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Power changes everything

My heart is full. Today I sit in my airplane seat watching the Nicaraguan countryside and landscape of mountains, valleys, lakes and volcanoes slowly shrink beneath me. Though grateful to be heading home, I also feel just a little sadness, knowing I am leaving a little bit of my heart behind – in the mountains, in the markets, and mostly in the humble homes of Platanal. In this beautiful rural community, nestled in the mountains outside Boaco, I worked alongside many others from Generation V, bringing power to 40 families that have never had electricity before. There are so many insights we will take away from this experience. Here are just a few:

  • Power changes everything. One night we had the opportunity to sit in the home of a family living with light in their home for the first time. As we spoke with the mother and father, two of their young children did what children do all over the world – they wrestled each other on the floor. The father had built this home, 15 years ago, and the mother had given birth to two of their four children right on this dirt floor, nursing and raising them in the dark at nights. On this night we asked them “what will the light change for you and your family?” Their answer was simple: “It changes everything.” I can picture them tonight, reading, laughing, playing games or just talking in their newly-lit home.
  • Remote places are not easy to get to, but are well worth the effort it takes. Hiking almost a mile into the community over steep and beautiful terrain, and then hiking back and forth to the widely spread out homes, each of us likely logged at least 10 miles of hiking this week. As I watched our turquoise, yellow and blue shirted crews trekking through these mountains, far outside their comfort zones, I was moved by the power of Generation V and grateful for the commitment, dedication and passion that makes us who we are. We are among a very small group of people who will have the beautiful opportunity to see and learn from the good people of Platanal and it was well worth every sore muscle.
  • Children everywhere love to chase bubbles, and smiles are a universal language. For $2 at Target, we were able to bring a bit of magic to the little ones in Platanal. Even though the children in Platanal are shy and reserved, just a few bubbles floating into the air easily brought out their silly side. Even though I speak only about 10 Spanish words, the universal language of a smile, hiding behind a corner for a game of peek-a-boo, a silly face or a game of tag is all you need to connect very deeply.
  • People all around the world are connected by small and simple things. The community members in Platanal live very differently from our own community members in the US. They don’t have plumbing. They sleep on hammocks and cots and have dirt floors. They cook over open fires in their kitchens and spend their days farming on steep mountainous terrain. They walk up to a mile each day for fresh water. But look a layer below and they are very much like us. They work hard for their families and hope for the best future for their children. They take care of their homes with pride and thrive on learning and gaining knowledge. They enjoy the beauty of life and this world we all share.
  • It is impossible to give without receiving. A lesson I’ve learned on many other adventures rings true again as we say goodbye to this lovely place. We came to Platanal to give the community our time, our effort, our hard work and ultimately power and light. But we left with so much more. We all had the chance to experience a renewed sense of self: an affirmation that hard work and challenging yourself in the service of others leads to indescribable joy.

It was an adventure filled with so many memories and special moments. And perhaps the most amazing part was sharing it with so many of the like-minded individuals who make up Generation V. I am deeply grateful to the Associate Leaders and my colleagues at corporate who made this journey what it was. We changed the lives of 40 families in Platanal and will come home with the stories and experiences that will change not only our own lives, but the lives of those who are just learning about Viridian.

My plane will land tonight at JFK and tomorrow begins a new day back in my regular life, which thanks to my transformative week in Nicaragua doesn’t feel so regular anymore. The people of Platanal have forged a place in my heart, and are now permanently woven into the fabric of my life. They are part of me, and I am part of them.

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.