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Back to El Balsamo: Ronan returns to his Raleigh community for sustainability project

When Ronan volunteered in Nicaragua in 2017, he made such a connection with his host community that he decided to return five years later.

Volunteering on Raleigh International gives young people the opportunity to live and work in a community for a number of weeks and support on development projects. When Ronan volunteered in Nicaragua in 2017, he made such a strong connection with his host community that he decided to return five years later. 

“In February 2017, I went to Nicaragua as a Team leader on one of Raleigh International’s ICS Wash programmes, an initiative aimed at improving access to water and sanitation in a rural community. Through the project, our group of young volunteers worked alongside the community on a project which aimed to create long-lasting change.

Our group was placed in El Balsamo, Matagalpa, a small coffee-growing community comprising about 350 people.

The focus of our project was on sustainability and long-term impact. Our aim was to work hand-in-hand with the community to meet their own water and sanitation needs going forward. Over six months, myself and two groups of Nicaraguan and British volunteers supported the community to promote hygiene, sanitation, water and environmental management and more. We organised action days, conducted education campaigns, coordinated meetings with local elders, facilitated the distribution of eco-latrines, and supported the community in upgrading their water pipe system.”

Through the project, Ronan and his team of volunteers worked with 10 families to support them with improved access to clean, ecological latrines, and to ensure every home in the community had access to clean drinking water.

Through his time on the project, he made lifelong friendships and relationships with people in El Balsamo, so much so that 5 years later he was determined to return. So in 2021, he returned to the community, where he found that the community had maintained many of the practices that he and his fellow volunteers had helped embed during their project.

Ronan and his Raleigh volunteer team in 2017

Notably, all of the infrastructure which had been installed was still running effectively, and littering in the community remained as low as it had become following the community awareness campaign the team had run on that topic. Most positive of all, the community had maintained many of the sustainable farming techniques that had been introduced throughout the group’s time there, such as the use of fruit trees to maintain water retention in the soil and the use of sustainable fertilisers.

While so much had demonstrated the sustainability of the project, development is never a straight line and he found that there were still areas in which the community continued to need support. Through the ongoing project partner ODESAR, who worked with the volunteers in 2017 and continue to work with the community now, Ronan found that the community needed ongoing support to make repairs to their water source.

The community water source was damaged, and there was a significant risk that it would soon become blocked and cease to provide the homes and farms in the community with the water. So, following an analysis conducted by some of ODESAR’s representatives, a budget for repairing the water source was drawn up. It would cost just $2100 to repair the water source and ensure the community had access to clean water for the next 50 years.

To continue making an impact in El Balsamo, Ronan is now fundraising to raise funds to repair the water source and continue to make lasting change in the community of El Belsamo.

You can continue to support fundraising for the project at: 

Volunteering is a way to make a long-term change in the lives of young people and the communities that they work in. We are pleased to see Ronan and the community continuing to take positive action for change.


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