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A Journey Full of Challenges and Rewards

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When I first heard that the 7 Continents in 7 Years trip was to Nicaragua I was a little – who am I kidding – I was very scared! I was trying to come up with reasons why I couldn’t go when I found out that we were going to have to sleep in the community of Platanal one night. The homes in Platanal had no power, no indoor plumbing (shower, toilet or sink), and dirt floors with animals all around. I wouldn’t have a shower or blow dryer and I have never even been camping! Then, I remembered how great I felt during last year’s 7 Continents in 7 years trip to Fiji. It is amazing to work with other field leaders and corporate to make the lives of others just a little easier and better. I am extremely glad that I decided to go because Nicaragua was no different, but this year’s trip was way more challenging than last year.

When we arrived in Managua, we went to our first hotel, got settled in, found out more about the project and rested for the days ahead. We woke up very early the next morning to start our journey up to the remote community of Platanal. It started with a caravan of small SUVs that drove us as far as they could up the mountain, then we all started our hike into the community. It was rough uphill terrain, we had to cross through a cattle ranch and there were barbed wire fences that we had to crawl through. When we arrived, the people, young and old, welcomed us and made us feel appreciated for what we were about to help them with: POWER.

On our first day in the community we found out where and what jobs we would be doing and then got right to work. I went to a home to install a solar panel on the tin roof and to wire the house with a light fixture and an outlet with Jim Kenny, Vice President of Marketing Chris Schultenover and Connor from GRID Alternatives. Off we went, hiking even more to reach the home we would be working on, all uphill yet again and carrying all the supplies we needed. Now to put this into perspective I want to describe one of the homes. There were four walls made of all different materials, wooden boards mostly, that you can see through the cracks to the outside, no windows, but a door opening. Two very small rooms, a kitchen with an open fire where they would cook and a main room. This house also had some baby pigs, no furniture and dirt floors. In the corner of the main room there were sacks of corn and beans piled up. Some homes had a third room that was used as a bedroom with hammocks or cots for sleeping. Outside, they had an outhouse, kind of like a Porta-Potty, for bathrooms. They washed their clothes in buckets with water from the stream or well, if they had a well, and hung them on a barbed wire fence or branches to dry. The clothes were really clean—whites so white! They definitely took pride in their homes and their appearance and we could see that they work really, really hard for what they have.

After we were done that day we hiked back to the SUVs (uphill again!) and went to a hotel in Boaco. I took a cold shower, went to dinner and then straight to bed because we were set to head back up the mountain to Platanal the next morning. This time, we stayed in the community and all slept in the single room schoolhouse and in the church, all on cots with mosquito nets surrounding them. I did not sleep one minute that night, for a lot of reasons! We all got up and ready when the sun came up so we could start the last day of work. The community then gave us a wonderful, fun sendoff, and off we were, up the mountain to the SUVs for the last time.

Next, we all went to a beautiful hotel in the beautiful city of Granada with hot showers and a blow dryer! We had a wonderful dinner and I was very hungry because I don’t like rice and beans, which were a big part of the breakfast, lunch and dinner menu the previous days. I slept like a baby that night.

Finally, we were headed to the fun relaxing part of our journey. On the way to the absolutely amazing Mukul Spa and Resort, we stopped for a volcano tour, zip lining and a fabulous lunch. Later that afternoon we arrived at Mukul, WOW about sums it up, it was over the top! We then spent the next few days relaxing and enjoying each other’s company in paradise.

My wish is that someday all of you can be on a rewarding trip like the two my husband and I have been on. Thank you Viridian for allowing us to make a difference! I am so proud to be a part of Viridian!

My name is Rae Ann Nichols 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.