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March 14th 2013
Living, working and travelling in Nicaragua
with Hazel Zeiner and Jeanette Betsch.

In this interesting and informative presentation, Hazel and Jeanette gave us fascinating insights into life in the Central American Country of Nicaragua.

In 2001 Hazel, who speaks good Spanish, joined a voluntary project in Tipitapa near Managua. Her aim was to teach dressmaking to young women and adolescents, many of whom lived in the slums of the town. This sounds quite straightforward but the lack of basic equipment such as scissors or even tape measures made things very difficult at first.
Hazel’s pupils came from a background of poverty and high unemployment and she was shocked at the living conditions of these women. In the Barrio (slums) they lived in precarious houses without sanitation or running water not to mention electricity. Due to a very short period of schooling many of the women and girls were semi-illiterate. Not only was following the instructions on a pattern almost impossible but many of the older women had problems threading a needle – Hazel’s reading glasses were in great demand! The women learned to make simple articles of clothing such as skirts and blouses, to sew on buttons and do repairs. She was delighted when at the end of the year her pupils organized a fashion show modelling their own creations.
In 2006 and again in 2012, Hazel revisited Nicaragua. She was thrilled to meet many of her former pupils again and see how they had made progress. As a special gift she was presented with two very alive hens!

Jeanette’s experience of Nicaragua was very different. She spent an exchange year in 2012 teaching German to university students in the attractive university town of Leon. Her students came from a more affluent background but nevertheless she was surprised to see how basic their homes were in comparison to European standards. Their general level of education was also below that of European students. On arrival she knew no Spanish but quickly learned basics and was impressed with the friendliness of the local people.
Jeanette also spent time on the Pacific coast bordering on Costa Rica, where she taught tourist English to hotel employees on the Playa de Coco. Tourism in the region is in its infancy but it is becoming popular with North Americans. This job meant a very early rise for Jeanette as her students took classes before their day’s work began. The remaining day was then free for her to explore and enjoy this very beautiful part of the country.
We were introduced to the flora and fauna and to the food, fruit and delicious drinks of the country. On her travels Jeanette visited Nicaragua’s volcanoes and we were given fascinating glimpses of these natural wonders. She also visited the Caribbean coast where mostly English is spoken.

Both Hazel and Jeanette were impressed with the varying landscapes of this beautiful country but also with the great poverty and lack of education which exist there and the stark contrasts between rich and poor. We thank them both for a fascinating and informative insight into life in Nicaragua.

Lynne Hilber

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