The ISLA Experience: Raquel Lizarraga
I started interning for ISLA in 2010 as part of a group project for an Entrepreneurship class at California State University, Fullerton. As part of the project, my team analyzed ISLA’s marketing, management, operations, and financials. Working with ISLA to determine their goals for the future and their goals for the group project revealed to me that this project was unlike any other project I had ever worked on. This wasn’t just a grade for me, but something more.
It was through the ISLA project, that I felt for the first time that I knew what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. The members of ISLA were so passionate about their work helping others around the world. I was truly inspired by them and wanted to join their effort to prevent drowning through education and awareness. Luckily, they also wanted me to join them, and I was asked to become the Manager of Public Relations. This year marked my first trip with ISLA, and it will forever be a memory that I hold dear to my heart.
To me, Nicaragua felt alive. The people were up from dawn to dusk, the music was blasting from multiple cars, dogs were barking, and the grills from restaurants were sizzling; there was so much activity. To others this may sound like noise, but to me… it felt like there was a soundtrack to the city. But it wasn’t just the sounds of the cities that made Nicaragua feel alive, it was also the colors. Everything was so vibrant, splashes of blue, red, and turquoise across the walls, the bright houses, the multicolored cars with purple window tint, and the trees painted white. The sights, the sounds…every moment I spent in Nicaragua… it was as if I could feel the beat of the country.
Being able to see the lifeguard trainees on the first day of class and seeing them after the training, revealed the power of our Open Water Lifeguard course. At the end of the course, we had each group present a different section of the ISLA Open Water Lifeguard manual, and had each individual perform multiple exercises in the ocean. Watching the trainees present their group projects to the class, demonstrated how well our students grasped the concepts, and how dedicated they were to learning methods to improve their lifeguarding techniques. Not only in theory, but during the ocean exercises, the trainees utilized their new techniques in their swimming and in their rescues. Seeing the progression of the trainees was such a rewarding experience.
The experiences I had on this trip, and the people I met on this trip was truly life changing. The Nicaraguan people were so kind. Complete strangers would hear our about our work in Nicaragua and would be so excited to meet us, offer us accommodations, food, a place to stay, even the shirt off their back. I look forward to seeing them all again. And I cannot wait until we return next year.