Las Trojas: 3 Years Later, Part 1

Three years ago I worked in another mountain community here in Nicaragua to build a school. The village is Las Trojas but back then I was here with a team of students from the Bronx and Harlem. Last week I travelled from La Soledad to Las Trojas to visit some very good friends there. Many memories flooded my mind as we bounced around in our 4WD truck and finally rolled to a stop in this familiar place. I remember standing on the mountain-side where they wanted to build the school wondering how we would level and excavate an area for the foundation on such a steep slope. We would need to carve a huge hunk of earth out of the mountain with nothing but pickaxes and shovels. But the most remarkable part was that our construction team allowed only one day for excavation on the construction schedule for what could be an impossible task to accomplish over any period of time. Why only one day?

It turns out that we needed to finish the project within twelve weeks so that the community had time to get their crops in before the rains came. Since all in Las Trojas are subsistence farmers and depend on their harvest for survival, it was critical we finish in twelve weeks. Though we had no choice on the build schedule, I knew we’d never excavate in a single day. The pressure was on to make up for every day we fell behind.

No one really knew whether we could build this school under these circumstances, but the community was desperate to give it a try. Since they would contribute all the unskilled labor to construct the school and truly had a stake in the outcome, we agreed to go forward. If we succeeded, they would have access to decent education and take the first step out of extreme poverty. Failure was not an option.

The community embraced the project, came out in force every day and together with the students from NYC rose to the challenge. Though we all worked tirelessly, after three days we had barely made a dent in the mountain.

Day six came and went, and we were only halfway there. We were now five full days behind, and the pressure was mounting. Then on the afternoon of day seven, we hit a vein of solid rock, and I went from concerned to flat out discouraged. But next to me was a twelve-year-old boy from the village who had been by my side, swinging the pickax every single day. His name is Osmar. Next to him was one of the strongest and most determined men I have ever met, and he too was swinging the pickax undeterred. His name is Jose Alberto and he is Osmar’s dad. Their determination became our inspiration and no one gave up.

Would we finish in time? Check in tomorrow to find out.