Rebecca Leon, senior social work major, is currently finishing her social work practicum in Nicaragua. Leon is working with at-risk children in before and after-school programs at El Ayudante, a Christian humanitarian organization based in León, Nicaragua.
Leon heard about El Ayudante through one of her professors and a friend currently working there. The program was created by the social work department at Union, and affords students the opportunity to gain hands-on experience.
“This is the first time they have sent someone to this agency, but hopefully not the last,” Leon said.
Leon appreciates that this experience mirrors what she has learned about ethical practice through her classes and service opportunities. One of her favorite aspects of studying in Nicaragua is the relationships she is building with the children and staff.
“There is no real way to relate the sense of privilege I feel when a child chooses to share something as small as their goldfish crackers or as large as their life story,” Leon said. “I am inspired and humbled daily by the work of the staff at this organization.”
Leon appreciates the culture, music and food that Nicaragua has to offer.
“I also enjoy the chance that I have to experience different lifestyles than those I have so far been exposed to in the United States,” Leon said.
Communication has proved to be one of the greatest struggles for Leon. Switching from English to the Spanish language and having unreliable electricity and internet connection has been a challenge, but one Leon expected.
Overall, Leon is very thankful for the time she is spending in Nicaragua. She has the opportunity to further examine and analyze ethical practices with at-risk children, an experience Leon hopes will help her grow as a conscientious, culturally sensitive and well-equipped social worker.
Mary Anne Poe, professor of social work, said that Leon is the first student intern at El Ayudante. Students have gone to take a study tour, but Leon is the first to study completely in Nicaragua.
“Rebecca is a remarkable young woman with many skills and qualities for leadership in the social work practice,” Poe said.“She was the leader of the social work student organization until she went to Nicaragua and did an exceptional job in that role. I am indeed proud of her.”