ATRAVES is unique. I hope you were able to realize that during your time abroad, but I actually didn't fully recognize that until I came back. Other trips cater specifically to pre-meds, to CICS or Spanish majors, to education students. They promise the ability to gain valuable work experience, to learn about other cultures, to have the opportunity to work with actual physicians and patients. We've often said that ATRAVES at the University of Michigan caters to all of these things, but I disagree. AUM caters to the community of Barrio William Galeano - a community that we are all a part of. As a result, we're able to provide all of those aforementioned possibilities, and we're able to share them with anyone who shares our values of solidarity and service. That's what makes this trip have so much more impact, both on the community and on its participants. I know that I was amazed as the progress of the community from year to year. You made a difference in that community.
-Xiao, Volunteer, ATRAVES at the University of Michigan
Just today I brought a small child who was coughing a lot [to the doctor], he was 22 days old. It felt good, even though I was nervous before, today I felt excited to bring that little patient here, very tiny, newborn. Now I can help the community! I like to help and feel like I'm useful for helping other people in need.
Volunteering at ATRAVES was an incredible experience for me in so many ways. It was my first time working abroad, and I was instantly overwhelmed by the amazing feeling of really connecting with people so different than I am, whose lives and paths would have never crossed my own. I also experienced the power of working with kids - these young people were just incredible - smart, energetic, warm, loving, and full of life! The students of Escuela H.D. touched my life forever, and I am so thankful for having had the opportunity to work with ATRAVES as a part of the first volunteer group all those years ago.
Some of the students in particular will always remain in my mind and heart. Carlos was such an unbelievably talented young boy - he was so bright and hardworking and immediately melted my heart with his gentle, open demeanor. And believe it or not, he started requesting additional homework every evening to work on different subjects, mostly math. Every morning he would run up with his work done, answers almost always perfect, and ready for more. Never in my life have I met a young person with more potential and more to offer than him.
The beauty of the first volunteer trip was that it was hard work, too! In addition to tutoring and other classroom activities, we worked on the construction of the healthcare clinic. It was hot under the sun with little shade, difficult work to make cement and move cinder blocks, but it was all a lot of fun and in pursuit of something really worthwhile.
In addition to the wonderful fellow volunteers and the community in Camilo Ortega, it was a such a privilege to work with and get to know the ATRAVES staff, from Leticia and Brady to Ely and Fer and others, the ATRAVES family was so wonderful. Their commitment to improving the lives of those around them was contagious and they set an amazing example for all of us. I was especially lucky to be able to "live" with Leticia, Brady and Ely during my time there, and I will never forget that beautiful house and the people I called my family there. I wish them all the best, and think of them often. Such an inspiration to us all!
ATRAVES was an incredibly special organization, with a beautiful story and true meaningful impact for the lives it touched. I am so thankful for having played a very small part in its life, and appreciate the impact it has had on mine. En Solidaridad.
-Nadia, Volunteer, University of Michigan
I live in Barrio Camilo Ortega in Managua. I have been living in this neighborhood for eight years. I am married and I have three children. By profession, I am a housewife in the morning, and in the afternoon I am an ATRAVES Health Promotora in the community.I give thanks for this opportunity to develop my knowledge of health, and to the volunteers from the States who, with much love and solidarity, have trained and motivated us to work for the community.
This has been a very interesting experience, because I can provide the community with much-needed help for their health problems. I can now take blood pressure, perform glucose tests, and give injections. This is all a great help for the patients because they can receive care in their home. In addition, we provide continued care and follow-up care, -and this contributes to them have better health and a better quality of life.
-Griselda, Health Program Assistant
They have had a change of attitude, and have a better vision of life, and they know that they can engage in different activities for better income and personal enrichment. These training workshops have contributed to community-building, and better integration of the women in this community, and the discovery of their own value as human beings in this community. We have improved the self esteem and personal presentation of the women participating, and we've seen a general change in their way of dressing, hygiene, human relations; they work with the team with enthusiasm and dedication. We have also seen them putting into practice the things that they are learning - it has been like opening up a source of self-employment, since they have started to work out of their homes, helping in this way to improve the quality of their life, and helping supplement their income. For many, this will be their only source of income in their home, and many are single mothers and maintain their houses. The participants have seen with this course that they can build their own business and even their own family shop, and work together and move forward united. We have a very enthusiastic family.
