Colorful Nicaragua!

We are sitting on the boat returning from our one night stay in Ometepe. The wind is blowing all of our ratty, unwashed, lake water filled hair and we are admiring Ometepe for what hopefully won’t be the last time.

After going through customs in Managua Wednesday night we drove two and a half hours to San Juan Del Sur. Even though we all crashed in the van, we swam in the hotel pool and stayed up late chatting.

The next morning, we woke up early (two hours too early at first because Abi's phone was on Miami time) and ate breakfast at the hotel. Then we left! We loaded up into the van and drove to the boat to get to the other van to take us to our hotel in Ometepe. We ate lunch at the hotel and promptly jumped in the lake. We swam until it rained. The rain here is unlike anything I have ever seen. It POORED. The rain was hard and fast, on and off, for at least an hour. Phoebe and I played cards in the gazebo until the rain started again, then we ran and dove for cover in the restaurant until the others joined us for "rules and reflection". We talked and wrote until dinner. After dinner we went to the downstairs room and played cards until bed.

This morning we met at the hotel restaurant at nine and got ready to hike right after. And then the rain began. It rained for at least an hour again this morning, delaying our hike and preventing us from kayaking.

When the rain did stop we went on a gorgeous hike through the jungle around our hotel. The competition for the first monkey sighting is still on. We swam in the lake again back at the hotel for about half an hour, then had to catch our ride back to town for the ferry. We ate a rushed lunch in town and caught the boat that we are on now.

- Maya

The trip has been great so far. Everyone is doing great. Apart from a few bumps and bruises there have been no injuries.

Hi Mom and Dad!

I am having a blast! Nicaragua is beautiful and the towns and homes are super colorful! I slipped and fell down the stairs yesterday, so I will have some "honor wounds (bruises)" to show off when I get home. It is great to swim in the water, and see the ocean. Dad, the rain is amazing! you would love the torrential down pours. The flights were easy, we hung out in the Miami airport for five hours and our team won at the treasure hunt. I am having fun with all of the girls and Jackie and Jennifer are great! I hope all is well in Denver. Tell Nolan that everyone hates braces, he is not the only one. Tell Cole to have fun at camp for me. Mom, have fun at the gymnastics meeting! Please tell me all about it when I get home. 
Love you all! 

Rainbow Girls

Rainbow Girls: (by Abi Bosworth)

On Saturday and Sunday, we Luminista’s had one of the greatest experiences I have ever done in my life. We got to meet six girls from the group called Rainbow Girls. 

At first, I was so iffy on the whole situation. Meeting six girls from a different country sounded a little awkward and nerve racking. On Saturday, we woke up and got ready to meet the girls. We all came downstairs to the main lobby of the hotel and there were the Rainbow Girls. They all looked so shy and quiet, where we, Luministas, were acting like total dorks. We all made our way over to the library to start our long day work unpacking books and helping out around the library. While there, we were all working hard and trying to make conversation with one another. I had a Spanish cheat sheet that I used for almost everything, trying to ask questions to get to know the girls. After we were done with the Library, all 12 of us girls went to hang out at the beach. Then, we came back to the hotel and played Marco Polo. By then, the girls were now laughing and having a great time. For dinner, we went to a pizza place and ate 7 pizzas total! We played telephone, which was so funny because of the major language barrier. We got ice cream and then headed back to the hotel and went to sleep. 

The next day we all made our way to the orphanage. It was amazing seeing all of us collaborate to make these kids happy. Maddie will talk more about the orphanage in another post. After the orphanage we went to Tip-Top, which is the McDonalds of Nicaragua. We all then had some alone time and then met up with the girls again to have a spa night. We did each other’s nails and face mask, and listened to lots of Justin Bieber. Sadly, the night had to end and we had to say goodbye to the Rainbow Girls. We exchanged Facebook’s and Email’s so we can stay in touch.

This was such an amazing experience because even though there was a huge language barrier, we overcame the differences and had tons of fun together.

PS- Hi mom and dad, I miss you guys so much and I’m excited to see you guys soon! I hope you guys are doing well and tell Charlie and Perci hi! I’m so excited to tell you all about my trip. Love you both so so much!

To Experience First Hand...

Posting from Maddie Wells on our experience at the Quincho Orphanage:

Some tears definitely followed our trip to the orphanage a couple days ago. While our experience was nothing but positivity and fun, we were exposed to some stories we couldn’t even imagine. As we reflected on it later that night we were able to talk and help each other through the different reactions and feelings that were just starting to set in. It was very eye opening to see the life at the orphanage and even how it varied from the boys and the girls. As we were bringing cookies and milk to the boys we had to keep reusing the cups because there wasn’t enough for everyone, we even taxied back a couple days’ worth of rice and beans as they didn’t even have food for dinner that night. It made me fell just gut wrenching sadness and anger at the world, and worthlessness at the fact that I can’t do much more to help these children. It’s something you can hear and read about but it’s still nothing like being there to experience it yourself. Even writing my emotions seem like a colossal understatement to what I felt. Even with all tears I was glad, and think most of the girls were too, to be able to experience it.

