UBC student Geoff Martin with young Nicaraguan friends. (Roberta Fraser photo)
This spring, a group from UBC went to Nicaragua. The group consisted of five Anglican students and me -I'm the Anglican chaplain for UBC. Also included were three United Church students and the Rev. Nathan Wright, their chaplain.

The original plan was to help build a house for a poor family. However, literally hours before leaving the group found out the host church was having some financial trouble and wouldn't be able to finish the house, so there was no point in starting it.

Instead the group helped local volunteers paint part of a church-owned conference and retreat centre. We also spent time with children of the poorest of the poor in a school project our host church runs.

Public schools only run half days in Nicaragua and don't provide an adequate education. So the church runs a holistic supplemental program for two or three hours a day to supplement their education, helping with medical needs, giving them a snack, etc. The program is run by dedicated volunteers and the constraint on helping more poor children is space to run the classes.

They needed US$3500 to build extra classroom space and they had already raised US$1300 through bazaars and bake sales and so forth-pretty amazing for a church composed mostly of very poor people in a country where the average wage is only $100 a month.

Creating extra classroom space in the Nicaraguan school
So our group donated the money we had brought for house construction to the cost of building this extra classroom space, and then donated a more of our own money to complete the project.

The Canadians also had a chance to see some of Nicaragua visiting the National Museum, a local live volcano, a bat cave ,and a wildlife sanctuary during a two-hour hike through the jungle. And most importantly, we had a chance to spend a week with some Nicaraguan young people and experience the similarities and differences of life in our two countries.

Roberta Fraser is rector of St. Anselm's and a chaplain to UBC, which is in the parish bounds.