June 6, 2018 | Juliana Tyo
It's funny how life has the tendency to come full circle. This is what it felt like when I was job searching and came across the NoCo Group. I discovered that they were a part of the Sell a Home Save a Child movement started by Nick Shivers and Erik Hatch as a way to bring Real Estate professionals together to make a difference for vulnerable communities around the world. I had never come across this type of social consciousness by a real estate company before. I knew I had to give it a shot so I could give back to a place that was near and dear to my heart.

In 2012, thanks to a good friend that had suggested we venture from the typical college spring break full of bad tan lines and bloated beer bellies, we were fortunate enough to travel to Nicaragua for a week in March after spending most of the semester learning about the country's deep rooted history with the United States. 

We worked with Manna Project International, a non profit started by students at Vanderbilt University. The program directors that live there teach English, nutrition, fitness, and have a feeding program once a week at two locations in the community which we observed and helped with. We also went with them to their third location in La Chureca, the municipal dump where families have lived and worked in since the '70's.* They have a child sponsorship program and also hold classes for mothers and help with after school programs at the school located in the dump itself.


This trip was the first time I had been to a poverty stricken country. It felt like I was in one of those dreams where you try to fight back or yell, but you can't, no matter how hard you try. There was so much suffering everywhere you turned but no matter what you couldn't possibly help every single person you came across. However distraught I felt witnessing these terrible living conditions, I did realize something. Shoe-less children, running through mounds of garbage, with their spotted bleach blonde hair due to their malnutrition, would still smile, laugh, and act like any kid would. Men and women who barely had a roof over their head welcomed us with open arms into their homes. Despite their hardships, they still had a zest for life. It was these little realizations that made me fall in love with the country and its people. Ever since that trip I have felt a strong desire to not only revisit Central America, but also find a way to give back to a place that taught me so much and changed me as a person forever.


It was this experience coupled with other volunteering experiences that made me want to work for a company that has a culture of giving back, whether it be locally and/or internationally. After seeing first hand what its like to live in one of the poorest countries in the western hemisphere (and since I couldn't pack up and leave for the Peace Corps – yet!), I wanted to make sure I was doing my part in providing support to people who may have not have been born with the same opportunities that I was. I'm grateful to have the opportunity to not only work with the NoCo Group but to also be connected to other professionals through Sell a Home Save a Child who see the value in sharing our privilege with others. One day I will make my way back to revisit the people and place that taught me so much and certainly changed me forever.   

*La Chureca has since been closed. Read about it here.

To learn more about the non profit organizations mentioned click the following:

www.Mannaproject.org

https://www.sellahomesaveachild.org/
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