Dad and B.C:
I hope all is well at home and I love you guys and miss you guys so much! I even miss an ol’ red dog licking my elbow ;)


Turtle Tour

By: Rachel Golla
Hi mommy and daddy! I miss you so much and I cannot wait to see you tomorrow! What a trip! Unfortunately, I have to leave early and miss the rest of this unforgettable adventure with these amazing young girls. A few days ago, we had the opportunity to go on a “Turtle Tour,” and we watched a turtle laying its eggs.  I’m pretty sure I was eaten alive by many bugs and critters and lost many hours of sleep, but those were the things that pushed me even more to see the turtle. Because of the harsh environment with all the bugs, it made me realize that I was surrounded by people who would feel exhausted and itch their legs every minute, nonetheless observe a beautiful animal living on its own. All in all, this has been a life-changing trip for me with the orphanage, library organization, and surfing. 


Surfing- By Phoebe Barr

I think the six of us girls can all say that we were a little nervous for surfing; I know I was. As we drove up to the beach in the back of a pickup truck we all got very jittery. Especially after the 30min power point Jen gave to us saying things like 100 people die drowning in America every year, and don’t get caught in a rip tide! We walked on to the hot sand, and got our colored zinc on. We looked extremely dorky. We all grabbed a surfboard and practiced our pop ups, which by the way is much harder in the water than on the ground. Only a few of us could go out on the water first, coincidently I was one of the first ones along with Maddie, and Abi. Once we got far enough out in the ocean we could relax a little bit, but in a few short minutes we had to get on the 3-foot wave that looked like 10 feet. I don’t think any of us could stand up the first time. We all kind of lied down, or went on our knees. When I first stood up on my board, I felt this feeling of peace. I was in a state of mind where nothing else mattered, and I just let go of everything. Being on the waves is a feeling I cannot describe, it’s one of those things where you had to be there to understand. At one point, Jen and I were sitting on our surfboards while the sun was setting, and she turns to me and says, “This is just like being in church.” I looked at the ocean, turned back to her and agreed. 
To my family:
Yabsera- I miss you oodles! When I was at the orphanage there were so many kids that reminded me of you! Stay cuddly!
Michael-You would have loved being here. There was this kid who danced like Michael Jackson and it reminded me of when you made that butt video. Miss you!
Cal- I can’t wait to be in California with you so we can surf together! I miss you to the moon and back! 
Maddie- I can’t believe that when I get back we will only have like two days together  I hope your show went well, I heard it was amazing! I love you Moo!
Mom-I can’t believe you are not here sharing this with me! It is completely life changing; I can’t wait to tell you about it!
Dad- I have so much to tell you about this trip. I can’t wait till I get home so I can give you a big squeeze!

Haiku Friday…

Sitting on my board,
Swaying as I watch the sun,
Nothing else matters.
Phoebe Barr


The sting of failure,
Fuels my determination,
Quickly wished away.
Maddie Wells


Battling the waves
"Esta es tu ola!" Whooo!
Adrenaline rush. 
Daniela Pineda


I get up but fall,
Wave devours my body,
But still feel great.
Abi Bosworth


Take a deep breath in,
The hardest part is over,
You can belong here.
Sofia Quinteiro


Surfing on a wave,
Water crashing all around,
A moment of bliss.
Maya Younosza

Sad To Say Goodbye

--Sofia Quinteiro

I believe I am the person wrapping up the blog for this trip. Waking up this morning came with a feeling of dread. The last day of anything can be equally sad and also beautiful. We took a trip up to the statue of Jesus this morning, partially because it was something we’d wanted to do earlier, and also because we needed to do a little more spiritual, soul-searching work. We all took a rock from the beach to represent a burden that we carried or something we wanted to let go of. Some of the other girls, a year younger than myself, may have chosen their childhood, since they are now making the transition into high school. Personally, I was letting go of a really stressful year, and the feeling of not mattering in the world. We all took the almost completely vertical hike up the mountain and hurled our burdens into the ocean below (figuratively and literally). Then we all took a much smaller stone, and made a wish. I held the small stone in between my hands and whispered hopes and prayers into my fingers. My mind raced as I made the wish to simply be happier. That’s something I’ve wanted for a while, and I still strive for it every day. 

Today was also unfortunately our last day of surfing. As the sunset we pleaded not to leave. We clung to our boards and let the tide slowly carry us in. I know the trip isn’t over yet, but I still have all these fears. Maybe I can’t come back. Maybe I’ll never get to go surfing again. But then I remember. I have found home here. I will always return, one way or another. I found a part of me here that I thought was gone, the ability to feel horrible about something, and yet have it be inspiring at the same time. This is merely a beginning disguised as an end. This group, this organization, this family, is just getting started. 

