Jenna Marzullo - Nicaragua 2015: Letting Your Inner Light Shine

Wow. This year’s trip to Nicaragua—part of Viridian’s “7 Continents in 7 Years” sustainability pledge—leaves me with a wonderful mix of emotions. We worked to bring solar power to a remote hilltop community in Nicaragua, which had previously lived without any electric power. It was a lot of hard work but worth every ounce of sweat.

It’s difficult to describe such a truly indescribable experience. And this year’s trip was particularly special because it was the first I got to take with my husband, Matt. That was in and of itself very exciting because both him and Viridian are such huge parts of my life, and this trip brought both of those things together. Let me stroll back to some of my favorite moments…

Upon our arrival, it was clear we had a lot of work ahead of us. We could also sense the shyness of the Nicaraguan people, as this was the first time they were interacting with ‘outsiders’. For instance, I remember an adorable little boy named Jackson who had been watching my team through the windows of the school (we were called the “Box” team because we were constructing electrical boxes to be used in the homes) but who was too shy to approach us.

As the days progressed, we focused on acclimating to a new environment, but I can’t tell you how drastically all of that changed over the course of just a few days. Specifically, by the time our last day rolled around Jackson had grown comfortable enough to look over our shoulders to watch the work we were doing. He and another girl even gave us flowers to show their appreciation.

On the last day the village also threw us a ceremony (complete with piñatas!) and prepared a speech about how much they appreciated the work we did. The most remarkable thing about this “ceremony” was that it honestly could have been a picnic you would see in any backyard in America. You could see these moments of cultures coming together—moments that transcended language barriers and outward appearances. We spoke a universal language composed of laughter, music, smiles, food, games, and the sounds of children playing, and it was absolutely beautiful. We must remember that as human beings, we can always find ways to communicate with each other.

One thing that always leaves me in awe about these trips is the dedication and enthusiasm that a group of people can have for serving these global communities. This trip was no different. I really cannot convey how amazing the people I traveled with are. Even when being tested to their very limits—like having to sleep in cots protected by mosquito netting and having to work such long hours—everyone’s attitude was incredible.

On so many occasions everyone was asked to step up and support, encourage and motivate one another. On our first day we had to climb a hill to reach the village at which we would be working. The hike was extremely steep and ended up taking us about an hour to complete. Our trip had only just begun and already we had to physically push ourselves and embody the spirit of teamwork to make it through. But we banded together, pitched in and made it to the top. There’s pride of making it through something so emotionally and physically difficult, and doing it together as one unit.

Every time I come back from these trips, I am humbled by the notion that a group of individuals can put themselves in physically and mentally challenging situations in the pursuit of global stewardship yet still find a way to be happy and have a blast with each other.

Looking Forward: Ignite Your Inner Light

Many of us go on these trips expecting to find ourselves in such unfamiliar territory yet I always come back realizing just how much humankind is truly the same. At the end of the day we’re all just human beings experiencing the same things; no matter where we are geographically located, we all experience love, sadness, fear, a sense of community and family—and we all have an inner light that needs to shine.

These trips always put things into perspective. We did more than light up rooms for this community of people; we connected inwardly on a much deeper level, and that enabled our walls to come down and our inner lights to shine through. We were illuminating others and they were returning the favor. Regardless of how much we give on these trips, I always end up walking away having received so much more.

Whether you have been on one of our global voyages before—or have not yet had the opportunity—I hope to pass along the following message to you: No matter who you are, where you live or what barriers lie before you, you can always work together to achieve a common goal.

Our team’s most recent work in Nicaragua proves that this is possible; we all came together with the people of Nicaragua to better this planet. As I return from this unbelievable trip, I want to bring that feeling of culture, community and connectedness back with me. Today, I challenge you to connect with someone on a truly deeper level and bring out their inner light to shine for all to see.