Fourth-grade teacher Natalie West has a special story to tell if the subject of summer activities comes up in her class at Independence Elementary School.
In mid-July, the Cherry Creek School District teacher joined other members of the Casa …
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In mid-July, the Cherry Creek School District teacher joined other members of the Casa Unida Foundation team for a two-week trip to the mountains of northern Nicaragua.
Casa Unida Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Lakewood that regularly makes trips to rural Nicaraguan mountain communities to work on projects aimed at improving the lives of the people of the area. Foundation projects include constructing classrooms, building churches that are also community gathering places, and providing clean, safe drinking water.
“I learned about the foundation and the trip at my church,” West said. “I felt it was something I wanted to do so I signed up.”
The team flew into Managua July 18 and made the 200-mile road trip to the northern city of Somoto.
“Our foundation has been doing humanitarian projects in northern Nicaragua since 2005. This year, we went to Nicaragua this time to build a church in the village of Sonia, about 11 miles north of Somoto,” said Bob Moore, foundation president. “Our team worked constructing a brick building in a community with no running water and no electricity.”
The team often looked to West for help because she was the member of the group most fluent in Spanish.
In addition to the construction project, members of the team worked with local residents to put on one-day Vacation Bible School programs in small villages around Somoto.
West said she loved working with the kids and she became a hit when she took out a guitar, sang to them and helped them learn the words to the song.
The team received an invitation to Somoto City Hall. It turned out, much to their surprise, they were the guest on a live one-hour television program. West and the rest of the team talked about the trip and their work, plus the teacher was asked to sing for the television audience.
The small foundation team at the work site was assisted by volunteers from the local community. When the team arrived at Sonia on July 19, the building site was cleared and the foundation was in place.
On the final day at Sonia, the workers had built the building's four walls chest high and much of the area inside the walls had been leveled.
“It was an exciting trip in many ways,” West said as the team prepared to return home. “I met a lot of nice people here in Nicaragua and I have learned a great deal about their culture. My fluency in Spanish has really improved as I talked that language as often as possible, and, as an unofficial interpreter, my language skills were stretched, improved and strengthened.”
The teacher said she loves education and her future plans including returning to college to earn a graduate degree and then to become a missionary for her church.
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