I can’t wait to be a mentor for a new Luminista next year, and I can’t wait to come back. I’m so glad I have added this new piece to my life and my soul. 
Note to family: Hey guys (Mom, Vivi, Grandma, Martha anyone else who might actually read this) I miss you but I know I’m going to miss Nicaragua too. I’ll see you guys tomorrow! I love you! Tell Isis and Aladdin that I love them! (They can’t understand but who cares?) 
P.s: RACHELLL I hope you read this we miss you so much! Love you to the moon and back!

A Piece of Paradise

It has been an extremely exciting few days to say the least. On Monday after hanging out at DIA for a couple of hours, flying to Houston, and then getting on another plane, we arrived in Managua around nine o’clock with all of our bags and paperwork. After going smoothly through customs, and handling a few bumps in the road, we made our way down winding, dirt roads to the Monkey House. Dotted along the sides of the road were little houses, and in some areas, the trees lining the street were painted in neon green colors at the trunk to show where the sides of the road were. After a few wrong turns, and lots of car dancing, we at last arrived at the small, steep road to the Monkey House. Oliver, our surfing instructor, came down, and, relieved to be out of the car, we all jumped up, grabbed our bags and made our way up the remainder of the hill.

The Monkey House is quite different from any place that I have been before. Oliver built the house himself, so it is very simple and yet beautifully rustic. Located on a rocky outcropping above the sea, it has a magnificent view of the ocean, and easy access to it as well. We dumped our bags in the bunkroom, each girl claiming one of the eight bunks, and turning on the fans in the room. Outside, there was a small open-air shelter, where hammocks are hung, and on the edge of the property, right above the ocean. Oliver had homemade juice waiting for us, which was delicious. 

We decided that, although it was two in the morning, we wanted to travel down the steep path of rocks to the ocean in the pitch black with only flashlights to guide us. We made our way slowly, everywhere we shine the flashlights, crabs would scurry over the rocks and out of the way. At last, we made it to the ocean, and although we could have just dipped our feet into the warm water, we went in all the way. It was amazing, we turned the lights that we had off, so that we could only see the ocean when the waves would break, and the pale light of the moon glimmered on the surface. Dripping wet, we made our way back up the trail, rinsed and dried ourselves off, and collapsed into our bunks.

In the morning, we awoke to sunlight in our window, and the most incredible view of the ocean. It truly is breathtaking here. We had a breakfast of banana, pineapple, eggs and toast. Full, we did some light yoga on a deck with (yet another) amazing view of the ocean. After yoga, we went downstairs, and spent the next half hour or so getting crafty with how to hang mosquito nets from the bunks.

Very hot after putting up the nets, we made our way down the trail to the ocean and spent a few hours cooling off. We had lunch, a bit of down time, (which was spent on hammocks with books, or just enjoying the view), and then it was time to gear up and go surfing. We got all of our surfing stuff together, and headed down to the waves for a second time that day. 

After lugging down all of the surfboards, Oliver gave us instructions on how to surf, and received a brief talk on ocean safety from Jackie and Jen. We each got our boards, and headed out into the sea. It was crazy to finally paddle out, because of course, being Colorado kids, we don’t have access to oceans anywhere near us, let alone surfing! Once we had all paddled out far enough, Oliver would call one of us up to him, and then we would wait there with him for a wave. He would watch the ocean, and then suddenly get really excited and say “This one, this is your wave.” Then he would help get us into position and yell “Paddle, Paddle!” and then, “Get up! Get up!” Catching my first wave was such an amazing experience. To see the water curling next to me, and my arms and body in the perfect balance was indescribable, and turned out to be incredibly addicting. Once I had stood up after getting tumbled around when I fell off my board, I paddled right back out, ready for the next wave. 

We surfed for a few hours, and by the end of the day, everyone was thoroughly exhausted. We carried the boards back home before heading out for dinner at one of the restaurants on the beach. After heading home, we took quick rinses in the showers, and then fell asleep to the sounds of the ocean’s crashing waves outside.

This is by far the most incredible place I have been to. It is paradise here, and I feel to honored to have this amazing opportunity to spend the time here with all of the girls, Oliver, Jackie, and Jen.
On a side note: to Annie, Mom and Dad, I miss you guys and I love you so so so so much!!!!
-Kate Hartshorn

The Complexities and Joys of Surfing!

