St. Lawrence University student travels to Nicaragua to educate children
St. Lawrence University Junior Oliver (Ollie) Smith interacts with Nicaraguan student at the Outreach360 Learning Center in Jinotega, Nicaragua.CANTON -- St. Lawrence University Junior Oliver (Ollie) Smith traveled to Nicaragua on Aug. 12-Aug. 19 as an individual volunteer with a non-profit organization called Outreach360. Outreach360 is a grassroots volunteer organization located in the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua that aims to educate children through English language instruction.
Smith has volunteered with Outreach360 seven times since his first trip to the Dominican Republic in 2010. During the Summer of 2016, Smith participated in the Outreach360 Caminos program, which is an eight-week internship experience housed in Jinotega, Nicaragua.
“Obviously, I come back for the kids, but also another reason that drives me to come back is the people. What’s great about Outreach360 is that you meet amazing people, from kitchen staff to leaders. You meet new people every time. It’s amazing the connections you make here,” Smith said.
Smith taught English immersion classes to 37 Nicaraguan students from the German Pomares neighborhood located in Jinotega. These students are enrolled in the Outreach360 Learning Center program, where they learn how to read, write, and speak in English. Smith became close to these students as a Caminos Volunteer in 2016.
Smith explains, “I like trying to learn from my experiences, good or bad, but working with the Caminos program was an amazing one. It helped me develop new leadership qualities in myself. Leading adults who are older than you, and kids who are tinier than you; it really builds your character.”
Volunteering abroad provides a unique opportunities for those looking to find internships in education. With Outreach360, Caminos volunteers take on the role of a teacher to educate underserved students in Nicaraguan communities.
“The students grow, not just physically, but emotionally and mentally. The best example of this is this one particular student at the Learning Center. As long as I have known her, she has barely said a peep. This year, I think, she has said more to me in one week than she has said in the 5 or 6 years that I have known her. She has really come out of her shell,” Smith said.
Outreach360 welcomes Caminos volunteers, like Smith, to serve in impoverished areas in Latin America year-round. The organization immerses Caminos volunteers in cultural experiences unique to both the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua.
Smith stated, “The Caminos program is the best way to spend the summer. You get to be really immersed in Nicaraguan culture and you get to know the ins-and-outs of Outreach360.”
More information about Outreach360 can be found on their website: www.outreach360.org.