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Bringing Out Her Inner Child as a Reminder of What Matters

Nicaragua was the first time I went to Central America. I was excited to go to put the bit of Spanish I know to use, learn more about solar installations, connect with my co-workers and Associates and, most of all, connect with the community and provide them with something that is a simple standard in our everyday lives.

When we landed, I immediately felt the change of weather and the high level of humidity. I was happy to be in the 80-90+ degree weather. We arrived at the hotel and it was a little nerve-wracking. I become nervous when I am in a different area and when I can’t speak the native language fluently. I started to speak with the workers in Spanish to see what I remembered. I was pretty rusty. We got ourselves accustomed to the weather. Some people took advantage of the pool. We had lunch and dinner, which both were delicious. They raved about gallopinto – rice and beans – being served at each meal and they definitely were. We received our orientation from GRID Alternatives. As they were explaining everything, I could not help but to still be amazed at what I was there to do. There is no single person out of my group of friends and family that has ever installed a solar panel, let alone be part of such a grand initiative as this one.

We headed to Boaco for the first workday. We did introductions and took a look at where the children go to school. They mentioned how the great landscape we were looking at is what people hike to get to each other’s houses – it was not close! When I first saw the children of the community, I became so excited to meet them, to learn their names, to learn who they are and then just play games with them. I was nervous because my Spanish was not great and they do not know English. It brought out my inner child because it was like the first day of school – I wanted to become friends with everyone and yet I was a little shy.

The next day we started getting all the tools and materials to begin the installations. There were two groups – one to build the battery and inverter boxes and the other to do the installations on the roofs and wiring inside the houses. I was really looking forward to getting on the roof and learning from the GRID team.

We evaluated the houses and asked the family where they wanted the light bulb and box to go. Once that was determined, we worked together to figure out the wiring. It was really neat getting our hands dirty and do more construction-like work. The owner of our first home even got on the roof to help out. Given the limited number of people allowed on the roof, I did not get to go up the first day, but I felt that it was more important for the homeowner to get up there and see what was being done to his home. To see how he is about to get light in his home. He would not necessarily get another chance to see a solar installation done, especially on his own home. I kept watching the family members’ expressions on their faces. I kept wondering, “What are they thinking?” and “What is going on in their minds right now?” “You have a bunch of foreigners in your home right now that are about to provide you with something that they have and use in every day of their lives.” I was so excited for them – so excited to do something so great for people that are just trying to make it through each day.

When we finally had everything installed, we told them we wanted them to flip the switch for the first time. We wanted them to be the ones to turn the light on first for the first time. Their reactions were priceless to see that light come on. Some families really expressed their joy by laughing, clapping and just overall being very vocal about it. Some families were just speechless. They were so happy, but were at a loss for words. I think for some it still felt so surreal.

When it was time for us to go, it was really sad. Looking back, I am really glad I had a chance to connect with some of the kids. One of my favorite parts of the trip was the night we spent in Platanal and all the kids were hanging out with us. One of the Associates took a flashlight and made it look like a strobe light for the kids to dance. To see the girls giggle at the boys when they were teasing each other reminded me how it was to be that age. On the day we were leaving, the community held a small celebration for us. They even had a piñata, which I had a chance to swing at. I forgot how much fun they are! I’m not even sure who was having more fun – the kids or us.

Throughout this trip, every time there were kids nearby, I always felt I had to make some sort of connection with them. Even when we went zip lining, I met two boys – Jamie and Jimmy. They made me a sign that said “Welcome to Mombacho”. Jamie was really shy, but Jimmy was the opposite. Even though we were only there for a little bit, they were still excited to see other people. They were such sweet kids. It does not take much to make the kids happy. For us in the States, many of us are so used to all of our unnecessary extra gadgets. We made it part of our habits, but for them, their happiness is left to their imagination.

This trip might have been a bit of culture shock for some people, but for me it felt so familiar. I am used to traveling to places that place me out of my element and where the culture displays challenges that people face on a daily basis. These challenges are ones that we tend to forget even exist because of our lifestyles. A challenge for us is when our phone dies while we are out and about and did not bring our chargers. I think that is what attracts me to trips like these. It helps strip me down to my basic needs and forget the materialistic lifestyle we live and take for granted in the States.

My name is Lisa Pierre Louis 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.