Miramonte Volunteers Participate in Amigos

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Ashley Logan

Several Miramonte students dedicated more than a month of their summers to participate in the program Amigos de las Américas. Through this program young leaders help to develop a community and immerse themselves in a new culture.
One of the Miramonte volunteers, junior Catherine DeLuna, spent six weeks of her summer helping a community in Madriz, Nicaragua.
DeLuna lived with a local family in La Concepción, a small community of around 700 people. “I connected with two of my host siblings really well. One was a seven-year-old boy and the other one was 18. The rest of the family was really nice and welcoming,” DeLuna said. She stayed in a small adobe home with a couple of rooms and a dirt floor.
“When I first got there it was a little bit of a culture shock. Everyone was speaking Spanish and my community didn’t have running water. I was really shocked by how little the people had but how happy they were,” DeLuna said.
The projects that are done by the Amigos program differ depending on the community and what is needed. “For our project we did a vegetable market. Volunteers had come to the community last year and built the structure so our job was to make a business plan,” DeLuna said.
At the beginning of her time in Nicaragua, DeLuna wondered how she would be able to get people to engage because the program’s all in Spanish and it’s a completely different culture. “Even if you don’t speak Spanish that well, if you just have a happy demeanour and you put off the impression that you want to do good, people will help. They were incredibly kind to us in helping get things done,” DeLuna said.
A typical day for DeLuna included a lot of hard work and cultural immersion. DeLuna would wake up around 6:30, eat breakfast, and take a cold bucket bath. Afterwards she would walk to her partner’s house down the hill and together they would plan for the kids camp that they put on everyday. After eating lunch at one of the houses in the community, DeLuna would either work on a project with the local youth or get to know the community better and immerse in the culture.
Another Miramonte volunteer, senior Hollyn Cetrone, went to Cotopaxi, Ecuador for seven weeks this summer. She decided to go because she wanted to challenge herself and improve her Spanish while at the same time having fun and helping out a community. “My partner and I started a knitting business where teenagers and moms work together to make and sell hats, scarves, and jackets. And yes, we taught a few boys how to knit, too,” Cetrone said.
One of the most surprising things for Cetrone was “how life in Cotopaxi was at a slower pace than here in America and that is why everyone was happy. Even though everyone worked there all day, they still managed to make it feel like it wasn’t stressful everyday,” Cetrone said.
Senior Davis Holmes spent six weeks in southern Costa Rica. Something that amazed Holmes was “how welcoming and caring people were there. I thought I was going to be treated as a burden on my host family and an obstacle to the normal community life. Instead they were really interested in me and hearing about the U.S. They were super sad to see me go,” Holmes said.
Holmes’ project was adding safety features to the community church. He installed anti-slip tiles on the floor, put in handrails, and repaired the roof.
“I decided to go because I hadn’t really done anything productive with my summers all my life. I wanted to get out of Orinda and have an adventure! Amigos is the closest thing you can get to a real life adventure as a high school student,” Holmes said.