Have you ever gone surfing? If you haven't, then get on it. Yesterday was our 5th day of surfing and already we are all able to stand up. It is an amazing and indescribable feeling to essentially be walking (or standing) on water. Though the price isn't cheap: you have to get your board (which note is bigger than you) out to the ocean while trying to avoid being tumbled, and "seeing" through salt filled eyes, until you can find a break in the swells, in which then you haul your butt out to sea farther by paddling as fast as you can in order to beat the next swell, then you paddle even farther out to the where the rest of the group is waiting, then you get in line and wait for your turn to paddle back the way you just came to Oliver (our surf instructor) in which you wait longer to find a suitable wave, then you calm yourself down, get in position, and get ready for him to tell you when to paddle and stand up. But it’s all worth it (for the most part), because you’re standing and you’re crouching down to keep balance, and you're trying to keep the smile off your face so that you don't get water in your mouth, but also to focus, because so many things are happening at once and you're happening to stay up, and your happy, yet a million and one thoughts are going on your head, but now you've crashed or fallen or slipped. So you then repeat the process with varying levels of difficulty, and you're thinking back to your last wave and trying to remember how it felt, but you can't remember because out of all the things that were going on in your mind, memory didn't make the cut, all the more reason to get out there and do it again, all you can remember is that it was awesome and you want to try it again.

Surfing is just yet another thing to experience, and as I've just explained, it can contain many things. Though one thing that it got me thinking about is indifference/indecision. When you're out there you don't have time to weigh your choices, you have to act or it could cost you your safety, others safety, your comfort, or even your regret. Just like surfing, life doesn't have time for your uncertainty, though the consequences might not be as steep or come as fast, their still there. I encourage you to dive) into life with certainty and the ability to know what you want, and to go and get it, you can pass life by just like you could pass up a great wave, but that cost might just might be your happiness.

-Sierra K.

Love you Mom and Dad!! See you soon!

Los Pipitos

Today we went to Los Pipitos, a school for the disabled (adults and children). We woke up this morning, jumped in the back of a pickup truck and drove to the school. Right when we pulled up the kids came running out and jumped on the back of the truck. They were so excited to see us and it was really fun to see all of their smiles. We went inside and this little boy, who was super excited, started putting out chairs for us. Then we went around in a circle saying our names, how old we were, and something we liked to do. About half way through going through our names the Rainbow Girls walked in. They introduced themselves too and then we went on to some activities. First we did a picture book with movable stickers. I worked with a girl named Keyli who was 11 years old. She really liked picking up the stickers and did not like when they touched each other or covered each other up on the page. Then we did a bit of coloring. Keyli was very careful about coloring inside the lines. After ´we did a little work book all about things that they liked. Then we frosted cookies. Keyli really liked the frosting and always had a specific number of sprinkles that she wanted... the first time was four then the second time 5, I forget the other numbers. Afterwards we had a dance party. They played some music and we all gathered in the middle of the room and danced. One of Keyli's favorite things to do was dance, so she was having a blast. Then it became time to leave and they took all of the children and adults home (it wasn't a school day for them but they came and hung out with us anyways) and some of the girls went in. Nine of us piled into the back of the pickup truck and went to Hotel Villa Isabella.

Anna Barrow

Learning Spanish Was A Highlight For Me

Written by Isabel Sabbah on the way to the airport:

Una de mejor partas de este viaje para mi era practicando y aprendiendo español. Con todos persona yo conocí, yo puede tener un nuevo conversación. Era muy interesante escuchar a la lengua y tratar de hablar también. Pasando tiempo con los Chicas de Arcoíris era muy divertido porque ellos ensenaron nosotros español mientras nosotros ensenamos ellos ingles. Por ejemplo, durante cena cada noche, nosotros miramos en la mesa y hablamos el nombre de que vistamos. Le preguntamos, “que este en español?” ellos respondieron “esta un tenedor.” Entonces hablamos este una “fork” en ingles. Nosotros continuamos hablando “Span-glish” toda tiempo y en el fin de la dos días, tenemos extenso conversación con ellos. En todas partes yo he visitado, yo he practicado español. Todavía, yo tengo muchas trabajar, pero este expírense era practicar bueno, y muy divertido.

One of the best parts of the trip for me was practicing and learning Spanish. With every person I met, I could have a new conversation. It was very interesting to listen to the language and try to speak it too. Spending time with the Rainbow Girls was very fun because they taught us Spanish while with taught them English. For example, during dinner each night, we looked at the table and said the name of what we saw. We asked, “what is this in Spanish?” they would respond, “that is a ‘tenedor’.” Then we said that is a “fork” in English. We continued speaking “Span-glish (Spanish-English)” all the time, and by the end of the two days, we had extensive conversations with each other. In every place I have visited, I have practiced Spanish. Still, I have a lot of work, but this experience was good practice, and very fun.

Peace and Serenity


Hi Everyone! 
My name is Maeve Marley and I am one of the Project Lumina girls.

After a rough sixteen hours of travelling, we arrived in Nicaragua in the early hours of the morning. From there we made our way from the capital city of Managua, to a port on Lake Nicaragua. We then took a boat from the port to our own tiny island. We fell asleep just as the sun began to rise and began our first day just hours later. 

The island was calm and quiet, but not as remote as you may think. There were constantly people boating around from one tiny island to the other. The islands were usually no bigger than an average single-family house with some room for a small yard area. Those surrounding us were mostly uninhabited and covered with tall green trees. Later the first day we went in search of monkeys and were able to find and feed a family living on its own little island. 
Both mornings we woke up on the island we started our day with yoga and meditation. I found that clearing my mind was almost effortless. I had nothing to worry about, nowhere to go, and nothing important to do. As we began to do more complicated stretches and positions I learned how difficult it is to balance your body. Balance is something you have to search for, something that is constantly changing. 

