When I visited Nicaragua two years ago for a short two weeks, I knew immediately that I had to return. At the time, I was visiting my sister who was a program director for Manna Project International. While she was very busy running her own programs, I had the pleasure to shadow Javier Silva, now Executive Director of Lacrosse the Nations and see what lacrosse looked like in Nicaragua. I had just graduated high school and was committed to play Division I lacrosse at the University of Richmond, so I was extremely eager to see what the game of lacrosse looked like abroad and hopefully spread my knowledge and love for the game to others.
I was able to attend all of the LTN practices, mostly helping out at Chiquilistagua practices in the morning, where I participated in all of the gym classes and at Club Hope where I played in drills and games with the kids. Despite taking Spanish classes throughout high school, it was a little difficult to communicate. However, I found the language barrier was not a problem when I was playing. I had no idea what to expect when arriving to Nicaragua, and was pleasantly surprised to find out that the kids were extremely talented. Although there was limited equipment, the kids showed up every day eager to learn and always playing their hardest.
Fast forward two years later, I feel so incredibly grateful to return for the month as an intern for LTN and MPI and continue to build the relationships I made two years ago. Roberto was among one of the kids that I met during my initial visit and was excited to be reunited with. I admired him for his smart, unselfish play, and was excited to see how much he has improved. With limited Spanish two years ago, we formed our relationship through playing together. Since my Spanish has improved, I am able to coach him and give him tips. He is now in the advanced group of Club Hope, and admired by all the younger players.
While my first experience in Nicaragua was certainly eye opening, the progression of the lacrosse programs has been by far the best part of my experience here thus far. Although it has been amazing to see how the fields, equipment, and programs have improved, the most rewarding part has been able to see how much the players skills have progressed and the new relationships I have been able to create. To see the way lacrosse has impacted these kids lives over the years, the relationships and friendships that they have made, and to see that their love for the game is still alive and stronger than ever, makes me extremely grateful to be apart of LTN.