Give of Yourself and Gain a Community

Walk the cobblestoned streets on your way to work and buy shaved ice from a vendor you know by name. Coax a laugh from the shyest student at the community center where you teach English and music, support hands-on research to make your city more sustainable, or high-five your students as you impart health and leadership lessons through soccer. Come home to help your host family cook dinner, and share a traditional meal with a side of conversation about Latin American politics. In León, the looming volcanoes and colonial architecture set the scene, but it’s the people around you every day that will make your bridge year unforgettable.

 

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Overview

About the City

León is the second largest city in Nicaragua; a center of politics, culture, commerce, and knowledge in the Central American nation. Many of Nicaragua’s top universities are in León, and students from all over the country gather to study there. This makes León a young, vibrant city where students can easily find stimulating activities to engage in, and readily make and develop true friendships with Nicaraguan peers. Surrounded by volcanoes and less than 13 miles to Pacific beaches, León boasts a year-round tropical climate, thriving cafe culture, and brightly colored houses surrounding the central park and incredible white-roofed cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Nearly half of the population of Nicaragua lives below the poverty line, and nearly 80 percent live on less than $2 per day, making Nicaragua one of the poorest nations in Latin America. Fellows in this program have the unique opportunity to learn about Nicaragua’s revolutionary history first hand, and see how international tourism is impacting the economy.

About the Organization

AMIGOS is an international, non-profit organization that, for nearly 50 years, has operated on the belief that young people can change the world. Founded and headquartered in Houston, Texas, AMIGOS has grown throughout the United States with 25 affiliated chapters in major cities, and is working with 30 partner agencies throughout the Americas. Today, AMIGOS conducts a broad array of health, social enterprise, human rights, environmental and education programs in response to priorities identified by host communities and partner agencies in Latin America.

Since 1965, more than 25,000 AMIGOS volunteers have gained a lifelong commitment to community service while strengthening multicultural understanding and friendships throughout the Americas. While the specific projects have changed over the years, the vision has remained the same: a world where each young person becomes a lifelong catalyst for social change.

Fellowship Structure

Bridge-Year Fellows attend the Tufts 1+4 orientation on the Tufts campus from August 21-27, 2017 before traveling to Nicaragua, where AMIGOS will provide an in-country orientation. Service placements will run from approximately September through late May. Fellows will participate in the Tufts 1+4 Post-Service Retreat in mid-September 2018, as they begin their first semester at Tufts.

Language Training

Although Spanish language background is not required for participation, any Spanish that you bring to the program will be a great asset. For those without prior Spanish knowledge, intensive Spanish is offered through pre-departure resources and one month of full-time language training at the beginning of the program, followed by ongoing weekly classes. Students who have some working knowledge of Spanish can participate in the one-month language training or begin working at their placement during this time, depending on their language level and preference.

Housing and Meals

Fellows stay with carefully selected host families, which provide a private room for each participant. Living with a host family offers an immersive opportunity to experience the culture of your new community, and to build relationships with locals. Host families provide room and board for participants, and most participants eat all meals with their host family unless they are traveling. All participants will live with these host families in their headquarter city and commute (no more than an hour) to their service placement around or outside of the city.

Support Services and Health

In addition to receiving ongoing support from Tisch College staff and senior management throughout the Bridge Year, Fellows in León benefit from three levels of local support: AMIGOS staff, individual placement supervisors, and host families. AMIGOS local staff conduct weekly meetings, hold weekly office hours, conduct orientation and ongoing workshops, and plan and supervise group excursions. AMIGOS staff is available 24 hours a day to assist Fellows with any issues that arise throughout their Bridge Year, whether related to health, homestay, service placement, or other areas. Local placement supervisors will oversee Fellows’ daily work and contribute to their learning and growth. Host families contribute to Fellows’ cultural integration and provide a safe and supportive home environment throughout the Bridge Year.

In order to be eligible to participate in AMIGOS, Fellows must be able to meet the General Health Criteria for AMIGOS Participants. If you have any questions about these requirements, please contact us. AMIGOS has developed a list of recommended urgent and primary care providers in León and the surrounding area, and will assist Fellows with any health concerns that arise during their Bridge Year. Fellows will have international medical insurance through AMIGOS as well as international emergency medical coverage through Tufts University’s partnership with International SOS.

Transportation

Fellows use the public transportation system or walk within the city.

Skills Fellow Will Develop

The program is specifically designed to give participants a hands-on, real-life experience and unlock each participant’s potential as a catalyst for social change. Fellowships are individually tailored to meet the needs and interests of each participant. This experience provides a crucial opportunity for enriching one’s worldview before deciding on a field of study or career path. In addition, Bridge-Year Fellows can expect to improve their communication and collaboration skills, become better critical thinkers and decision-makers, and be able to take initiative and do self-directed work.

Fellows also develop several concrete skills that are applicable in a variety of fields: Community Assessment and Relationship Building; Project Visioning and Action Planning; Resource Mobilization; and Project Implementation and Evaluation.