From what I can tell, the purpose of these practices is to help us find our inner light and teach us how to bring that central spirit to the surface. This idea seemed silly to me at first but I’m slowly starting to realize how real this concept is. 

When I close my eyes, clear my mind, and give myself a moment to truly be at peace I re-enter the world a slightly better version of myself.

New Friends

Hi, my name is Sarah Gonzalez, I am 15 years old, and I am one of the very lucky girls that was chosen to go to Nicaragua with Project Lumina. When we had our pre-trip meetings, Jackie and Jen told us about the Rainbow Girls. They continued to talk about how awesome the Rainbow Girls were and how sweet they were. Before meeting them, all of us were terrified, mostly because almost all of them spoke no English. Once it was finally time to meet them, we were all lined up and all of a sudden we were attacked with hugs and little pecks on the cheek. Of course, we were all shocked, but relieved because they were so friendly and open to the idea of us being friends.

Right away we went to the library to make a book, bracelets and duct-tape wallets. We each paired up with one of the rainbow girls. My partner was named Cesia, she is 17 years old with a birth defect which caused her to only have one hand. I am very lucky, because I am able to speak a decent amount of Spanish so I could have conversations with all of the girls. But, none of the other Project Lumina girls know how to speak Spanish, so they would always call me over to help them. After presenting our books, we went out to eat pizza. It was awesome to be able to get to know all the girls. After finishing about 8 pizzas we went to the beach. But, most of the girls didn’t know how to swim so they were terrified to get in. 

The next day we woke up early to go and paint a school with the Rainbow Girls. We all sat in the back of a truck, which was really fun. Once we got to the school we started taking off the old paint that was already falling off. And then, we finally got to paint. It was so much fun, and when we finished the front of the school, there was not enough paint for the other sides- I felt very accomplished. We were all starving after working in the hot sun, so we decided to go to a little market in San Juan. While we were waiting for our food, we taught them how to sing the ABC’s in English, and also how to sing the ‘chicken dance’ in Spanish. 

After eating an amazing meal, we went to the beach. When we first got there, we played a little game of soccer/fultbol, the Rainbow Girls versus Project Lumina. Nobody won, or scored but it was really fun. Afterwards we were so hot and went into the ocean. All of us were super exited to teach the Rainbow Girls how to swim. At first, they were really nervous, but finally they went in. After a fun long day, we met up at our hotel to eat. When the Rainbow Girls first arrived, they gave us handmade bracelets and handmade cards. It was really awesome to see how close we got with them in just two days. When we finished diner, we took pictures and just hung out. When it was time to leave, nobody wanted to because we were having an amazing time just being with them, but sadly they had to go. It was crazy how sad I was when they left, I didn’t know that I would make such a strong connection with all of them. Throughout this whole experience I was nervous to come and open myself up to 7 new girls, but so far, I am glad that I did because I have made 7 new best friends.

To Love Yourself

Hi, my name is Marley Anderson, I’m 13 years old, and am ecstatic to be in Nicaragua with Project Lumina. Yesterday was a really eventful day in a lot of ways whether it had to do with doing something fun or talking about things that will change the rest of my life. We woke up in the morning at around 8 a.m., all tired from the long night of honking horns, loud music, church services, and more. Usually we do yoga and meditation early after we awake but instead we went to the beach to try something new. At the beach, we did a labyrinth and walking meditation where we could really think about ourselves which was really cool because of how much I learned that the weirdest things can help you focus the most.

As we were getting weird and confused stares by strangers on the beach we started talking about how hard it is to be a teenage girl. The way society is set up makes it impossible for you to be completely happy with yourself, and Jen and Jackie wanted us to be able to break the impossible task so we weren’t ashamed of ourselves in any way. After a few hours and a few tears, I already felt different, in a way where I didn’t feel ashamed in how I looked and I felt content. We talked about each of the things we loved about each other and they were all about the beauty within instead of how we look on the outside. I realized that while it is important to be happy with what you look like on the outside, it is way more important to love your personality.

Next, we all packed into the back of a pickup truck with colored war paint on our faces to surf for the first time. Once we got to the beach I was expecting to have a lesson on land of everything you need to do to surf, but our surf instructor Oliver told us a few things and then strapped a surfboard to my leg and pushed me into the water. I was the first one up to attempt to surf and I was super excited. He told me to not think about it and just pop up. As a new set of big waves came he yelled near me, “Here comes wave, dis is your wave, don’t think just do,” He pushed me forward and I popped up and rode the wave all the way to the shore. I couldn’t stop smiling when I snapped out of my zone and realized that I had just stood up and rode the first wave I have ever been on. The girls behind me where cheering and I was ecstatic. After that I stood up on every wave that came at me and didn’t miss one. I can’t wait to surf again and do it with people I have learned to love after only a few days.

