Hiking through dense vegetation up the Cosiguina volcano in Nicaragua, Kimberly Viveiros was a little out of breath. But what she saw at the summit took her breath away completely.
The view was so vast, she could see part of Nicaragua, El Salvador and Honduras from where she stood. It was experiences like this that reinforced Kimberly’s decision to do her internship in Nicaragua.
The 21-year-old Toronto native is set to graduate from Humber College’s Tourism Management program in May 2016.
Part of her studies included an internship with Monty’s Beach Lodge. It’s a rustic get-away in the small northern Nicaraguan community of Jiquilillo that mixes surf and sand with getting involved with community projects that benefit local families and the surrounding environment.
When Kimberly arrived for her internship in January, she was no stranger to this Central American country.
She had already visited Nicaragua with her professor, Mary Lendway, earlier in 2015 for a volunteer excursion. Though that program didn’t offer academic credit, it did include requirements of Humber's Global Citizenship Certificate. There were plenty of personal and professional benefits too – one of which was igniting her love of Nicaragua.
“That was such an amazing experience,” said Kimberly. “I got a little taste of ‘Nica.’” That taste included unspoiled beaches, warm friendly local families and quickly being welcomed into the community.
She returned to Humber and began thinking about an internship. Initially, she assumed she would find something in Toronto, but Mary encouraged her to think bigger. Why not Nicaragua?
Mary suggested Monty’s Beach Lodge and Kimberly grabbed the baton and ran, pitching the owners the idea of having her as an intern. Discussions about possible projects and time frames followed. Once agreed upon, Kimberly was back near the equator as Monty’s first intern.
What made her internship so unique was that she was able to have a say in which projects to pursue. At first, she was a little overwhelmed. But that quickly turned to excitement, as she created a multi-faceted work experience.
She delved into projects that used tourism as a means of assisting with the development of the local community, such as encouraging guests to get involved in community-building efforts like a nearby English language centre. She also gave Monty’s a much-needed presence on social media, helping them reach a much greater audience through social media channels.
She also assisted a local guide in giving tours of nearby attractions like hiking up volcanos and kayaking through natural estuaries.
“I’ve been immersed in the community here, and I’ve met some of the most wonderful people,” said Kimberly. “Everyone smiles at you here, in fact, it’s weird if you don’t.”
One of the best smiles belonged to a 16-year-old named Felix with whom she’s become good friends.
He helped Kimberly with her Spanish and Kimberly helped him improve his English. With the language barrier broken, she set out to help him start a small business of creating colourful string bracelets, which he sells to tourists.
She helped him get materials, and taught him the basics of running a small business, giving Felix a much-needed source of income to offset the unreliable fishing jobs he sometimes takes when not in school.
Now that Kimberly is finished her schooling, she has her lens focused on sustainable tourism. As she puts it she plans to seek “anything that can get a community up and running, not damage the environment, and have the money go back into the local economy.”
Not surprisingly she plans on returning to Nicaragua.
“It’s untouched,” she said. “The big resorts aren’t here, the big tourist companies aren’t here…it’s so genuine and authentic. I’d like to be involved in some way to keep it authentic. I know how things work. I know where I can help out.”