-Sofia, Community Development Coordinator
The women I worked with were strong, motivated, and intelligent and together we initiated a sustainable form of community empowerment and sustainable improvements in the health of the community. Their active participation in the community and leadership roles are a crucial part of the development of health in Camilio Ortega and William Galeano. Seeing the women take charge entirely to design and teach the charlas was the moment when I truly felt that the promotora group would be lasting and would be carried on by this dedicated group of women. The promotoras are compassionate and realize the importance of caring for one's own community, that improving health must first start with affecting human lives, not statistics.
The opportunity to live with a host family attracted me to ATRAVES and allowed me to form relationships I hope to sustain throughout my life.
-Talia, Volunteer, ATRAVES at the University of Michigan
It gives me great pleasure to share with you part of the happiness that I feel to be able to help the Camilo Ortega and William Galeano communities as a Health Promotora. It makes me especially happy to help those with chronic illnesses, and those bed-ridden elderly who are often alone, having been abandoned by their relatives, and have no economic opportunities. These are people who crave food, medicine, and the company of someone to share in their sadness and pain.
Today I give thanks to God for the program ATRAVES, which has enabled me to prepare psychologically, by means of different trainings, which one by one have been making it possible for me to find solutions for those people who need it so much.
-Yamileth, Health Program Assistant
I was lucky enough to be a part of ATRAVES for three years (2008-2011). I joined a chapter of the organization at The University of Michigan in its beginning years, and during that time, I watched the program grow tremendously. I truly believe that the success was due to such strong solidarity. I first heard "solidarity" in one of our initial meetings. It seemed like a buzzword at the time, but as I remained part of the organization, I really saw the meaning and reality behind the word. I saw what could happen in a few years when we passionately work towards a common goal. I have kept this in mind over the years as I've pursued other projects, and it has kept me grounded.
I'm a medical student now, and I've been away from ATRAVES for a few years now, but I truly reflect of my experience with ATRAVES all of the time. I think about how it played a large role in influencing the type of work I want to do. And when sometimes I feel like the studying is tough or when volunteering is laborious and exhausting, I am reminded of how inspired I was by ATRAVES' "leadership" and perseverance. The passion from ATRAVES members and communities was simply contagious and inspiring. The work that has been done is not lost, and I am so proud to have been affiliated with this organization.
-Rachel, Volunteer, ATRAVES at The University of Michigan
When thinking about the time I spent in Managua volunteering with Atraves the main thing that comes mind is the people. From Brady's comforting face upon arrival at the airport to the straight yet loving faces of our host family, Adilia, Doris and Arecelly, to the children at Barrio Camilo Ortega. The people are the ones who truly made my experience volunteering with Atraves so memorable.
My friend Marta and I were the only two volunteers at the school in January of 2009. We would spend our mornings painting the desks in preparation of the school year and spend our afternoons playing with the children. Every morning we would wake up early get to the school, bake in the sun, inhale the toxic paint fumes and work hard to get all the desks painted in vibrant colors. In the afternoons we much preferred the time we spent organizing games, crafts and English class at our 'Kid's Club". The first week or so was difficult, neither Marta nor I had much experience speaking Spanish and our ninos knew a select few words in English. When our 'Kids Club' first started not too many kids would show up, maybe because they hadn't heard it was happening, maybe they had heard we were English speaking gringos. Either way we were determined to make it work. By the second or third week, the neighborhood kids had caught on and they were all flocking for piggy back rides, fresh coloring books, mural painting and aggressive soccer game outside the school.
On our last day at the school we had a lovely day putting the finishing touches on our mural, playing our last soccer game and saying our good-byes. We said good-bye and the kids scattered. Within a minute as we were getting into our car, they appeared out of nowhere, again with their hands behind their backs, only this time bearing freshly picked flowers and warm hugs. They held us and demanded that we stay as our car patiently waited for us. Eventually the driver pulled them off and we drove away. We cruised down the street hearing echoes and little bare feet chasing us to the end of the street, 'Marrrrrrtaaaaaaaaa', 'queeeeesiiiiiii' (Kelsey, was not easy to pronounce).
We ended that beautiful day with a delicious feast and a neighborhood group of dancing girls performed at our home-stay. We took some last photos with our incredibly gracious host family and went to sleep sad to leave but so happy and gratefully for the time we had had.
It was truly the people who made our trip all that it was. As sad as I am to hear about the closing of ATRAVES, I am so proud and grateful that I was able to be a small part of it. Thank you for allowing me to meet the faces I met while volunteering with ATRAVES and for all the memories. To all of the staff, volunteers, and board members who put so much energy into ATRAVES, your work is so appreciated not only by the people of Barrio Camilo Ortega but also by the many people that were able to come volunteer, learn and be a small part of the big picture. Thank you!