The Schools

Hi! My name is Lila Jordan, and I am one of the Lumina girls. For the past week or so, we have been meeting new people, exploring our surroundings, and learning how to surf. 
Today we got to see first-hand one of the more pressing issues that is not only being experienced here in Nicaragua, but in many other places around the world (including Colorado); finding potable water. We met with a man named Christian who has been working to get clean water to many of the schools here. He created a low-cost, soap-dispensing device that has been placed in some schools. This encourages cleanliness, and makes sure that the soap is not stolen the second it is replaced. However, something he kept saying was “what good does soap do if there is no water?” We took a trip to three different schools, which were all experiencing different situations with water. The first was a private Catholic school that had 175 kids, two bathrooms, and two sinks. Even though these conditions would be astounding at a school in a first-world country, it was extremely nice for Nicaragua. 

The second school had 140 kids, and outside was a large plastic tank with a faucet and a pump. This held 600 gallons of water, which was the only clean water for one day, and was to be used for drinking and hand washing for all the kids plus the adults working there. In order to have this water available, someone has to drive up to the school at 11:00 at night every night, turn on the pump, and wait for the tank to fill with water. Sometimes, the tank doesn’t fill and there is no clean water during that school day. At this school, the bathrooms were all outdoors and can only be described as sheet metal surrounding a hole in the ground. They were kind of like port-a-potties without doors. Because of the lack of privacy, many young girls are too scared to attend school and are missing out on their education. I think that this is a major concern because not only does it appear to be somewhat fixable, but even with doors the bathrooms are nowhere near clean and safe.

The final school was fairly small, and had two plastic buckets filled with rainwater, sitting outdoors, for hand washing. There were no other, or potable, water sources. Sitting in the street out front was an extremely long pipe that they were working on using to bring water to the school, but before this year there has not been any drinking water there, and currently there still is none. 

Looking at these different situations really showed me how difficult it is to attain one of the few things necessary to survival, and how easily it is overused. It was extremely interesting to see how many aspects of our lives revolve around ideas of what are acceptable conditions; especially since the futures of many young girls are being shaken by their choices not to attend school due to the fact that their comfort levels are being stretched. I have the opportunity to go to a school with both drinking water and bathrooms at every corner, and seeing the other extreme was eye opening.

At night, Christian gave a presentation on artificial, man-made reefs. At first, I was extremely skeptical of this idea because I am all for the natural habitat not being disturbed. However, what he is doing was not at all what I anticipated. These reefs are entirely for the sea-life, and not for appearance at all. He uses concrete construction bricks, metal rods, and wooden beams to create structures that he then lowers into the ocean. After only a few months (or days), they are teeming with fish, algae, and, after a while, coral. They are used as nurseries for fish, allowing them to have a safe home and to reproduce. I believe that these habitats can help to sustain the sea life, and hopefully raise awareness about the negative effects that we are having on the ocean. Today was an extremely interesting experience, and I learned a lot from all the tours and presentations that we were lucky enough to take part in. I am so glad that I have gotten to go through this journey with the people I am with, and cannot wait to see what the next few days have in store!

Valuable Lessons

Hi, my name is Sadie Havens and I’m one of eight lucky girls to take part in Project Lumina this summer. Traveling to Nicaragua has been one of the most challenging and life changing experiences that I have encountered. The past ten days have been packed with fun memories and activities that I will never forget. In my opinion, Thursday had been my favorite day because it gave me a chance to be grateful for everything I have.

We began our day with breakfast and then we made our way to the San Juan del Sur Bibliotheca, where I was able to do what I love most; work with several people with disabilities. Many often label disabled persons as being worthless or helpless things that are not capable of doing anything. Even though these people were born with impediments, the work that the disabled Nicaraguans completed easily proved their capability to do more than sit on the couch and do nothing. The disabled people were working hard at stitching and creating bags that were being sold to support their program. They were excellent at sewing and they each had their own pace at completing their own bags. We were there mainly to support them in what they were doing, and not to help them actually make the bags. This is a good thing because I doubt any of us Luministas would even be able to help with the actual creation of the products. I found so much joy in attempting to talk to these sweet beings even when they would only give me a big grin and would just stare at me when I asked them a question. A handful of individuals had downs syndrome, a few others had cerebral palsy, one was seated in a wheel chair, for she was unable to walk, and one was deaf. With these restrictions in their ability to do certain things only shows how strong and amazing they are. It also was an eye opening experience as many people often criticize their bodies for things they cannot do or how our bodies look. This gave me an opportunity to have gratitude for my body and everything that I am able to do because there is so much to be thankful for. I encourage you, whoever are reading this, to focus more on having gratitude for everything life has given you instead of focusing on the negative.

On that note, I am incredibly grateful for this opportunity to come on this trip and I’m thankful for my seven new friends that I get to learn several valuable lessons with.

