This fall, Groupon’s Employee Volunteer Program teamed up with Spark Ventures to send six employees on an impact travel experience to Nicaragua. Employee volunteers were awarded the chance to travel with Spark as the winners of our annual Very Serious, Super-Competitive Employee Volunteer-a-thon.
Our week in Nicaragua was filled with good food, beautiful sunsets, and even better company of the children and staff at Las Tías. Las Tías is a secular, nonprofit organization operating in León, Nicaragua. Las Tías was started by 8 women merchants in 1989 to serve vulnerable children in their community through nutrition and educational programming. Through their 23 year history, Las Tías has served 850 adolescents and 1,060 children.
Each morning, we kicked off the day with a Spanish lesson and little history of the Nicaraguan culture that we would soon be immersed in. We spent the beginning of our adventure at the youth center of Las Tías where they serve up to 80 students, ages 6-13, at any given time. The Grouponers were draped in kids and had so much fun helping them practice their colors and numbers in both Spanish and English. The girls loved braiding the female volunteers’ hair, and the boys kept the male volunteers busy (and sweaty) by climbing their shoulders to play “lando lando” (tag). After a couple fun-filled days with the students, we got to spend one of our last evenings with “the tías”, who run the organization, to share a homemade Nicaraguan feast and learn a little bit of the native dance to the beat of a Spanish-translated “I Will Survive.”
“My favorite part of the trip was working and playing with the children – practicing English with the kids and playing games with them was so powerful. It was quite eye opening to see the scale of the poverty in the country; and even though they don’t have much, the students were always happy to see us smiling, laughing and just being kids. We had the opportunity to visit a student’s home on Day 3; it was a surreal experience to see how the kids at Las Tías live day to day and the struggles that they face.
It’s difficult to explain this kind of experience in words, but the takeaways of a trip like this are more of an emotion than anything. The level of poverty is nothing like I’ve ever seen before, and I’m so thankful for what I do have. It inspires me to do what I can to help improve people’s lives no matter where I go or where I’m at.”
After our time at Las Tías, we got down to business – Groupon travelers learned all about the incredible work that Spark Ventures is doing behind the scenes to develop sustainable business ventures, creating a stable source of revenue for the organization to support their work and expand their impact in the local community. Next summer Spark volunteers will be planting 85,000 cacao trees, plantains, and chilies to add to the existing 36 (soon to be 100) beehives already on the farm in northern Nicaragua. The revenue made from the investment in the farm will support the work of Las Tías to help vulnerable children reach their potential.
Aside from the volunteer component of the trip, we did get to have a little fun of our own! Grouponers spent the afternoons doing various activities such as: hiking up an active volcano, kayaking through the mangrove forests of Isla Juan Venado nature reserve, “volcano-boarding” down Cerro Negro, zip-lining on the crater of Mombacho, and a boat tour through the islands of Lake Nicaragua.
Groupon is proud to help people and communities prosper by concocting a secret formula of employee do-goodery, responsible business practices, customer collaboration, and nonprofit investment where our employees live, work, and play.
Want to travel with Spark Ventures? Learn more about how to get involved with this great organization here!