Posted by Joe Smith

When I returned to the UK after spending six months volunteering with Nuevas Esperanzas I had a good understanding of their work, the communities they work with and the country they work in. Now as the organisation’s UK Coordinator, returning to Central America for the first time since April 2011, I asked myself how much do I really know?

Yes, I still understand our model of development. I still believe in the importance of joined up thinking, a holistic approach, and community ownership.

But I started wondering what might have changed. Would I still finish a day in the field dirtier than anyone else? Would it still be impossible to buy a notepad for work without skateboards on the cover? And would I, now supposedly with a degree in the language, still struggle with the intricacies of Nica Spanish?

I will doubtless return home with a lot of the same kind of anecdotal memories. The unrelenting warmth and generosity of those who live on less than one dollar a day will surely still be there. As will the kindness of the team that welcomed me when I first arrived in 2010, fresh from a robbing in the back seat of a Managua taxi.

But Nicaragua has changed since 2011. I realize that I am approaching it as an outsider once again.

Nuevas Esperanzas has moved on too. Our portfolio of projects has expanded, and we now work in new places. We pride ourselves on giving regular updates on these changes, and I have read most of these over the last three years. But nothing can really beat first hand experience.

Over the next few weeks, as an outsider once more, I want to take a different angle and give you the first timer’s perspective. From the anecdotal to the more profound, I hope to open you up to what it is really like to live and work in this part of the world.