Developing Nicaragua with FriendsNE

Ackerson 1For four years throughout high school, I was fortunate enough to travel to Nicaragua each year with a student-run humanitarian club to pursue a number of development projects in rural areas plagued by extreme poverty. Since my first semester at Northeastern, I have remained passionate and active in those same communities with a partner organization called FriendsNE headquartered here in Boston.

I first began working with the small non-profit during my freshman year as a Nicaragua Project Intern, during which time I organized and ran a trip of college students that spent their 2011-2012 winter vacations working hand-in-hand with impoverished Nicaraguans. During that trip the group I led helped to build houses, sustainably deliver medical and clothing supplies, provide higher education scholarships, and foster strong community development. We also provided the funds to begin breaking ground on The Richard Streb Memorial Library, a landmark project for our young nonprofit that will offer enormous benefit to the surrounding communities when it is opened this upcoming April.

Since that trip I have gotten even more involved with FriendsNE. During my second year at Northeastern, I orchestrated the application, presentation, and receiving of a $96,000 project capacity building grant from the TripAdvisor Charitable Foundation, the largest grant received to date by the organization. Due to personal financial constraints, I was unable to join the participants on the 2012-2013 winter break trip despite having organized it over the course of four months.

This past July, I was invited to join FriendsNE’s Executive Board as the organization’s Clerk. At 19 years old I am the youngest board member the organization has seen since its inception in February 2011. My passion for expanding opportunity to communities severely lacking the resources needed to lift themselves out of poverty continues to grow each and every day. This past holiday vacation, the third annual winter break group I organized made their way to Nicaragua and I was lucky enough be able to join them because of the Honors Program. I used the Honors Travel Grant funds to help me travel to Nicaragua so that I was able to lead this group of motivated student. The group worked hand-in-hand with a deserving rural family in the community of Chacraseca on the construction of their new home, funded four university scholarships in Malpaisillo, and provided capacity building resources for the Richard Streb Memorial Library. Being able to return to Nicaragua and the life-changing projects so dear to my heart after two years working remotely from Boston was extremely reenergizing. I’m excited to continue this work in sustainable development moving forward.