We all have those moments when we feel inspired to give back more to the world. We don’t just want to give money to a charity but we actually want to physically help people. Different things can motivate us to do this (besides Bono.) Many of us do feel compelled to go that extra step but so few of us actually do it. But there are some that do take the step and make a commitment to trying to help the world. However, helping the world can be quite dangerous sometimes and all those good intentions have to be cut short. The Grindstone talked to Corey Fick, the owner and primary author of www.20sfinances.com, who moved to the coast of Nicaragua with his wife to try to save the world. This is his story:
In December of 2008, my wife Jessica (fiance at the time), returned from her semester of studying abroad in Nicaragua. During her four months of studies there, she met the director of an English program at a University in Bluefields, a town on the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua. After interviewing the Director of the English program for a research project, she learned that they were in need of a couple English professors. It was at this time that we started discussing moving to Bluefields after graduating in May 2009 to teach English and be apart of several groups for students of the University.
Prior to graduation, we started discussing what we were going to do and this kept coming up. There were several reasons why we considered this option. The first and perhaps most important was our idealism that the world could be changed for the better. In college, together with some of our closest friends, we started a feeding ministry for low income individuals in Chattanooga. We were actively in numerous service projects and want to continue this lifestyle of contributing to society. Being able to teach English and be a part of the community that was torn apart by ethnic differences meant a lot to us. We had also both loved traveling. Being able to learn a new culture is a rare opportunity. The only downside to the opportunity that we could foresee was the lack of financial compensation. They were willing to provide us with food and housing, but any traveling and extra costs would be covered by us. Because we were able to graduate without any student loans, we were able to afford to take this expense in order to contribute to a better world.
After discussing the options following graduation, we finally committed to serving as English teachers for the 2009-2010 school year. We made the preparations, bought our plane tickets and made our way to Nicaragua. Before we knew it, we arrived with relative ease. We knew we were in for quite a change, but didn’t know how much until we got there.
Bluefields is on the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua and is separated from the rest of the country. It is only accessible by one road or airplane. Because of it’s separation, it is significantly less developed than the rest of the country. People regularly used both latrines and well water. As a result, the hygiene of the water was compromised.
It was about two weeks after being there that we both felt some stomach pain. Having been in foreign countries before, we knew that this was not a good sign. We went to see the doctor and they prescribed some anti-parasitic medicine. We had acquired parasites, most likely from the food we were eating.
Since we were living in teacher housing, all of our meals were provided for. This was our only option for food. There wasn’t a supermarket where we could buy our own food and we definitely didn’t have time to figure out how or where to get food to prepare with our busy class loads. After getting sick the first time, we noticed that the person preparing our food was not following the necessary steps to clean our food. It was no surprise to us that we got sick again within the next two weeks. This time only slightly more severe. The doctor thought I had major organ failure (which an ultrasound refuted) and my wife had several internal infections.
At this point, we tried to make changes to our situation and talked to several administrators about the sanitation issue. Because of some cultural differences, it was difficult to get our point across. We thought we succeeded and continued to teach our classes. My wife got sick a third time, stuck in bed for numerous days. I was then teaching her classes in addition to mine and taking care of her as best I could.
Despite our efforts, there was still no change to the sanitation. We were facing a long weekend for a Holiday when we decided we had to go home. It was a very difficult decision to abandon our dreams and goals for the entire year, but it was not a healthy environment.
We flew home and found out that each of us had lost 20 pounds within a six month period. We took a month to recover while we tried to figure out the next step. It has since been almost three onths exactly since we returned home. Our goals and ambitions have undoubtedly changed as a result of our unfortunate experience. While we know that living and working abroad does not always result in such a disaster, we no longer see ourselves working overseas. My wife has found her passion and career in non-profit work within the United States and I have enjoyed my new hobby of blogging about personal finance. While we still seek to make a positive change in the world with the work that we do, we will do so within the United States.