Friends Rather than Strangers


Hi, my name is Emma Stefanacci and I was lucky enough to be invited to go to Nicaragua with Project Lumina. I went into this trip with the understanding nothing is, as it seems. I was completely correct in thinking this. I could not have predicted anything that has happened on this trip. Friday, the 11th, we left San Juan Del Sur and traveled to Playa Gigante where our surf-guide/best friend, Oliver, lives. On our way we stopped at both the boy’s and girl’s orphanages in San Marcos. We invited the girls to a beach day at the Monkey House, Oliver’s place, and gave them balloons. While it was hard to leave the girls because we were so anxious to have more fun with them, it may have been harder to leave the boy’s farm given that we are never going to see them again.

I definitely think everyone had a ridiculous amount of fun with the boys. They ranged from about five or six to seventeen. As soon as we got to the farm we were attacked by hugs just like when we met the Rainbow Girls. We played a game of soccer and discovered it is really hard to kick the ball straight when you are under pressure by someone who practices every day and can do a full Maradona at speed. Even though we were completely outplayed, we had such a good time. After we finished the game, the rest of the Luministas and I served sandwiches, bananas, cantaloupe, and milk to the boys. Before we left we did a water balloon toss and a quick volleyball game. No one wanted to leave. In the car we all said it was because we were having so much fun, but I think there was more to it.

It was really fun for us to be with the boys, but they were also so happy to have some attention. I think I figured out the reason we were so sad to leave. Instead of the reason being just the fun we had, it was mostly the fun we provided to these boys who rarely got any attention from anyone. I think it gives the boys a sense of hope when people come to visit them. It makes it seem that they aren’t by themselves. The visitors change the scenario from surviving to actually living. I also noticed everything was a competition between the boys. The doors on the kitchen had to be locked so no one went back in to get more food, when one water balloon popped everyone wanted another in order to be “the last man standing”, and some of the older boys claimed a few of our girls as “girlfriends” and in some cases “fiancés”. This fascination with being the best inspired some deep conversations about the difference between boys and girls and how competition affects those around us. 

I personally think, after taking some time away from the situation, it was an amazing thing to have spent time with the boys at the farm and it was difficult to leave for many reasons. We had so much fun being there and knowing we were helping people who really needed it. The other thing that made it hard to leave was how welcoming the boys were to us. It was more like we were friends who hadn’t seen each other in a while than complete strangers. I definitely wish we could have spent more time with the boys, but I understand the circumstances and am ready to face whatever challenges come next.

A Change In Perspective

Hi, my name is Mia McCoy; I am one of the lucky girls to go to Nicaragua with Project Lumina. Yesterday we started the day by waking up early and going surfing, which was an amazing way to start the day. But the whole time the only thing I could think about was the orphan girls who were coming to have a beach party with us. We went the day before to go meet them and invite them to the beach. They were kind of standoffish and didn’t seem very excited. I was nervous for them to come because I didn’t think that they liked us and I didn’t want to ruin their beach day. But I was completely wrong. When they got here they immediately gave us all hugs, we became quick friends. We got partners, and the first thing my girl said to me was, “you have pretty eyes”. That was when I realized I had nothing to be worried about. We painted each other’s faces and went down to the beach. My partner kept telling me she was really scared to go into the ocean because she didn’t know how to swim. But as soon as we got out there she grabbed my hand and we ran out into the ocean. You could tell she was having so much fun; she was smiling the whole time and would not let go of me. Then we came out and played soccer. She was amazing at it. I have never really liked to play soccer, but I had a lot of fun playing with them. She went over to some of her friends, so I went back into the ocean, when I looked over half of the girls were trying to surf. I thought it was incredible that they rarely went to the beach, didn’t know how to swim, but they still wanted to learn to surf. I saw that they use every chance they get to do things they wouldn’t normally be able to do because they are so isolated from these kinds of things. Then we came back and all had lunch and hung out for a little. We said goodbye, took some pictures, and they left. 

Meeting them was absolutely amazing for me. They all seemed like the happiest people, and were grateful for what they had, even though they didn’t have a lot. It made me realize how lucky I am to have a family. Some of the kids didn’t have parents, but some did, their parents just couldn’t take care of them. In a way I feel it would be worse to still have parents, but them not being able to take care of you or not wanting you. As I sit here, writing this in a hammock and looking a one of the best views I have ever seen in my life, I realized how lucky I am able to experience things like this, and know that I am going home to an amazing family. This experience made me look differently at a lot of aspects in my life, and I know will change the way I look at life forever.

My Story Was Similar to Theirs...

Hi, my name is Aynalem and I am one of the lucky girls who got the chance to go to Nicaragua with Project Lumina. 

This trip has been an amazing experience and I have learned and grown so much because of it. During this trip I faced many challenges and one of them was visiting the boy’s orphanage.

