Students Help Nicaraguans Create Irrigation Systems During Spring Break

During spring break, nine Wesleyan students helped farmers in Nandaime, Nicaragua build watering systems.

Thanks to nine Wesleyan students, subsistence farmers in the small urban center of Nandaime, Nicaragua, will no longer struggle to grow crops during the dry season.

Between March 7-14, the students transformed five plots of land into irrigated farms, which will allow a network of female farmers to grow extra vegetables in the summers and sell them at a cooperative.

“Now they’ll be able to supplement their diet with nutrient-rich foods and sell the excess food at the market for an additional source of income,” says trip organizer Rachel Levenson ’12.

Levenson and her peers, Amanda Schwartz ’12; David Harris ’13; Liz Wojnar ’12; Tasha Camhi ’12; Max Cecil ’12; Rebecca Lange ’13; Hannah Lewis ’13 and Miriam Berger ’12 accompanied Rabbi Seth Haaz of Congregation Adath Israel in Middletown, Conn. on the journey to Nicaragua during their spring break. The group partnered with American Jewish World Service (AJWS), which coordinated the logistics and provided leadership.

“The trip was a great way for the students to combine service, Tikkum Olam (repairing the World) and Jewish learning,” says Rabbi David Leipziger Teva, director of Religious and Spiritual Life, University Jewish Chaplain.

AJWS required the volunteers to work alongside the farming women and their families. For six days, the Wesleyan students dug three-foot-deep holes, grounded fence posts and fences, and prepared rows of ground for piping.

They also were required to commit to a specific action that would increase their involvement in social justice work or global events. Projects ranged from reducing personal food waste to finding a project to volunteer with in Middletown.

The students are actively speaking about their trip to schools and synagogues, and writing about the experience for The Argus. On April 9, the students will participate in a Global Hunger Shabbat, and discus issues of food insecurity in the Nicaraguan community.

This is the fourth time Wesleyan students participated in AJWS programs. In 2004, students went to Mexico; in 2007, El Salvador, and in 2008, Levenson participated in AJWS’s Volunteer Summer Program in 2008, spending eight weeks in Uganda, laboring, studying issues of international development and social justice.

“Partially because of that trip, I am focusing my studies on international development in Africa,” she says.

The trip was a joint collaborative project between Wesleyan Jewish Community, Office of Religious and Spiritual Life and AJWS American Jewish World Service. Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life provided support.

Wesleyan’s Jewish community is planning another trip for 2012.