NEJC teens get to experience day-to-day life in Latin America through Amigos de las Americas program

Allie Libeer (back row, center, in light blue tee) with the youth she and other Amigos volunteers worked with in Nicaragua.
Allie Libeer (back row, center, in light blue tee) with the youth she and other Amigos volunteers worked with in Nicaragua.

While her friends were working odd jobs at the pool and local stores this summer, SM East junior Allie Libeer was sleeping on a cot in a spartan room in the remote Nicaraguan town of Madriz. She used a bucket to bathe. The kitchen at the house where she stayed had a dirt floor, and her host parents cooked in a traditional clay oven. She ate tortillas, rice and beans for almost every meal.[pullquote]Amigos de las Americas information session

Sunday, Oct. 11
4 p.m.-approximately 5 p.m.
Holmeswood Church, 9700 Holmes Road[/pullquote]
The living accommodations? “You get used to it,” she said. But trying to communicate only speaking Spanish? “It was bad when I got there. But since you’re working on it all the time, it gets so much better. You’re forced to learn how to use it.”

Libeer was one of approximately 20 students — many from SM East, Bishop Miege and Rockhurst – to spend part of their summer in Latin America as part of the Amigos de Las Americas program.

During her eight weeks in Nicaragua, Libeer and her Amigos partners spearheaded a number of projects, from helping bring in guitars and tambourines for a music school to assisting with a fundraiser to buy jerseys for the local soccer team.

Conor Coode, an SM East senior, spent seven weeks in the Dominican Republic as part of the program. He and other Amigos volunteers helped build a basketball court. And while Coode said adjusting to the Dominican cultural wasn’t too difficult, speaking Spanish was a challenge.

“The language was hard,” he said. “They have a thick accent and speak very quickly. It extremely improves your Spanish to go through the program.”

Now, both Libeer and Coode are looking for ways to keep their freshly honed language skills sharp. Libeer is applying to jobs in Hispanic restaurants in hopes of being able to practice her language with native speakers.

The Kansas City Amigos chapter is holding an information session this Sunday, Oct. 11 for students interested in participating this summer. The session will begin at 4 p.m. at Holmeswood Church, 9700 Holmes Road, and will last approximately one hour. For more information, contact chapter president Amy Schuman at 913-529-9712.

The Amigos volunteers helped obtain guitars for the local music school.
The Amigos volunteers helped obtain guitars for the local music school.