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Studying Health and the Environment in the Fields of Nicaragua

Trinity Students leave the classroom for field research in Central America

By Russell Guerrero ’83

Sociology professor Meredith McGuire (bottom right) and her students pose for a photo with residents of Rio Blanco in Nicaragua.

April 2010 – Trinity students taking a sociology course on health and the environment will not forget the class assignment anytime soon: with their eyes and throats stinging from smoke, the students visited La Chureca, the city dump for Managua, Nicaragua.  There they walked past mountains of garbage, set against smog from fires burning in the trash, to find a small community, including many children, scavenging for scraps that could be resold.

This intense field trip was part of a week spent in Nicaragua as part of a class called International Issues in Health and the Environment taught by sociology professor Meredith McGuire. The class looks at how the issues are interdependent and how they affect the lives of human beings.

Twelve students from the class spent their spring break in the capital city Managua, and later, in the rural community of Rio Blanco to learn first-hand about public health, sustainable agriculture, protection of water sources, and environmental protection.

Sophomore Jessica Warhoe (top left) and senior Amalia Benke (top center) serve lunch to children who live in La Chureca dump in Managua, Nicaragua.

During the second half of the trip, the students visited a second landfill in Rio Blanco.  “What a difference,” said junior Erica Heller.  “At this facility, they implemented techniques similar to, if not better than, trash disposal in the United States.” 

She explained that, at the rural site, recyclable items were separated from the trash and organic material was set aside for composting and used on gardens at the site.  She said it was fascinating to see a community with passion “for taking care of the planet we all share.”

Another highlight of the trip was the opportunity to stay with host families in rural Nicaragua.

“My host family was amazing and the community as a whole was also very welcoming,” said senior Amalia Benke.  “It was amazing that despite how little these people had, they were still so kind, gracious, and giving – always full of love and hope.”

From visiting landfills to living for a few days in a Nicaraguan village, the students said the field research trip deepened their understanding of the issues they first talked about in a Trinity classroom.

“The trip was the epitome of things we have been discussing in our class: development as it affects the third world, agriculture in a changing environment, the extreme value of water, and the importance of upholding environmental health,” said sophomore Jonathon Loos.

Sophomore Adam Kapasi said the trip supported what he learned in the classroom and helped him to comprehend what he studied. 

“The trip to Nicaragua was definitely one of the most rewarding experiences of my life,” he added.

Students learn how waste is transformed into rich compost in Rio Blanco
Students view the landfill/recycling center in Rio Blanco.

© 2010 Trinity University

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