to this refuse mountain if he so chose.


In a unique encounter with another culture, more than 25 Harding students and professors returned from their spring break in Jinotega, Nicaragua, with thousands of photographs, hours of footage and stories of lives that affected their own.


The mission trip was untraditional in many ways. The 2010 spring Harding campaigns did not include international destinations due to the recent economic issues, but the Nicaragua trip was one of few that was separate from the main pool and supported and run by faculty instead. The trip could also be taken for communication or Bible class credit with assignments focusing on the students’ experiences there and their individual talents.


“This opportunity provides students to use their talents, abilities and passions to make an eternal difference for the kingdom,” campaign leader and director of the Institute for Church and Family at Harding, Andrew Baker, said.


Students from a range of majors, including communication, Bible, education and nursing, were housed by and worked with the Mision Para Christo, a nonprofit, Christ-centered mission that served in the center of the Jinotega community. The students worked through the mission’s services and supported organizations, such as a free clinic, rural schools, children’s nutrition center, maternity house and preschool.


Communication students worked through many of these outlets and were able to document the experiences. Student photographers, videographers and writers interacted with local people through translators in the local marketplace, city dump, schools and neighborhoods.


Education majors spent much of their time interacting with the children attending the rural schools started by Mision Para Christo, the local school for children with disabilities, preschool and nourishment center.


“The purpose of this trip, at least to me, was to immerse myself in a new culture and completely soak it up, and to have the opportunity to love on a child that may not have felt love that day, week or maybe ever,” junior education major Molly McCoy said.


Nursing majors were able to shadow the doctors and nurses working at the free clinic, hand out parasite medicine at the local preschool and spend time with children at the nourishment center.


The student groups were continually received with hospitality, invited into Nicaraguan homes, given the opportunity to be an audience to a school band performance, playing soccer with children in neighborhoods and welcomed into the Nicaraguan church.


Watch the video below to see the high school drum line's performance.


“The trip was about growing and changing within ourselves as we met people and touched lives, or maybe better said, as they touched ours,” junior Alicia Miller said. “We were there to connect with people. We held their hands, shared their smiles, laughed with them, cried with them, hugged them and listened to their stories.”


Those who participated in the trip for communication course credit will collect the stories through whatever medium he or she used, such as still photos, video and interviews, into an organized compilation in the future. Bible students will use the data they collected from surveys given to Nicaraguan teenagers about spirituality to compile their data to use for the upcoming Uplift session.


Photojournalist and Harding alumnus Philip Holsinger also accompanied the group, facilitating the “bridge building,” as he called it, by introducing the group to the locals he befriended on his previous trip and encouraging the journalistic process with his own experience.


Each student was asked to create a blog following his or her own experiences with the Nicaraguan people and perspectives formed from the encounters.


The group will continue to meet once a week to organize the stories they collected from the trip and plan to create a compilation of their experiences in Nicaragua.

The blogs created from this trip can be accessed at

A public high school drum line in Jinotega performs for the group despite the fact the band was out of season during their visit.

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