Leaving the country for the first time and heading to Nicaragua, I was ready for an adventure. Then I got here, and I realized that there wasn’t much room for spontaneity and adventure in our jam-packed itinerary.
So the days went on as we found small adventures in our pre-planned activities like visiting communities, meeting the kind-hearted locals, and seeing the natural beauty this country has to offer.
On Wednesday, an unexpected visit from International Service Learning’s country Coordinator, Pavel Guevara, came to see Texas State’s team in action. He mentioned to our professor about another team from Baker University in Kansas City also working in Managua with ISL. On Thursday they were participating in a police campaign against drugs, alcohol and domestic violence in Managua.
Thanks to the negotiation skills of our professor Holly Wise, two of us got to break from our team’s schedule and tag along with the social justice team for a day and grab a new story.
Breaking Off From the Group
I was thrilled to be able to go with my fellow student, Magdalena Avila, deep into Managua and see the social issues this country deals with first hand. In particular, I was excited to see the differences between Nicaragua’s take on crime because of my background in nonprofits and telling the stories of organizations that aim to help the community.
We arrived to a basketball court, that had been turned into a soccer field and around fifty boys lined the fence to listen to police speak and play a game of soccer in the name of bettering crime in Nicaragua.
I found out that the police had an agreement with the people of the community to host a soccer game for the children in the community to encourage them to stay out of trouble. Their goal was to build a positive relationship with these kids, not a relationship based on fear.
The police mingled with the children on the sidelines as more boys played an intense game of soccer. When watching the police officer move from boy to boy, talking with them and asking them questions, I noticed he did not carry a weapon.
When I asked him why, he said that he didn’t want to intimidate the people into abiding the law, he wanted to gain their trust so that they would abide the law because of respect for the law.
This approach to law in the most impoverished part of Managua struck me for two main reasons. First, because of the obvious fact that I don’t think I have ever known a police officer in Texas to go anywhere without their weapon and second because I then realized we were in one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Managua with an unarmed police officer. However, as the day went on the second part didn’t concern me as much as I noticed how friendly the relationship was between the police and the people of the communities we were visiting.
Officer Ramirez would walk right up to a group of kids, who probably haven’t been the most model of citizens, and they would have a conversation with zero tension. They would laugh together, make jokes and talk about their goals for each other and their community.
Upon my arrival back to the United States, I look forward to doing more research on the crime rates and how this approach to law enforcement works from a statistical standpoint because seemingly it serves its purpose from walking around with the police for an unplanned day with a social justice team from Kansas.