Activities Beyond Service

Outside of their structured service, Bridge-Year Fellows participate in the following activities:

  • Ongoing workshops: Throughout the year, Fellows meet up for reflection activities and workshops about specific themes. These workshops facilitate greater learning through peer support and reflection, and serve as a means to connect AMIGOS volunteers to local, civically minded youth who will participate in some of the workshops.
  • Peer Learning and Youth Events: Fellows help plan and execute a youth-focused event in León. This project is selected and created by the Fellows in conjunction with Nicaraguan youth. Fellows help raise funds and garner the support of local civic institutions to carry out the event.
  • Excursions: Fellows travel to places of interest in Nicaragua, like Isla Ometepe and San Juan del Sur, so that Fellows see more of the country and participate in intensive learning and reflection activities. These excursions include visits to historical sites and fun activities like hiking, kayaking, surfing, and fishing. However, their main focus is to bring volunteers together for decompression time, ongoing evaluation, learning, and reflection.

Service Experience

If you want to work in a specific service area not listed here, please contact us! When possible, we will work to find a placement within our service locations that fits your skills and interests.


Arts & Cultural Preservation

Fellows who are interested in the arts and culture can work at a local non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of local and national cultural values through the arts. The organization offers a range of community classes in a variety of art forms and life skills, including painting, drawing, English language, piano, dance (ballet, jazz and contemporary), typing, Taekwondo, flute and guitar.

Fellows have the opportunity to focus on one or more of the following support roles:

  • Assist with current classes by acting as a teaching assistant
  • Work one-on-one and in small groups with children and adolescents who visit the center
  • Teach English language, typing classes and other vocational skills
  • Creative expression and arts with children and youth: community murals, art projects, and other fun ways for children to engage in artistic expression
  • Support development of art shows to showcase the work of students and invite local community members to learn more about the Centro
  • Assist with organization and administration of the Center

Community Health & Nutrition

Bridge-Year Fellows working in Community Health & Nutrition work with a local organization focusing on community health, child development and education, family health and economics and/or prenatal and maternal health. Fellows focus on health and development related to children and families and their work contributes to efforts to ensure that impoverished children receive health, education, protection, and economic security. Fellows may work with local youth groups in communities surrounding Leon, promote sports-based leadership development programs, assist with meetings and administrative tasks, strengthen community peer counseling networks, support campaigns focused on empowering girls and gender equality, and other projects that promote community health.


Child Development & Education

Amigos offers a number of placements for Bridge-Year Fellows who are interested in child development and education. Once accepted into the program, Amigos will match each Fellow to a placement, based on each Fellow’s interests, experience working with children or specific populations, and any other related factors. While placements will vary in terms of structure and populations served, each one focuses on providing quality care and education for children in need.

Examples of Child Development & Education placements include:

  • An organization started by families of children with emotional, physical and developmental disabilities that serves families while promoting the human rights of children with disabilities and educating communities to better understand and integrate these members of society.
  • A non-profit, non-governmental organization that develops projects to promote human rights, with an emphasis on addressing issues faced by street children and youth education in targeted communities of León.
  • A community placement that runs two centers in León providing art, music, and education programs for Nicaraguan children, ages 6-18, many of whom live on the street, have or are at risk of having substance abuse problems, are involved in child labor, or are otherwise the victims of abuse and neglect.

Specific duties my include:

  • Leading music, dance and arts activities to promote self-expression and self-esteem.
  • Teaching capacity-building classes, including English language and basic computer skills, to children and youth.
  • Leading sports and fitness activities, with accompanying reflections on personal development, team-building, and communication.
  • Creative expression and arts with children and youth: community murals, art projects, and other fun ways for children to engage in artistic expression.
  • Facilitating educational activities and providing after-school homework assistance.
  • Supporting meals and nutrition programs.
  • Supporting educational programs and capacity-building for parents and families.
  • Learning about psychological support to children and their families and using effective strategies for communication.

Renewable Energy & Sustainable Communities

Bridge-Year Fellows who are interested in sustainable energy, conservation and community projects can apply to work with El Centro de Investigación y Desarrollo de Tecnologías Energéticas Ambientales (CIDTEA) at La Salle University. CIDTEA works to find ways for La Salle University to be self-sustainable while supporting investigation into new areas of green energy and sustainability throughout Nicaragua. Some current research and development project include a wind farm, solar panel maintenance program, community education programs, and a waste management project.

Bridge-Year Fellows have the opportunity to support CIDTEA and La Salle University in various areas including their green energy projects. Fellows’ work provides assistance in some of the following areas:

  • Learning about different sustainable energy approaches in a local context
  • Development of community classes and education about environmental conservation
  • Participation in university courses on environmental, clean living, community sustainability classes
  • Supporting current research and projects

It is common for fellows in this project to also support English language classes for professors and students at La Salle.