Jan. 23, 2004


LEWISBURG, Pa. — Dirty, tired, but energized, the 10th "Bucknell Brigade" service delegation to Nicaragua returned to Lewisburg at 2:30 a.m. on Jan. 21, just in time to begin spring semester classes.

Twenty-one Bucknell University students and four staff spent nine days providing medical services, constructing a second medical clinic building, and learning how global economics and politics create and maintain poverty in this poorest Central American nation.

The group included Dr. Donald Stechschulte, director of the Student Health Service at Bucknell, who is the only Bucknellian to have been on all 10 trips, beginning in March 1999, when the Brigade was formed to provide relief after Hurricane Mitch devastated Central America. Flor de Liz Perez, a 2003 graduate of Lewisburg High School, and a Bucknell first-year student, also participated.

The Bucknell Brigade is different from many other international service experiences because it has grown into a partnership between Bucknell, the Center for Development in Central America (a small NGO staffed by Americans in Nicaragua), and the community of Nueva Vida, which was an emergency hurricane resettlement camp outside the city of Managua, but has become a permanent community of very poor, mostly unemployed Nicaraguans.

Bucknell students and staff stay near Nueva Vida and work alongside Nicaraguans on medical construction work. This year, the construction work involved putting a finishing layer of concrete on the inside and outside walls of a new Women's Health Center, which will complement the current "Bucknell" medical clinic opened in 2001.

One student wrote in her journal: "This week showed me how much the world is full of contradictions and how little I yet understand. I saw the people of Nueva Vida as so inspiring, motivating and hopeful, yet their situation saddened, angered and frustrated me, and because of these things, my heart is changed. I only hope that others will be able to experience the Brigade because I feel extremely fortunate and blessed to have been able to."

The group also took a day-trip to the coffee cooperative at El Porvenir, a tiny mountain village, whose organic coffee the Brigade has been selling for the past three years, on campus and through the Lewisburg Natural Food and Garden Store.

The trip to the village involved an hour's drive along a dry creek bed, 15-20 feet deep after the Hurricane Mitch floods, before the group traveled up the steep dirt road to the village in a cart towed by a tractor.

The group also had seminars on the potential impact of the pending Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) on the poor in Nicaragua, and on the complexities of U.S./Nicaragua relations in recent years. The group was oriented prior to the trip by a series of lectures by Bucknell faculty on economics, international development, international relations, religion and culture, and regional and Nicaraguan history.

The Bucknell Brigade is supported by a grant from Bucknell President Steffen Rogers, by donations from Lewisburg area individuals, churches, service clubs and other organizations, and from Bucknell parents, staff and student organizations.

Leaders for the trip were: Peg Cronin, Bucknell Writing Center; Bucknell senior Joshua Fisher, Englewood, Colo.; Ian Oliver, University Chaplain; and Alex Suarez.

Staff participants were: Don Stechschulte, director of the Bucknell Student Health Service, and Mariette Van Tilburg, international education department.

Student participants were: seniors Matthew Albrecht, Westerlo, N.Y.; Meredith Field, Trout Run,; MiAe Kang, Kennett Square; Cassie Lajeskie, Monmouth Junction, N.J.; Lisa Manning, Port Republic, Md.; Theresa Newhard, Plymouth Meeting; Kacy Peckenpaugh, Trumansburg, N.Y.; Jim Ritter, Philipsburg; William Rollins, Towson, Md.; Emily Thede, Englewood, Colo.; and Rob Tidmore, Warsaw, Ind.: juniors Sarah Dickinson, South Sterling; Cody Keffer, Monterey, Calif.; and Jamie Rosen, Ambler: sophomores Abby Brewster, Lambertville, N.J.; Matt Dawson, Upperco, Md.; and Laura Holmes, Norwich, N.Y.: first-year student Flor de Liz Perez, Huntington, W.Va.: and graduate student Laura Wray, Mayodan, N.C.

Digital and film photos of the trip are available by calling Chaplain Ian Oliver at 570-577-1592, or e-mailing at oliver@bucknell.edu.

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