Creating Systems to Save Lives and Improve Communities

Broaden your horizons in Nicaragua

“Broaden Your Horizons”

Let me first begin by saying that it is truly an honor to be a guest blogger for Emergency Response Services of Latin America (ERSLA). It is a rainy day here in South Georgia, and while I have some spare time I figured that it would be appropriate to sit here and sip on some organic coffee from La Garnacha, Nicaragua.


When I first entered college as a freshman I knew that studying abroad was on my college checklist of “Things to Do Before I Graduate.” Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College located in Tifton, Georgia, turned my dream of studying abroad into a reality. This past summer I had the experience of a lifetime as I studied abroad in Estelí, Nicaragua. This trip was led by the Interim Dean of Nursing and Health Sciences at ABAC, Troy Spicer. Mr. Spicer was previously a professor of mine in Rural Health at the school, and I knew that taking another Global Studies course about Sustainable Development would only further my knowledge of Rural America, and abroad. My intuition was correct, and by the time that I left Nicaragua I had gained a deeper understanding about sustainable development.

ERSLA lives by the following quote by Lao Tzu, “Go to the people. Live with them. Learn from them. Love them. Start with what they know. Build with what they have. But with the best leaders, when the work is done, the task accomplished, the people will
 say ‘We have done this ourselves.”

Throughout my time in Nicaragua I found myself referring back to these words of wisdom by Tzu. I especially appreciated these words of wisdom when visiting the farming community of La Garnacha in Nicaragua. This community relied on each member of its community. They displayed teamwork in everything that they do on a daily basis. I am a firm believer in the fact that education is found outside of the four walls of a classroom, and while visiting La Garnacha I was able to put this philosophy into practice. While here I was able to hike in the mountains to see breathtaking views. I also was able to learn about the production of earthworms, see the talents of local artisans, and I was even able to put my cooking skills into practice as I made homemade tortillas for the first time ever. It was here at La Garnacha that I was able to buy organic coffee and other artisan products to bring back to North America as gifts. However, I feel as if knowledge is a gift that keeps on giving. The knowledge that I gained on this particular day in Nicaragua is a memory that I will cherish and carry with me forever.

As you can tell, I thoroughly benefited from all of my experiences in Nicaragua. I gained a new perspective on learning and I was able to learn about a new culture in a fun and exciting way. ERSLA is a wonderful non-profit organization and I commend them on their efforts in allowing students to study abroad.

Until Next Time Nicaragua,

Kristen Ray

Get to know us: ERSLA’s Henrietta

On special days we get to say THANK YOU to people who make up the ERSLA team, along with all our fab donors and supporters. Today is the birthday of our Public Relations Coordinator, Henrietta Still. What she is most excited about in her coming year? Find out below.


What’s best about working at ERSLA?

Every day something new is being talked about in the office or I am meeting someone creative and interesting whether it be a local volunteer or donors in the States.Talking to Teresa, the project coordinator, about upcoming projects and visiting groups and how their trips can be made even more amazing. I am always excited to visit communities or fire stations and continue the progress that ERSLA works hard to achieve every day. I take snapshots and video and edit these in the office whilst listening to our director Rodney’s “eclectic taste?” music.

What are you looking forward to most in this new year, one year older?

We have water filter projects planned at the beginning of the year and it will be my first time going into the communities and watching the firefighters and the ERSLA team teach the effectiveness of water filters. Also we are going to be getting fit with the firefighters in a new firefighter training program (if we can survive it). It’s going to be an exciting year full of growth and joy. Bring it on!

One of the team

Teresa Perez discusses her most difficult hike and the budding volunteers of Nicaragua.

Teresa is the project coordinator at ERSLA; she acts as the bridge of cultures and the primary contact for many volunteers and donors who visit ERSLA projects in Nicaragua. Teresa became a part of the team after first meeting Rodney McDonald at a sustainability speech he was giving, and went on to start as a volunteer for ERSLA in 2012 (originally when she was 14 and her mother was his Spanish teacher in Peace Corps training). She describes her first water filter delivery as, “ one of the most difficult hikes I’ve been on in my life. I honestly thought I wouldn’t make it, however once we got to the first house and saw how grateful and happy the people were to have received a water filter, nothing else mattered. I felt like I had made a change in their lives.”


Since that first project, Teresa has been involved with the firefighters of Nicaragua in delivering over 1000 water filters to families who previously did not have access to safe drinking water. For Teresa, “every community is unique, as are their members.” There can be challenges such as “not everyone has the same mentality or point of view in this area. It can be difficult to make people understand the purpose of our projects and that the systems we are putting in place now will be of more value in years ahead.” but it is through perseverance, careful planning and communication that these challenges can be overcome.

The study abroad groups that come to Nicaragua become close with Teresa as she organizes their every move during their visits. “Every time a study abroad group comes to Nicaragua I want to give them the best experience possible,” she says. Having grown up in the United States Teresa realized “the world really is diverse.” Teresa is part of a new Nicaraguan generation that is becoming interested in volunteering within their own country. “I think we are realizing there are people who don’t have the same opportunities as some of us and there is so much we can do for others. Some things we take for granted such as safety and security and access to basic needs for clean safe drinking water can be unobtainable without outside support at this time. It is about realizing that one can make a small change that can determine future development in poverty stricken parts of the World.” For Nicaraguans there is no better place than one’s own country, and for study abroad students coming to Nicaragua it is a broadening of perspective and inspiration for such a change.

Find out more about our study abroad programs and ERSLA projects that Teresa and the team are a part of , Click Here


With the New Year – Recruiting for our next Global Studies Program

With the New Year, I will be cranking up recruitment efforts for the Summer 2014 Global Studies program to Nicaragua. The faculty at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College (ABAC) hosted the first “home-grown” study abroad program in 2011 with ERSLA to Nicaragua. That is to say, instead of signing up our students for programs at other institutions, this was OUR program with OUR faculty. It became OUR program with a distinctive ABAC character – a program that is rural, physical, adventurous, simple and unpretentious that sparks an enduring interest in a geographically and demographically important area to us.

This year, as in the past, the focus of the program will be sustainable development. This focus will be explored using exemplars from the agricultural and health care sectors. Students from our nursing, rural studies, business and social science programs will bring their own particular interests to the program. ERSLA will afford our students the experiences to develop these interests.

Orientation to the program prior to travel is always a challenge. My job is to convince participants that they need to bring hoodies and rain gear to guard against the cool temperatures and the daily showers. Students have a hard time believing that we will leave the 97 F heat and the suffocating humidity of a South Georgia summer, head toward the equator and arrive in a cool and refreshing climate. Students refuse to trust me that they will eat rice and beans as a breakfast side dish and will soon start to crave this stick-to-your-ribs staple. To experience is to believe.