By: Jessica Bennett
I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to talk with Victoria on her journey to Nicaragua to volunteer and photograph with NGO Casa Nica. Victoria's passion for helping others and making a difference in the world really shined through on this mission. Let's skip through all the small talk and get straight to the interview of Victoria's journey below!
Q1. Casa Nica is known for working alongside those who have been aiding the community before and not entering communities and making abrupt decisions that are unneccessary for the community.
Do do you feel Casa Nica was authentic to this statement?
Victoria: Yes, Casa Nica is authentic in that statement. The two founders of Casa Nica, Josh and Elliot are fully embraced in the community of Masaya. It is not uncommon, when walking around town with them to be stopped several times by members of the community. They are well known in Masaya, and have helped countless people in the town, by running programs or simply by helping people practice their english with them.
Q2. Describe an average day at this NGO and what activities you would partake in.
Victoria: A lot was going on in the NGO. I was there during their peak season, and every day, something different was happening. Since Casa Nica is involved with a lot of different organizations in Masaya, Nicaragaua, I got to experience an array of activities while I was there. I feel like every day was different and exciting. As a photographer, I was able to see all the different facets that make up the daily operations of Casa Nica.
Q3. How does Casa Nica help the local Nicaraguans?
Victoria: Every facet of their organization helps the local Nicaraguans. Every one of Casa Nica’s volunteers work in local programs. One of their programs is called Intercambrio. Twice a week, Casa Nica volunteers go to a local school and help locals practice and perfect their English. One of the better jobs in Masaya, Nicaragua is to work in a call center. To do that, you have to speak english really well. Volunteering to speak with locals twice a week, provides a platform for people in Masaya to have career advancement.
Q4. How was your experience working with Casa Nica?
Victoria: My experience working with Casa Nica was great.. Everybody involved with this organization was friendly and welcoming. I was able to meet people from all over the world who shared a common goal of volunteerism. And, all of the people I met were doing terrific work, and really making a difference in the world. It was inspiring to be around such passionate hard working people.
Q5: Any highlights?
Victoria: Highlights for me was getting to photograph the organization. In NY, I shoot mostly sports and weddings/events. I love what I do, but I have always longed to have a more philanthropic part of my photography. Being able to volunteer as a photographer with Photographers Without Borders helped me reach this goal. Utilizing my skill set as a photographer to help document the NGO was for sure, the highlight for me. Also, meeting so many great people, who were all doing volunteer work.
Q6: Any difficulties?
Victoria: The heat in Nicaragua in the middle of the summer definitely was hard to acclimate to. I lived in New Orleans for several years, where it is very humid and hot, and I have always felt that I have adjusted to the heat, but being in Nicaragua in the summer without any air conditioning was a bit much to handle. I had to remember to drink a lot of water and stay hydrated.
Q7: Did you experience any culture shock?
Victoria: I didn’t really experience any culture shock. I don’t speak Spanish that well, so communicating with locals was a bit labored. But besides that, Masaya, Nicaragua was a beautiful city full of great people.
Q8: What were your living situations like?
Victoria: The living situation was pretty basic. I shared a room with a girl who was also from New York, which was a lot of fun.
Q9: Have you worked with an NGO before?
Victoria: I have volunteered with other NGO’s before, but never in the capacity as a photographer.
Q10: Did you see growth in participants who participated at Casa Nica?
Victoria: I don’t know about seeing growth in the participants, but most of the volunteers were college undergraduate students. I thought it was very brave and inspiring to see so many young people choose to spend their summer holiday volunteering in a different country. All of the volunteers that I met, as well as the people who worked at Casa Nica, all were committed to their volunteer work and making a difference in peoples lives. It was an honor for me to get to volunteer alongside of all of them.