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'This Changes Everything!'

This year’s 7 Continents in 7 Years Trip to Nicaragua was, for me personally, the most gratifying trip yet. As with many of the locations we’ve previously traveled to, the people of Platanal were so nice and appreciative of the work we were doing. They were genuinely gracious, pleasant and eager to help out as much as they could. My job was to assemble the solar boxes that housed all the mechanics including the battery, inverter, outlets, etc. It was amazing how quickly we all embraced our tasks and before we knew it, we were working harmoniously and having fun.

Hiking to and from the community was a challenge that I, nor anyone, expected. Whoever tells you that a destination cannot be uphill both ways is wrong. At times, the mountains were up to 60-plus degrees steep with unsteady footing and stream crossings. On more than one occasion, we came upon some cows and bulls. I must admit, the bulls scared me, as they were just roaming freely. There were donkeys, horses, chickens, pigs and lots of dogs walking around the village as well.

We stayed overnight in the community, but with no electricity or even running water; we were dirty, hot and had no entertainment, so we played poker into the late hours (which was around 11 pm), using electrical connectors as chips and our flashlights for illumination. It was interesting to sleep in the school on cots under the netting; let’s just say that we all got to know each other a bit better. There were bugs, spiders and even scorpions!

My biggest takeaway? My life-changing moment was on the last night in the village. Cami thought it would be a great idea to walk to one of the houses that we had completed a solar installation on to see what it looked like at night. Without the light we installed, it was literally pitch black. But when they flipped that switch, the looks on their faces were ones that I won’t soon forget. Someone asked them how this would affect their lives and they replied “This changes everything!” When we left, the villagers had a wonderful ceremony to thank us. Hiking back, I knew we all must have been thinking the same thing and that is how much we take for granted. They’ve managed to survive without the basics and don’t even know any different. Well, now at least I’m sure we made life just a bit easier for them and after all … that’s what this is all about.

I want to thank Michael, Cami and Hannah for organizing these amazing missions. The feeling of helping people, like we do, is something that will last forever.

My name is Anthony Serino and I am Generation V.

In March 2015, Viridian traveled to the breathtakingly beautiful and still mostly undeveloped “Land of Lakes and Volcanoes.” To complete our most ambitious project to date, we hiked to the small agricultural community of Portrero Platanal, an off-the-grid village that’s inaccessible by car. With the help of the nonprofit organization GRID Alternatives, we were able to install clean, reliable solar systems on the homes of 40 families, bringing the opportunity for a better life to an entire community.