While visiting the boy’s orphanage, I met a group of boys that were energized by the attention they got from us. I also saw how competitive they were with each other and for the opportunities that were presented to them. This gave me a flash back of the time I spent in an orphanage. I was adopted from Ethiopia when I was 6 years old. I lived in an orphanage for most of my childhood and I have experienced not having parents around. The people I was around became like my family and that’s what I saw at the boy’s orphanage. They are competitive playing soccer and finding food, but at the end of the day they all loved each other like family. Even though we spent 2 hours at the orphanage, it felt like I connected with the boys in so many ways. It was hard leaving them not only because we were having a blast, but because I remember leaving my orphanage and all my friends behind. The scary part for me was not knowing what was going to happen to them. I learned to be grateful for what I have and live life for what it is. I have realized how different my life would have been if I was not adopted.

We also visited group called Los Papitos. This is a group of disabled people of all ages. We were able to go and experience what they do for a living and that is making handbags. It was inspiring to see how something so little can make them so happy. This experience has made me feel grateful for what I am able to do every day.

I’m so grateful for my body and what it is able of doing. During this trip I was able to push myself beyond what I thought I was capable of doing. I learned that surfing is more challenging than what I thought it would have been but life is a challenge and you have to keep pushing yourself.


A guide to being an awesome and inspiring Luminista!!

Being Horribly Sick and Incredibly Enlightened:
A Story Guide to Complete Positivity and Awesomeness

As Lumanistas, and seekers of new terrain and experiences, it is important that we find the light in any situation. Travel has the capability to make one feel physically and mentally uncomfortable with its many twists and turns, challenges, and unexpected conditions. Yet, this is one of the most incredible parts of travel, because in the moments of overcoming these uncomfortabilities, a Lumanista’s true strength and power can be revealed.

Not to say that the process of recognizing one's vulnerabilities and fears to which create uncomfortability is easy­it is one of the hardest parts­ and then throwing them aside in exchange for light and positivity, can be even harder. But there is a process individual to every Luminista, that if she puts her mind to it, she can find and use to accomplish great things. Let me share a few of my own moments from Project Lumina’s 2016 program planning trip, when travels little tricks tried to trip me.

During the test­run the of homestay program with the organization Rainbow Girls in Tipitapa, where you will eventually stay too, I decided to fall intensely ill with a stomach bug. Leaving the rather distasteful details aside, I was sicker than I had been in a very long time, and in a place drastically unfamiliar to my normal sick conditions (the family lived in an abandoned jail house with no running water and plywood locks for the doors). Additionally, the members of the family and I could only communicate with compromised spanglish small­talk. And on top of this, the mother of the home had just gotten gout surgery, and while I was moaning in sickness, across the wall, she was moaning in pain­ both left to share the single toilet, which you had to poor bowls of water down to flush.

The physical odds were not in any of our favor­ my physical body was wreaking havoc on itself, the physical surroundings were not ideal for sickness or surgery, and it was clear that nobody in that household was going to sleep well, hearing the sounds of my sickness, and of the mother’s recovery. But , and yes there is a but, there was light.

There was light in my fellow Luminista and Rainbow Girl who stood by my side the entire night­ holding my head and rubbing my back every time I was sick on the hour, draining

themselves as much as I was being drained. There was light in the chaotic­painful smiles exchanged between myself and the mother as we subconsciously bonded between being in so much pain that nothing else mattered but the hands that were supporting us. There was literally light as I shocked myself multiple times on the two fuse wires that needed to be connected to provide illumination of the toilet room. There was light in having no technology, and of being able to fully reflect and have awareness of myself and those around me. And there was light in offerings of stranger’s beds the next day, in the electrolyte water they bought me, and reminded me to drink on a strict timely manner. There was light in it all­ if I was willing to see it, there was light.

Although I cannot express my bodily pain in any other phrase except for being hit by a train, I can express how incredibly grateful I was for the timing of my sickness, because believe it or not, this was indeed my favorite part of the trip. Thank you, for allowing me to be sick on this day, with these people, in this place­ because there is nothing like sickness, that makes for a more raw and humanistic experience. That rids of all fears and discomforts (like my early trip fears of bugs and language barrier) because I knew, comfort wise, I was at my worst and yet, I was still doing it . I was doing the thing that you do when you make the best out of the worst situation. I was doing the thing where you reduce your surroundings to essentials only because in those moments that is all you need. I was doing the thing where I realized my own willpower and strength were the key to a successful trip and healthy mind. I was doing it all, and I was learning that I was ready for anything travel wanted to throw at me­ I was doing the Luminista thing.

Doing the Luminista thing is one of the most important parts of creating a Lumina trip that is fruitful, challenging, fulfilling, and life changing. Whether it is in the surf, the sleep you get, the potential sickness, the people you meet, the falls you take, the bugs you see­ keeping positivity and light in mind will give you the ability conquer all your uncomfortability and fears, and to gain so much more than you could ever bargain for.

Light hides in everything.

Zoya Sarow, Luminista 12’ and 16’