Have you ever dreamed of helping others? Of doing good and paying it forward? Well, that is exactly what my team did when we paired up with CEPAD to help rural communities in Nicaragua through education, empowerment, and building water filters for their families. CEPAD is specific to Nicaragua and focuses on helping rural communities build leadership inside the community, empowering them, and helping with different issues specific to that communities needs.

My team of 12 travelled to a rural community outside of Jinotepe, Nicaragua to help build water filters, make “seed sacks” for future planting of lemon trees, and let the community know we hear them and we care about them. For 3 days we talked with the community about their struggles, laughed with them, danced with them, and worked hand in hand with them to make the water filters and fill 1,000 seed bags. We played with the kids, communicated through smiles, enjoyed beautiful Nicaragua, and ate delicious food made by the local women.

Our CEPAD coordinator, David, interpreted for us, as well as Doug, a retired CEPAD coordinator. David found us a beautiful hotel with the most Instagram-worthy patio filled with hanging flowers, lush green ferns, and tall palm trees. Every morning I would sit under the hanging flowers while enjoying freshly brewed Nicaraguan coffee. It was my personal idea of PARADISE! In the evenings, David took us to different restaurants where we ate amazing foods and drank plenty of Toña’s (aka the local beer).

Just because we spent most of the trip working hard with the rural community, doesn’t mean we didn’t enjoy a little luxury! On our last 2 days we toured Granada, a beautiful city full of colorful building with cool, colonial-esq architecture. We took a boat ride, where we fed monkeys… from our hands!! We shopped at local stores selling fair trade pottery and actually got a pottery lesson from a professional Nicaraguan potter!

But the best part of it all….. we stayed stayed at Posada Ecologica la Abuela at Apoyo Lagoon. It’s a gorgeous, tropical paradise right on the edge of a crater lake. Nicaragua has plenty of geothermal activity which naturally heats the lake. I’m talking warm water, black sand, and pumice stones washed ashore!

At la Abuela we ate fresh fish and marinated pork, and of course, all of the rice and beans you could imagine, jumped from the decks into the lake, kayaked, swam, laid out on a floating deck in the lake, and found a few new friends to teach us some local dance moves!

Fun Fact: Nicaragua is one of the safest and most affordable countries to visit in Latin America. Even if you aren’t wanting to do a missions trip, think about Nicaragua next time you want a sunny getaway!