Kirsten: The Value of a Second Summer
In 2009, my sister went to Honduras with AMIGOS and in 2014, my cousin went to Nicaragua. I saw how greatly it impact their lives and shaped them into the wonderful people they are today. So I knew I wanted to do AMIGOS for a while growing up! My first summer, I wasn’t able to do a project for more than four weeks because I had previously committed to going to World Youth Day in Poland that August. However, I was intent on going, so I did the four week program in Costa Rica. It was such an amazing experience, and even though it was short, I think I still had the full AMIGOS experience.
I decided to do AMIGOS again for multiple reasons: I wanted to push myself and do a longer project, my parents allowed me to participate again, and most importantly, I was in love with the feeling I got from participating in AMIGOS- it couldn’t end with Costa Rica. I helped with the chapter training during the school year and went to Paraguay with 6 other kids from my school.
Paraguay was completely different than Costa Rica; it is almost unfair to compare them. I loved that in Costa Rica I was able to spend a week with mostly youth in the national park. That was a very unique experience to me and to AMIGOS as a whole. Costa Rica was lively, it had great food, and had gorgeous scenery. I did a short community project and facilitated in a staff-led project in the national park. I didn’t necessarily get to lead the project in Costa Rica for that reason, however I still learned to network and engage with youth from the community.
Paraguay was interesting for many reasons, one of the biggest being that they speak a mixture of Guaraní and Spanish. I am very passionate about learning languages, so I really enjoyed learning Guaraní as I also was speaking Spanish. Paraguay was a much longer project, yet it seemed very short. In Paraguay my host family was incredibly welcoming. They taught me so many things and we had a lot of fun together. I really connected with them and consider them like a second family to this day.
Our microenterprise project was to convert an old room in the school into a ‘healthy kitchen.’ We painted and equipped it with kitchen supplies and appliances. We fundraised in the community and used funds from AMIGOS as well. We tested recipes and were able to implement the project in-action for a whole week before we left to see it out. The kids in the school spend their first hour rotating classes one day a week cooking in the kitchen, and then they sell the items at lunch to each other and members of the community. I still communicate with the director of the school who gives me updates!
I think the reason we were so successful with the project was that the idea came from the community. The shared goal of the project was to save enough of the profits to one day be able to have a free school lunch for the kids. Many of them cannot afford to have a nutritious or plentiful lunch, which is necessary for them to achieve their potentials in the classroom.
My first summer with AMIGOS played a large role in my abilities and strengths during my second summer. I was less timid going into the project and my community, so it allowed me to connect with my host family and community members on a deeper level. Of course, my Spanish skills were enhanced because of my second summer- it was hardly even a barrier in Paraguay, which was really nice as I also had to learn some Guaraní.
Putting on daily activities was easier the second time around, because I had experience from my first summer to reflect and learn from. I also remembered a lot of activities from my summer in Costa Rica, so I wrote them down with instructions in Spanish and passed them out to other participants from my chapter.
Helping with chapter training also benefited me in my second summer. In chapter meetings, I often gave presentations to a large group of people or led discussions. This was a challenge for me as I am soft-spoken, so it helped me to find my confidence. In my host community, it became easier for me to give presentations or speeches in Spanish because of this, even though I still got a bit nervous!
I would definitely recommend that AMIGOS alums participate for a second summer. It was the best decision I have ever made. I was worried that I would compare the experiences in my head, or that I wouldn’t like the second experience as much as the first. But, every AMIGOS experience is so different from any other. I thought I knew everything about AMIGOS after my first summer, but I learned so much my second summer. Having the experience from a first summer allowed me to be more aware of my strengths and be a better participant.
AMIGOS alums are eligible for an award of up to $3,000 toward a second summer! Read the guidelines and how to apply here. Remember to apply soon! The deadline for the alumni award and to train with a chapter is December 10th! You can still apply through the national office through April 15, 2018.